“Wow, this bar is fun! There’s hot chicks everywhere, the dance floor is pumping, and the team is just killing tonight. Bartender, get these girls some drinks! Yeah, whatever they want. I’ll have some more vodka, sure, just put it on my tab. Dude, these chicks are ready to go, let’s invite them back to the apartment. Bartender!”
“Five hundred dollars? You have got to be kidding me. I’m not paying that, that’s ridiculous.
“Wait, where did all those mafia douchebags come from? Uh oh. This is getting ugly. OK, OK, we’ll pay. Just let me go to the ATM. What?”
“You’re all going to walk there with me?”
And that’s how it goes, in the typical bar scam. One minute you’re having a great time drinking and partying, often with some local girls that seem just super friendly, the next minute you’re getting shaken down by a bunch of bar goons who materialized seemingly from nowhere, or worse getting the shit kicked out of you out back for being too poor or too belligerent in your drunken outrage. This is not a Single Dude Travel recommended way to spend your evening.
A lesson that I unfortunately have learned the hard way over the years is how to avoid these bar scams and the nasty turns that a night can take as a result. The vast majority of places I’ve traveled to, and the vast majority of bars I’ve been in are run by honest and friendly staff, but every once in a while I go somewhere where the bar treats foreigners like walking ATMs and charges exponentially more to the unsuspecting dude who is just trying to enjoy a night out with the locals. This can happen everywhere, and I have personally been a victim of scams or attempted scams in places as diverse as Italy, Bulgaria, Latvia, Switzerland, and Dallas. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to avoid if you keep your wits about you and follow some very simple rules:
Always drink with cash – giving a credit card to a bar is always a bad idea. It’s much easier to spend too much money on a credit card chasing the night, where even a regular square-trade bar drinking night can waste valuable money much better spent on a plane ticket to the next place or a nice apartment in the center of town. Running credit makes it much harder to track what you’re paying.
Pay as you go – This is the easiest way to know exactly what you are getting yourself into. The cost of running a tab at what turn out to be a scam bar can turn astronomical after several rounds, so if you pay round by round you will know right away when you’re getting screwed. True, you may get hit with a scam round bill, but one $100 round is way better than 8.
Beware of strip clubs – Strip clubs worldwide are always the most notorious locations for scams. The industry is a haven for low-life, fly-by-night scumbag criminal club owners, managers, and chicks. Rule for life: Never believe what a stripper tells you. Ever. She is not on your side. Ever. Remember this. It is essential to be on your guard when at strip clubs, and generally speaking we at Single Dude Travel do not recommend going to strip clubs at all. Remember, as Chris Rock says, there is no sex in the champagne room (unless you’re in Thailand, the Dominican Republic, etc)
Don’t get too drunk – this is just a generally good rule when traveling to unfamiliar places. When scam bar people see the drunk gringo guys it’s like a flashing FREE MONEY sign to them. Keep your wits about you. If scammed, dealing with the situation is extremely difficult and even more so if you’re wasted. Plus being drunk never helps your chances of getting laid, so generally it’s always a rookie move. Boris is guilty on occasion of getting hammered at bars and then when presented with a scam attempt getting belligerent about it. We’ve definitely been close to getting our asses kicked on occasion because of Boris’ drunken righteous indignation.
Always ask to see the menu – I always ask to see a menu when I go to a bar for the first time in order to familiarize myself with what sort of drink prices I’m dealing with. It also communicates to the staff that you’re paying attention and is a great deterrent to scammers. If they say they don’t have a menu, unless it’s some hole in the wall local dive they’re lying to you (in that case ask how much stuff is before you order). Unfortunately some bars even have two sets of menus, one for locals and one for tourists, which is another excellent reason to learn the local language.
Tell the waitress/bartender that only you can put drinks on your tab – this is another way that unscrupulous clubs rip you off, they allow someone else to put drinks on your tab. I’ve had bartenders do this just because were talking to some chick at the bar and she ordered a drink for herself. When we do run a tab, we always make super clear at the beginning of the night that no one besides us is allowed to put anything on our tab. This issue is always avoided by the pay-as-you-go approach.
Our first night in Bulgaria, Raul and I went to a bar and were having a very nice time flirting with the cute bartenders, drinking shots and enjoying our first taste of Bulgosity. The bartenders were totally fun and partying with us and pouring themselves shots with us. Then we got the tab and they put all of their shots on our tab. Price tag: $150. That shit is just so lame.
Don’t buy drinks for chicks, or if you do don’t let them order in a language you don’t understand – Those hot chicks that just walked up to you on the street and invited you for a drink? They work for the scam bar. I generally think buying drinks for girls you don’t know is a losing move for many reasons; first and foremost it establishes a monetary relationship instead of a personal one and makes you look like you’re trying to buy affection. When considering whether or not to buy a drink for a girl in a bar I ask myself, “OK, if she was some dude I just met, would we be good enough buddies by now that I would buy him a round?” If the answer is no, let her buy her own drink.
I learned this particular lesson early on in my traveling life during a trip to Florence, Italy. I was at a bar talking to two nice looking Italian chicks and I offered to buy them a drink. They went up and ordered their own drink and the bartender poured them shots, half and half orange juice and apple juice. My total tab? $60.
Trust your instincts – This is a very good rule for life. If you’re in the bar and something just doesn’t feel right, something isn’t right. If everybody in the bar is looking at you out of the corner of their eye, it’s not because you’re a particularly hot stud. It’s because you’re the sucker. Get out and find another watering hole. Boris and I were walking down the main drag in Riga when two smoking hot 6 foot Russian blondes approached us. They invited us to a bar, and we made several mistakes- letting them choose the bar (well known scam bar), letting them order in Russian (Martini and Rossi doubles) and paying the tab for them when it came ($80). At least the bar staff were stupid and brought us the tab and asked us to pay right away for the round, otherwise we probably would have had several more rounds. Another lesson: If it seems to good to be true it probably is. Even in our favorite destinations 6 foot tall blond super model types rarely pick you up. At the least you usually have to approach and say “Hi!”.
The worst scam story that ever happened to anyone I know happened in Hanoi, Vietnam. Some buddies of mine were there on tour and looking for something to do on a dead Monday night. They got in a taxi and asked to go someplace fun, and the taxi driver took them to what looked to be a deserted storefront. When they got there, though, the metal storefront rolled up and they were ushered into a “karaoke bar“. Retards. They were brought up to a room, and then a bunch of girls who were probably slaves of these criminal owners came in, along with a tray of sandwiches wrapped in plastic. My friends said “We don’t need these sandwiches, and the proprietor said, it’s ok, you only pay for what you eat.”. Then the girls started opening the sandwiches, taking a small bite of each and throwing it on the floor. When my friends tried to bail, they were given a bill for $700 and all of a sudden 15 Vietnamese Mafia assholes materialized and prevented them from leaving until they scrounged the money up. One of my buddies was a hothead and started getting belligerent and things were very close to getting violent before cooler heads prevailed and they bent over and paid.
So follow these simple rules and you will avoid being the sucker when you are just trying to have a fun night out. I know it may feel a little cheap at first, but you will save yourself a lot of headache and you won’t have to choose between your pride and your ass.
P.S. To you Italian chicks from the Florence scam: Fuck you! Enjoy your career of ripping off 21 year old dudes on their first European vacations. I really hope your dog bites you when you get home tonight.