26 June 2008

Fear of being paid?

Quanto costa?

One of the unique characteristics of Italians I have is noticed is in how they have an aversion to asking for money. This relates to money you may owe one of them for services rendered.

We have found with our landlords that they will not ask for the rent or even come looking for it around the beginning of the month. We have always had a cash pay basis for our rent as checks are not common here, and we have to go off in search of our landlords to give them what is duly theirs. Our current landlord takes this to an extreme.

The first few months I would call him on the 1st and try to arrange to meet him and give him the cash but his response would be “domani”. Being the responsible person I was raised to be I would call several days in a row and get the same response. I have since learned to call once and then just wait for him to decide he wants the funds. This usually means he collects the accumulated rent every two months.

I have had other people who have done work for me and they won’t ask for money, give you a bill or stick out their hand like I would expect in the US. You have to specifically ask them what you owe them. Many visitors to Italy will experience this with trying to pay for a meal in a restaurant, if you don’t ask for il conto you may be there a long time waiting.

The other part of paying people that I have noticed is they don’t count the money. You may be paying them several hundred euros but they just take it and stick it in their pocket or leave it lying on the table where I have placed it in their view. I assume they count it as soon as I am out of their presence, but who knows. As a courtesy I have adopted this technique and I find that all the money is always there.


Anonymous said...

I noticed the same thing with my landlord during my stay in Arezzo-I had to go track him down to pay him! Then yesterday I forgot to pay my Italian tutor and didn't realize it until she was gone and I was surprised that she hadn't spoken up.

maryhitt said...

I have even noticed this with the hotel where we stay in San Benedetto del Tronto. All of their reservation emails clearly state that you must pay a deposit in Euros in advance for your room. (They do accept credit cards for your stay). Since it is difficult for us to send Euros from the US, we asked them if we could put the deposit on our credit card. It took them forever to respond, and when they did they just said to forget the deposit and pay when we got there. The same thing happened again this year, except that they waived the deposit right away. I guess they figure we're repeat guests and they aren't worried about getting paid!
Mary in Pittsburgh

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I have always loved that they won't give you a bill in a restaurant until you ask, but I didn't realize the practice worked across the board!


Bryan said...

We have had similar experiences with vacation rentals, once they know you the rules change.

I also have amici who own businesses who regularly undercharge or if you don't have enough change "a domani" is not an issue.

Keith said...

Italians consider it gauce to count money in front of someone or to have it counted in front of them.

It's also considered the responsibility of the person paying to remember to pay. You'll probably rarely find an Italian who will come to you and say "Oh, you forgot to pay me."

Also, it's also impolite to pay someone in front of other people. So if you have to pay an Italian, it's best to take him or her aside and give them the money than to pay them in front of others. This can be construed by some as offensive.