Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Diners find their bill hard to stomach

A COUPLE of weeks ago, an amusing incident caught my attention as I was having breakfast near home.

A man who appeared affluent enough to afford a much more lavish fare was haggling with the Indian Muslim stall owner over the price of the roti cheese bawang.

He was billed RM2.80 and he had refused to pay. The young man, who had arrived in a seven-series BMW as I was just alighting from my old jalopy moments earlier, wanted the proprietor to justify how the roti cheese bawang was priced.

The conversation went something like this:

"How much is roti cheese?" he asked.

"RM2.40," replied the proprietor.

"How much is roti cheese bawang?"


"Why so expensive?"

"Because we need to pay for bawang!"

"How much do you charge for bawang?"

"Forty sen."

"But you only gave me a slice!"

"Bawang is not cheap."

"How much is a kilogramme of bawang?"

By then a queue had formed and the proprietor was getting edgy as seven pairs of eyes were trained on him.

The young man took no notice of the impatience building up among the diners and continued to grill the proprietor.

When the eighth person joined the queue, the proprietor grudgingly agreed to accept RM2.60 from the young man so as not to create a scene.

The young man walked away happy.

He was lucky, compared to another chap's ordeal at a restaurant located at the foothills of a highland resort.

He had apparently gone to a popular restaurant and ordered a meal which included a steamed "sultan fish" -- also known as ikan jelawat or Chinese carp as we anglers call it.

When the bill came, his eyes must have almost popped out like the steamed fish's.

The bill was over RM500 and the most expensive dish turned out to be the 1.4kg fish priced at RM320 per kg.

And there was little the diner could do except pay the bill after failing to ask the price of the steamed fish prior to ordering.

I suppose he could take it to the Consumer Claims Tribunal and see if he had a case against the restaurant -- if he is still hungry for justice.

Learning about his plight, I know now that I have to not only give my bills more than a cursory glance but also make it a point to ask the prices of food before I order, just in case.

Of course, by doing so, I would look like a real cheapskate to other diners, but at least if there was something fishy going on, I would not swallow it hook, line and sinker.

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