Restaurant Rant

Just returned from a wonderful month-long trip to Italy. A few normal frustrations dealing with transportation issues, but my one total frustration was with a restaurant in Rome that was recommended by the "Hotel Sonya", a hotel used by Rick Steves' for his tours. The hotel personnel said it was "theirs", which should have been a red flag. I was just brought a piece of paper as a receipt for our payment. When I asked for an official receipt, I was brought something that I knew was not official and they absolutely would not provide me with anything else. The paper I was brought had not been run through a cash register, did not state on it anywhere that it was official, and did not have any numbers on it to indicate it was official. I eventually left the restaurant and just hoped I wouldn't be fined. Thank goodness I wasn't! My recommendation is to not go to any restaurants recommended by the "Hotel Sonya." It's not worth the fear that you will be stopped by the authorities and fined on the spot.

Posted by Debra
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1001 posts

It's my understanding (and experience) that most of the receipts issued in Italian restaurants are not official, even if they look it. Check out this "Expose" (receipts thing near the bottom) probably everyone of us here who's been to Italy has gotten unofficial receipts unknowingly - I've never personally heard of someone who was fined or anything, though. Looking at the pictures of what's an official receipt, i don't think in all my meals in Italy I've ever seen one :/ But based on those articles, the concern is for the restaurant-owner that the "Tax police" will catch them. They are the ones technically breaking the law, not the customer. I don't think YOU had anything to be concerned about by eating there. However it's obviously a shady establishment like many others and well worth reporting. Here's a good tip article on how tourists can help fix or at least not be part of the problem It stinks that that restaurant was so rude to you about it, but unfortunately that kind of thing seems to be a widespread issue.

Posted by Rob
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
377 posts

Maybe I'm just lost. What would you have been fined for? I read your rant as, I ate a meal, paid for the meal, didn't get a reciept I expected. Where does a fine come in? Please explain.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11650 posts

So you didn't like the receipt. Was the food any good? How about the prices?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5381 posts

I can't imagine even caring whether or not the receipt is official. Half the time here in Germany, they just come to the table, ask what you had, write it down and you pay. Simple. Where is the problem? Was the food good, did you enjoy it? That is all that matters. Why would anyone consider this rude or frustrating? Of all the things that can go wrong on a vacation, this wouldn't even count as anything but normal.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1759 posts

It used to be the law in Italy that you could be fined if you were not in possesion of an official receipt for any purchase (meals, goods etc). You had to retain it until you were a certain distance (can't remember how far) from the establishment where you carried out the transaction. A member of the Guardia di Finanza (financial police) could stop you and ask to see the receipt and levy a fine if you did not have one. As has been said it was a measure to try and stop tax evasion. Although businesses are still required to issue official reciepts there is no longer any penalty for customers if they do not do so.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
4009 posts

That's good to hear, Linda! That caused some serious and expensive problems for some tourists and locals alike; saw several news programs on it. It onus shouldn't be on the patron...

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8721 posts

For those of you who are not aware, Diana had a good reason for wanting a proper receipt.. as said, there was, and may still be a law about having an offical reciept,, I do not understand all the ins and outs, but it is something that a place running above boards should not have had a problem providing. Remember things are different in different countries.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7870 posts

I don't know what they do to tourists but there is still a branch of police whose only job is to investigate tax evasion.

Posted by Margaret
673 posts

Had never heard about this..........learn something new every day. But, just for giggles and grins.....what if you left a restaurant and another couple (or person) had treated you to dinner and you both went in separate directions afterward? How would the enforcement police know who paid for it? What if you merely stepped inside the restaurant to look? Use the restroom? Maybe it did not have a table available and you left without dining? Seems all too vague to me. Would not worry about the receipt issue, personally.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
21467 posts

Diana, I used a restaurant recommend by Hotel Sonya when I was in Rome last year, and had a couple of great meals there. I have no complaints at all about the place they suggested. I'd have to check my notes for the name. I don't recall whether I was provided with a receipt on a piece of paper or a more formal and numbered version. Italy tends to be a bit "informal" at times, so I've encountered that type of bill many times. I've never been concerned whether I get a machine-generated receipt. If I thought there would be a problem with the Guardia di Finanza, I could have paid the bill with a credit card which would have produced an official receipt, or just taken the hand written bill with me after paying it. If the authorities have a problem with a hand-written receipt, they can take that up with the restaurant staff. I have no hesitation in using restaurants recommended by the Hotels in the RS Guidebooks. IMHO, this is much ado about nothing. Cheers!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11650 posts

I agree with Ken. Much ado about nothing. Indeed. Sometimes I've had hand written receipts, sometimes printed. Storm in a teacup. By the way, I still haven't had a reply from previous question: - Diana - Was the food any good? How about the prices?

Posted by Laurel
Rome, Italy
3072 posts

Hi Diana. The responders here are wise. Amanda Ruggeri's article in Revealed Rome points out this is the proprietor's problem, not the customer's. If the GdF should ask to see your ricevuta fiscale, and it is not a proper receipt, they could use that as a reason to investigate the restaurant on the spot. You would not be fined. Italy has a huge tax evasion problem and the Monti government is trying to increase collections, but not by fining tourists for something like this. Great article Linda, from the GdF website. I had not seen this before. I also like the Walks of Italy guide to receipts so ou know when when you see one. Since my first trip in here in 2010, I have seen an increase in the number of real fiscal receipts issued, I believe because of the government crackdown. You did the right thing to ask for a proper receipt, but not receiving one, well, in the overall scheme of things it's not something to be upset about or let it ruin your experience. We shrug a lot and say "It's Italy!" I find that to be both a reason and an excuse. :-) Laurel

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2374 posts

The law in Germany doesn't require an official receipt for restaurants. The law in Italy does. The tax police wouldn't fine a restaurant patron for not having a receipt. It could fine someone with merchandise bought without receipt, though. That is mostly used to curtail and scare patronage to illegal/counterfeit impromptu shackles that some people, usually illegal immigrants, set up to sell cheap stuff like t-shirts and the like. This being said, I always like to ask for a receipt. Will not make a big fuss out of it but I like to indirectly force business to pay their taxes since I pay mine. Knowing that, I'll use insist on card payment and be adamant on receipts from hotels, whatever their size. A hotel cheating IVA out of a 3-night stay is more worth to stand off and ask for receipt than an ice-cream parlor.