Thursday, November 6, 2008

At a restaurant in Luxor, Egypt, we asked the waiter how much a falafel sandwich costs.

"3 pounds" he said.

"And what about a plate of ful (Egyptian beans)?," we asked.

"10 pounds," he said.

We ordered the falafel and asked to see a menu. The menu was written in Arabic, which my friend learned how to read in college. The first two items on the menu? Falafel sandwich, 75 cents, and a plate of ful, 75 cents.

We called the waiter over. "This says "ful", 75 cents," my friend told him, pointing to the word "ful" and sounding out the letters. "And this below it says fa-la-fel," he pointed.

"Oh yeah, well what does this say?," asked the waiter, pointing to a different item.

My friend sounded out the word.

"But what does it mean?" the waiter asked.

"I don't know," my friend said.

"See, you can't read Arabic then!" the waiter said.

"I don't need to know what every food on this menu is. This says ful, 75 cents, and falafel, 75 cents! That's all I need to know!" my friend replied.

The waiter wouldn't budge, so we called over the manager.

"Those aren't the prices on the menu," the manager said, pointing to the prices on the menu. "Those, um, those are the barcodes. The scanner PLU codes."

"Why would you print the barcodes on the menu -- and why are they the same number for both dishes?" we asked.

"We have a different menu that we'll release tomorrow that shows that its 3 pounds for falafel," the manager replied.

"But this is today, and this is the menu you are handing out right now," we retorted.

"What's the big deal?" the manager replied. "Why do you care so much about money?"

This mockery lasted for more than 2 hours. In Egypt, even when you CATCH people scamming to you, they continue to blatently lie in your face, then guilt-trip you about it.

In the end, we wrangled the fair price from the manager, but it cost of 2 hours of our time.