|False friend: This tienda owner (man in the yellow T-shirt) appeared all friendly, however he was anything but.|
It’s an interesting yarn, but one that you’d have to think falls into the ‘urban myth’ category; you couldn’t get away with it in this day and age, surely? Alas, not so. There are a few crafty operators in Bogotá not only willing to give it a go but, aided by incompetent, indifferent employees and owners, manage to get away with it.
In fact, the Bogotá version doesn’t require any acknowledgement from those being duped, as happens in the account above. No, the ‘trickster’ just leaves, apparently giving a knowing nod to the owner and his bill is placed on the tab of those he had been casually talking to, uninvited at that.
Of course, the till operators know full well that it isn’t the intention of those remaining to fork out for the man who just left. Nothing, though, is said until it comes to payment time. Then, it’s expected that the extranjeros (foreigners) will nonchalantly pay everything; sure it’s what we’re here for, to treat the locals.
Unfortunately I was the victim of such an incident in downtown Bogotá. Now my approach would be, and was, to refuse to pay, but the company I was with pulled rank and handed over the cash to avoid any hassle. It was probably the safer move for where we were (which was a tienda bar on Carrera 10 with 18; see photos).
|'Relax, the foreigners will pay for everything.'|
The lesson to be learnt from this: If there’s a tab system in operation in a place that you’re not too familiar with, it’s best not to go with the norm, but ‘pay as you go’ instead. Messy episodes as the one mentioned can thus be avoided.
Plus, it underscores again the fact that you can never drop your guard in these parts. It also, sadly, betrays the mantra of many Colombians that they are amongst the friendliest in the world.
On a slightly more positive note, I can rest assured that this wouldn’t happen to me in my local watering holes in the barrios of La Perseverancia or Egipto; at least there they’d ask for a drink if they were stuck.
You see there’s still hope for Colombia, just about.