Thursday, 5 July 2012

Canned Service Charge Increases Prices.

The ruckus that raged over service charges only a few months ago has seen the service charges canned and the restaurant food prices astronomically increased.

Today it cost me over 115SAR for salad, coffee and a lemon mint drink.  Before the service charge ruckus I could eat exactly the same food at this diner for just under 90SAR. That's a major price hike. (22% according to Hubster, Maths Master extraordinaire)

Me thinks that restaurant owners are being greedy little gremlins.


Ealier this year the Ministry of Commerce and Industry banned restaurants and coffee shops across the Kingdom from levying any service charges on their bills after receiving complaints from customers about the inconsistency of the the amounts charged.

I can understand a fuss being made about increasing service charges in Riyadh.  After all, a service charge is supposed to cover the cost of extra services provided by the restaurant. Which begs the question which extra services were we getting.  The pictures on the menu's were not always reflective of the meal arriving on the plate.  No wine is ever opened at the table in Riyadh.  And trying to get the waiter to provide something not on the menu or to think outside the square is often like pulling teeth. 

'I'm sorry madam, the meal only comes with juice.  You can't have tea.  There's no price button for the meal with tea.'

(Granted I can understand the nervousness of many of the staff here.  One mistake and the manager will be breathing down your neck with threats of that same neck being broken for not doing the job as stated, no deviations, no thinking, no providing anything without a button).

Me thinks restaurant owners figured they should increase the service charges because they were pissed (a phrase that means 'somewhat annoyed') that staff were getting tips.  The owners wanted a method of cashing in on that.   After all, far be it for the lowly staff to be making any money. That activity should only be reserved for the owners of restaurants.  (Or greedy troll like managers who used to scaremonger the staff into handing over all tips and keeping it all for themselves - and if you get to know enough staff you hear all about those kind of managers).

The Ministry decided there was no good reason for restaurants having a service charge and that it was in the consumers' interests that prices of goods were clearly stated and they also wanted to curb price rises. 

Well, the prices are definitely clear but they sure as heck aren't curbed.  Anyone who is surprised at this move by restaurant owners must be living in la la land.  The writing, as they say, was on the wall.  The only thing we are surprised about (and having lived here for a while we really shouldn't be) is how much the prices have increased.  I have rarely given a 22% tip.  

There is, apparently, a Consumer Protection Association in Riyadh but as the Arab News scathingly states in this article Saudi Restaurants: Hot Menus, Flaming Prices most of them are collaborators with, one presumes, restaurant owners.

The bottom line - Canning the service charges has only increased restaurant dining prices and eating at home is beginning to look a lot more inviting.

Ka Kite,

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