Recently, I stumbled upon a bodega called City Market Cafe on 5th Avenue near 23rd Street. Truthfully, I thought I had found my new go-to breakfast spot. I ordered a one egg and cheese sandwich on a roll. At only $1.75 plus .50 cents for cheese, it was a steal! Add on $1.95 for a small iced coffee, and I was styling at under $5 bucks for breakfast. However, when I went up to the register, the cashier rang my sandwich up for $2.45. --.20 cents more than it was listed on the menu. Oh well, it was .20 cents, whatever, I was getting a great deal anyway so I went on with my day. I returned again the following morning for another breakfast sandwich. I did notice the menu had two prices for egg sandwiches listed as one egg for $1.75 and two eggs for $1.95. I thought to myself, "Oh the lady must have assumed I had a two egg sandwich." Followed by, "Wait, why did she automatically charge me for 2 eggs instead of asking if I had one?" Again, it seemed wrong but I overlooked it.
Now, let me make this clear, I am not one to pinch pennies. In fact, I'm the one rolling my eyes behind the person at checkout arguing and holding up the line over saving .10 cents with a coupon. I do, however, have a problem when people are unethical. It's the principle of the matter. And this seems to be an on-going problem at many bodegas I've visited over my 2 years as a resident of NYC.
So back to the story. This time I order an egg sandwich (did not specify how many eggs this time) with turkey bacon and American cheese. On the menu it's listed as $2.75 including bacon and egg. Tacking on .50 cents for cheese as listed, my sandwich should ring up as $3.25. I get to the counter and I let her know I have an egg, turkey bacon, and cheese sandwich. First she rings it up as $4.00, and then tacks on another .50 cents. This is just obviously wrong, so this time I say something. "It's listed up there as $2.75 plus .50 cents for cheese." I argue. She then proceeds to yell back towards the counter, "Is a egg and bacon listed as $2.75?" Someone yells something back I can't understand. "Yea but you got cheese." she says. "I know but that would bring it to $3.25 then." I retort. She pauses,"Well the turkey bacon is another .50 cents." Mind, you the $2.75 price on the menu is inclusive of egg and bacon, it does not state an additional charge on the type of bacon. Even with the additional .50 cent turkey bacon charge, my sandwich should still be $3.75 not $4.50. At this point, there's someone waiting behind me so I just pay the extra .75 and leave, wondering how many people they do this to who don't even notice? I'm one of those people who used to not notice until I was consistently charged more than expected at numerous bodegas/cafes. Mind you, these are mostly small charges that one may not notice. It's done in a sneaky way, like in the movie Entrapment, where the villains are plotting to hack in and steal just a few cents (that people likely wouldn't notice) out of millions of bank accounts to gain huge profits.
This incident was just one of many. Other obnoxious bodega rip-offs of the past have included being charged .50 cents for crappy shredded iceburg lettuce on a sandwich (something normally included) and $2.75 for a mini bag of animal crackers that had no price tag. I returned to that deli a few days later to find the same animal crackers with a $1.25 price tag. Another bodega on 8th Avenue and 16th Street has charged me a range of prices for the same turkey sandwich. Sometimes they charge me $5, other times $5.50 or $5.75 even though I order the same exact sandwich every time. I stopped going there. I don't have time to argue over small charges, as I'm sure most of us don't. That is the problem. We're too busy to notice or care. But what they're doing is completely unethical and there should be some sort of regulation, like making sure all items are clearly priced and extra charges are listed on the menus. Hell, I'm fine paying an extra .50 cents or .75 cents, but just be honest about it. There's no better way of alienating customers than pulling a fast one on them. And to bodega owners, you should be more mindful. You never know if the person you're ripping off is a blogger who will write a big fat article and reveal your shady ways.
Just a thought.
There's a reason we love Starbucks and McDonald's --at least we know what we're getting and being charged.
If you have a ridiculous bodega gouging story, send it to us by using the anonymous tip box to the right or by tweeting @JoonbugNYC!
In the meantime, cheer yourselves up by clicking through these ridiculously adorable bodega cats, courtesy of Gothamist, as you chomp away on your overpriced bodega sandwich.