Bill Padding Meets Captain Morgan
Of course, we can all get into disputes over incorrect bills (or checks) in bars and restaurants. This happens all the time, in every town all over the world.
In Bangkok this seems to happen to me with predicable regularity. I believe some bars have a policy of charging punters for drinks they did not have, especially if the punter appears to be a bit pissed. I call this practice padding the bill. Usually it’s for a few hundred baht. For example, I am often charged for 8 beers when in fact, I had had six. For such small money no one gets excited and the matter is usually settled quickly and quietly. There must have been times when I simply did not notice and just paid up. Ah well, mai pen rai (never mind).
On one occasion recently I was overcharged by thousands of baht and this one was not settled quietly.
It was a Friday evening and I had had one of those weeks that you really are glad to see the back of. One of my Thai clients had gone out of his way to screw up a contract and was trying to hit me with a claim for a large amount of money. I considered his actions to be sharp practice and vindictive to say the least. Although the matter was not settled, when I left the office I really hated Thai people and their scheming conniving ways and I was not in a good mood.
Usually I have no problem separating work from play. I don’t bring my computer to the pub and I don’t drink beer in the office. However, when I left work on this particular Friday I was still simmering just below the surface and could not switch off completely. I tried to ignore this emotion and headed off to Sukhumvit Soi 33 to meet a couple of mates, have a few beers and relax a bit.
I perched myself on a barstool at one of my regular haunts, ordered a beer and tried to cheer up while I was waiting for my friends. The bar girls were being their usual chatty, playful selves but I could tell I was being hard work for them today. To their credit they persevered and pretty soon I felt the clouds of depression begin to lift.
Then Dave called to say he couldn’t make it tonight and a few minutes later Nick messaged me to say he too had had a better offer.
You know sometimes how you just want to have a grown up conversation in English, with your peers in relaxed surroundings? Well that was not going to happen tonight.
I considered finishing up my beer and buggering off home. But then the sight of Joy’s long legs distracted me momentarily and Fah was gently massaging my neck and pressing her tits into my back, so I thought I’d just have one more.
By the way, I’m not using the girls’ real names and I’ll keep the name of the bar to myself (if anyone really wants to know, you can email me).
Now I should make it clear here that when it comes to sinking a few bevies, I can hold my own. I look upon drinking beer as a kind of sport and I’m pretty good at it. Drinking makes me feel good and that’s why I do it. Of course it clouds my judgment from time to time as it does with everyone but I am not one of those people that gets argumentative or aggressive.
So, there I was feeling slightly better for a few beers, playing around with a couple of lovelies, work’s strain was feeling less of a burden but both of my mates had blown me out. It was then that I spotted a bottle of dark rum on the top shelf behind the bar. I eyed it for a moment then decided, I was gonna have some of that.
I had a serious slurp of this stuff and of course I bought a few drinks for Joy and Fah. The next thing I know, it’s three hours later, I have drunk my fill and it really is time to go home.
I ask for the bill and Fah presents me with a demand for over nine thousand baht.
I take one look at the bill and a whole week’s worth of frustration blew all the fuses on my sense of humour circuit. ‘Jesus Christ, now they’re even trying to cheat me in the pub!!’ I thought to myself.
“I think you’ve made a mistake darling, that’s too much” says I.
Once they realized I wasn’t joking about this, Joy and Fah start shrieking and squawking, telling me that I have to pay and are waving those stupid little chits in my face to prove that I really have run up this amount. I adamantly declare that I ain’t paying no nine thousand baht and tell them to do their sums again.
At this point the cashier joins in insisting that I stump up the necessary or she will call the police.
“OK, fine” says I, “Call the police, you’re the frigging thieves around here”. I hold my position.
Now, I readily admit that I could not honestly say how many shots of rum I had consumed but my best guess was around ten or twelve.
I figured that after allowing for the few beers and the drinks for the girls the bar is asking me for eight thousand baht for the rum. This would mean that at two hundred baht a shot, I would have had forty shots. Now, not even ‘Pisshead County Champion’ Yours Truly could possibly have swilled forty shots of rum in three hours. And anyway, how many shots can you get out of a standard bottle of liquor ?
I make this point to the girls in a rather loud and spikey manner. They just looked at me with that expression of exasperation, you know the one that says “These farangs !! They really are barbarians!!”
A farang at the end of the bar offers up his advice, suggesting that I stop making a fuss and pay up. I enquire if this is his bar, he says ‘no’ so I suggest he butts out and minds his own business. Things were now starting to heat up.
So now as well as refusing to pay, the girls were also beginning to get the idea I was about to start a punch up with the rest of the clientele. The truth is, I haven’t been in a fight since I was nine so there was never any prospect of violence on my part. Not knowing this however, the cashier followed through on her threat and called the police anyway.
I thought this was a slight over-reaction but looking at it from her point of view, there was this 96 kg farang, on the outside of a bottle of rum, bellowing like an injured bull and refusing to pay the bill. What was she supposed to do ?
A few minutes later plod arrives and wants to know what’s happening. Happy that there is no real threat of violence, we get straight to the dispute over the bill which I was certain was unreasonable and had been quite deliberately padded. The two officers, smiling the whole time talked with the girls and the cashier and after a few minutes one says to me “OK, how much you can pay ?”.
I answer that I will happily pay a reasonable amount, which I considered to be more like three thousand baht. Another short conversation between plod and the girls ensued. The officer turned to me and said “OK. You pay three thousand then you leave OK?”
It was never made clear why I was originally asked for over nine thousand baht and now after kicking up a fuss, why payment of three thousand baht was acceptable. I decided not to seek clarification and quit while I was ahead.
I paid up and left.
Of course I have not returned to this particular bar and probably will never use it again. I’m sure this suits the bar very well too.
Moral of the story ? I’ll leave it to you.
What bar was it?!