The Lebanese restaurant chain Casper & Gambini’s has apologized for its habit of short-changing customers and has assured me the practice will be discontinued. The response came just one day after I posted about getting short-changed at their Souks branch.
This is what C&G had to say on Facebook:
Of course C&G is not the first Lebanese restaurant to short-change customers, which unfortunately is a very common practice in Lebanon. The reason this continues is probably because most people accept getting skimmed since asking for your exact change is embarrassing and conjures up the feared social stigma of appearing “poor.” Staff don’t make it any easier by giving you looks when you ask.
But social media offers a new recourse. When I blogged about getting short-changed multiple times at another popular Lebanese chain, Zaatar w Zeit, I got this response from the company’s customer service manager by email:
Our standards are set to indulge our customers, yet you were tackled during several occasions with
an opposing incident; therefore we sincerely apologize for such a behavior.
The management has already taken immediate action towards the incidents that you have been
facing for quite a while now and hopefully after visiting us at any of our branches, you will be noticing the change.
Once again, we would like to thank you for your valuable feedback and looking forward to hearing from you at any
time whether thru social media, comment card or phone.
I’m happy to report that I’ve never been short-changed at Zaatar w Zeit again. I hope the same will be true of C&G.
But it is too bad that change only seems to come from embarrassing blog posts. Hopefully some Lebanese companies will take some initiative and fix these problems before people start complaining about them.
I also wonder–as was suggested to me by my friend Elizabeth on Facebook– if short-changing is a symptom of low wages and/or poor tipping in Lebanon.
short-changing (when it’s a 500) or something so small just comes from the expectation that you will tip and that this amount will be relatively irrelevant to your tip. The expectation that you will tip at least 10 % comes from a long tradition I guess, as well as the fact that waiters suffer from super-low wages (I’m not sure how much it is these days, but around 7 years ago when I was a waitress, it was 1 $ an hour if you were lucky) – thus mainly relying on tips to make money.
If you ask someone for the exact change, I do hope you at least still tipped them the expected 10 % as service fees are not normally (if ever) counted in Lebanon in the bill.
Tipping is probably low in Lebanon, but I don’t think this justifies outright thievery, no matter how small the amount. Not getting my change makes me want to tip less, and I usually tip upwards of 10 percent. But when prices are so high, why are customers expected to bear the additional burden of low wages? It seems like a win-win for the establishment owner. Until people get fed up from being ripped off.