Saturday, July 14, 2012

Istanbul: Larceny and Spice

Larceny, Count 1

My dinner bill: 10 lira for dish + 3 lira for drink = 13. Here's the larceny: there was an additional 2 lira on the bill.

Mzuri: "What is this," pointing to the 2 lira on the bill. 
Waiter: "Service charge."
Mzuri: "Service charge? Like a tip?"
Waiter: "Sort of." 
Mzuri: "May I see a menu?"

Because no one told me about any service charge when the waiter seduced me in, and this was the first time since I've been in Istanbul that I've seen such a thing.

I looked at the menu and there it was: "10% service charge." Not that I had seen a menu when I came in. 

I did math quickly in my head. OK, I did it slowly. Ten per cent of 13 is [gears grind] ... one lira and 30 kush. I shared as much with the waiter, who called in the head waiter.

Mzuri: "But 10% of 13 is one lira and 30 kush."
Head waiter: "But we ...added .. up .... mumble ... mumble ... mumble...."

Jesus. I find a place with a pretty good kebap and then this, a charge that's not only a surprise, it's an inflated surprise.

It's as if these restaurants in the touristic part of Istanbul have no desire for repeat business or word of mouth referrals. If it's not subpar-to-mediocre food at inflated prices, it's dismal customer service, or now the tacked-on gratuity.

Larceny, Count 2

I went to the Spice Market where, in addition to negotiating the people traffic, smelling the heady fumes of freshly-roasted coffee, and absorbing the colors and scents of many spices, I was an interested witness to a woman who bullied her way through the market, swiping food goods and shouldering customers aside who were in her path. Vendors, startled at the woman's behavior, just looked, agape, as she plucked and scooped items along her trail.

Thief in bandana

Unfortunately, I failed to click the record button properly on my camera, so I didn't get the full story on record. But I've got snippets.

In this video, she appears coincidentally at :17. Not doing anything that I could see, and she was just one among the many of us at the market.

Here she is again where you see her swipe some cherries. I noted her action at the time, but thought of it as a one-time, impulsive thing and otherwise didn't think much about it.

What drew my attention was when her companion (guy in cowboy hat) joined her and an exchange between them made me think he was going to do something mean to her. ... curious, I followed behind. And that's when I saw her really go to town with her thefts.

Slide show of spice market:


Truth be told, the highlights of my visit to Istanbul's spice market were the bandana'd bandit and the leeches.

Istanbul. Leeches.

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