Sunday, March 25, 2012

The $20 Biscotti

I know that prices in Stockholm are generally 40% more than anywhere else in the world and I've been trying hard to be as frugal as possible while I still don't have a Swedish job.  Our only indulgences are going out to fika once or twice a week with friends (you still have to be social!) and Papa Razzi pizza every other week or so.  I wouldn't say that we are busting the budget, but we have an aggressive savings plan in place so that we can afford to live in Stockholm once we get kicked out of our corporate housing.

So far, I've been doing really really well at saving money.  Mostly because I'm cheap and force Jon to bring lunch from home.  We compared our first month's expenses and we are under budget without really having to try too hard.

About once a week, I get together with my Italian friend, Loredana, and we hit up a new cafe around town.  This past week we went to the Moderna Museet of Modern Art which has one of the most spectacular views from their restaurant.
Yes. The view is incredible!
It was a beautiful day outside but the restaurant's patio was already in the shade.  We had a 2 minute debate between sun or view...sun or view...? Hmmm... we wanted some SUN!  We headed to the back cafe where there is an outdoor patio and managed to pull our strollers/prams outside to feed our squawky kids.  It was so nice just to relax in the sun.
No view but directly in the SUN
I decided to go into the cafe back in the museum to get a sweet treat and a biscotti for Calvin to chew on (he's so European now).  I found a yummy looking blueberry pie square for myself and proceeded to check out.  (Note: There were no prices of items posted anywhere in the cafe.) The cashier woman told me that would be 185 SEK.  My head nearly spun around --- uhhh, what?!?  I know this is a museum cafe and all and we're surrounded by modern architecture but really?  A piece of pie and a crusty piece of bread costs $27??  That's generally my grocery budget for half a week!  I handed over 200 SEK and hustled Calvin out of there before she could charge us for a glass of water.  I mean, I know that Stockholm is expensive but man! Determined not to let it foul my mood and precious time with my friends, I just ignored the astronomical price and figured I would really really enjoy this blueberry pie.

A few minutes later, Loredana asked me how much my blueberry pie cost because it looked so delicious.  I pulled out my receipt only to discover that the cashier had not only charged me for a blueberry pie but also for 15 biscottis! One biscotti was 10 SEK and I was charged for 15!  How on earth does that happen?  I immediately marched back into the cafe to point out her mistake and got my 150 kronor back.  She apologized and all was forgiven but I realized a few things.

  1. Save your receipt and double check everything before you leave the store/cafe
    1. Emelie then told us all a story about how a butcher shop erroneously charged her for 5 shepherd's pies when she only ordered (and received) 3.  Without a receipt, you have no grounds for contention.
  2. Don't be too lazy, embarrassed or rushed to do the conversion in your head.
    1. Most days I'm too overwhelmed by the prices in general to even worry about converting them into USD where I would most surely cry thereafter.  Sometimes you just don't want to know how much your coffee costs.  My general thought is, "Do you want it? Yes.  Then pay the lady the money."  That's not always the best approach when your cashier is bad at math.
  3. Cashiers are bad at math.
    1. This is universal.  I've met cashiers in all towns, cities, states and countries who cannot add, subtract, divide or multiply.  It is mind boggling to me since they handle money every day but I have found it to be the exception, not the rule, the cashiers who can provide proper change without a calculator.
Now, its easy to blame myself.  I should've been more aware, astute or alarmed that a piece of pie and a biscotti cost more than 4 days worth of groceries and said something right away.  Blah blah blah.  But what about the cashier who works in the cafe every day?? If you worked in a cafe, wouldn't YOU notice if someone purchased two items and the price was WAY too high?  Wouldn't you think to yourself, "Hey -- that's a lot of money for what she is buying. I think I might've made a mistake?"  That's what I would've done. So I'm placing partial blame on her.  I ordered in English, fumbled with my kronor and change and appeared fairly "new" to the area.  Asking for 185 SEK for two items should've raised a few more flags for her than it did.

Regardless, all ended well and I got my money back.  Calvin got to chew on a free biscotti and I learned a valuable lesson: it pays to be cheap.

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