Every few weeks, the Whole Foods closest to my house has a special on Halo Top, temporarily dropping the price to $4.99 for a pint. And, every few weeks, I’ll lean my forehead against the freezer door and debate whether I want to pay five bucks for something that often ends up tasting like wet shoelaces.
But while five dollars seems like a lot for ice cream—or for Halo Top’s weird protein-y light version—it’s nothing compared to what a Taiwanese tourist had to pay for a single cone in Florence, Italy. According to The Times, the unnamed gelateria handed the man his frozen dessert, and charged him €25 ($29) for it.
The man—who hasn’t been identified either—asked why it was so expensive, and the shop owner reportedly said it was “because [it] is so tasty.” Left without any other options, he paid for it. (I guess there isn’t any real protocol for how to return uneaten gelato.) After leaving the gelateria, he told his tour guide what had just happened, and the police were called to the scene.
After a brief investigation, which may have been nothing more than an officer asking, “Did you make this dude pay €25 for gelato?”, the shop was fined €2,000 ($2,294) for keeping its price list out of sight. “Hiding prices is very common and is a habit that creates a poor impression around the world, given that tourists are the main victims,” a police spokesperson told La Repubblica.
That spokesperson knows what he’s talking about. Ice cream shops that conceal their price lists behind their counters, and those that just don’t display their prices at all, aren’t unusual near Ponte Vecchio and other touristy areas. According to TripAdvisor, there are some 236 dessert options in Florence, and the ones with the worst reviews seem to be the ones that play “Gotcha” with their cash register receipts. Travelers who have been suckered into paying anywhere from €10 ($11.50) to €16 ($18.30) for each undersized serving have written reviews that include phrases like “biggest rip-off of my life” and “robbers and thieves” and “highway rubbery [sic].”
These tricks aren’t limited to Florence: In November 2017, three tourists were charged $613 for a seafood lunch at a restaurant near St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Luke Tang wrote to Luigi Brugnaro, the city’s mayor, urging him to take action against eateries that “[risk] ruining Venice’s reputation” by taking advantage of tourists that don’t speak Italian. (Brugnaro responded by calling Tang and his parents “cheapskates.”)
Huh. That $4.99 Halo Top sounds better by the minute.