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Catching My Local Bakkal Cheating Foreigners (me!)

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I had heard from a good Turkish friend that the bakkal (convenience store) on the corner near my house made a habit of overcharging foreigners, every chance he gets.

On one occasion (after already hearing that he ripped off foreigners), my friend went in with some Brit friends of his who couldn't speak Turkish. The Bakkal owner knew that they were foreigners as they (with my Turkish friend) walked up and presented their items to buy. The Bakkal owner gave the price to them, and my friend (knowing the price was inflated) said "no, this is for me." The Bakkal owner then gave a lower price, to him, in Turkish. My friend then turned to his foreign friends and repeated the discounted price, and the Brits paid him, much to the chagrin of the owner! There are other stories about this place, but it's so close to my house, I've been going there, even though I've often thought I was being overcharged.

It's hard to know what something is supposed to cost when there are no prices on anything, and they tally it up at the counter. But even though it seemed they were overcharging me, I paid anyway and never said anything about it.

That is, until now. :lol:

I went there today and bought four beers. The man charged me 10 YTL. Now I knew that was too high. I don't usually check prices on stuff from day to day. But then again, I knew the owner had a reputation for it and had done it before. :greedy[1]:

And today, a golden opportunity presented itself.

I went back to the bakkal later that day. As I was walking in, the owner had just gotten into his car and was ready to drive off. He looked at me and said "are you going inside?" "Yes," I replied (the whole conversation was in Turkish).

It suddenly occurred to me why he was asking me this. There could only be one reason... so I knew exactly what he was going to do next. :excl[1]:

From inside the car, through the open passenger window, he called his wife who was at the bakkal counter. She came out to talk to him. I was going in, but stopped, turned around and just stood there next to her, leaning against the ice cream freezer. He looked at me as if to say, "why are you still standing there?" I didn't move. I wanted to hear what he was going to say, even more than she did. He must have known from my smile that I had him in a very difficult position at that moment. I continued to smile, as if I was just standing there looking at him because I liked him. It was a totally fake smile, and I'm sure he could see that.

He wanted to tell his wife to charge me the same price for the beers that he charged me. But he couldn't, because he knows that I speak enough Turkish to understand. :welcome:

His wife and I stood there for a deliciously palatable moment, side by side, her looking at him as if to say, "well, say it!" and me standing there, smiling, as if to say, "yes, please say it!" :harhar1[1]:

He just sat there behind the wheel. He looked at her, he looked at me, trying to come up with something other than "make sure you overcharge him the same amount that I overcharged him for the beers." He came up with something which had nothing to do with beer or money. :blahblah1[1]: Then he drove away.

His wife and I started to walk inside. Thinking I'd gone inside and he could safely call his wife out again (without me), he backed up. :secret[1]: And his wife and I, together, came back out, both of us again listening to whatever he had to say. I was in the exact same pose, leaning on the ice cream freezer. I was all ears.

I was grinning now. :D

He couldn't help but suspect that I knew exactly what was going on. He was thinking to himself "I hope he doesn't go in there an buy four more beers when I didn't think to tell my wife how much to overcharge him..."

That is exactly what I did.

So he drove off, lest we all repeat the same standoff again and again. I acted, towards his wife as if I had no idea what was actually happening under the surface. She certainly had no idea. :muahaha[1]:

I put the four identical beers on the counter, the same number and type I'd bought when he'd sold them to me just hours earlier.

Ne Kadar? (how much?) I asked.

Sekiz Lira (eight Lira).

The Big Scene:

Well good golly, Miss Molly. Either I had just walked in during an afternoon discount sale, or her husband had cheated me! Like the line from the movie "Casablanca": "I'm shocked, shocked, that there is gambling going on in this place!"

:ranting3[1]: I angrily looked at her with wide eyes, flailed my arms, and yelled about this tremendous injustice, that her husband had cheated me, overcharging me for exactly the same thing, charging me 2 YTL more. I used every Turkish gesture I knew (well, except for one or two), with all of the threatening arm and head motions associated with an angry Turk. I've seen Turks get angry before, and it's not pretty. Turks are really good at getting angry. I think I did a pretty good imitation with my wild gesticulations and contorted facial expressions, along with that penetrating stare only a Turk knows how to give. I must have been a shocking contrast to the polite, agreeable person I normally am when I buy anything from them.

The poor lady then went off in an exaggerated, embarrassed rant, with her wide eyes saying "I had no idea!" with her wailing and me yelling and gesticulating wildly, pointing out the door and saying her husband had been cheating me.

I kind of felt bad for her, it wasn't her fault (although I'm sure she's also overcharged me for other things). The entire act was actually for her to relay to her husband, which I knew she would.

Finally, before storming out of the bakkal, I gestured angrily at myself, saying "aptal yabancimiyim?" (am I a stupid foreigner?).

Exit, stage right, still yelling various things and gesticulating as I walked down the street a few yards, for the neighbors to hear, and so she'd think I'd gone away an angry customer who would never, ever come back, and who would tell other yabancis (foreigners) about their cheating ways.

And that is exactly what I am.

So what did you do for fun today?

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It really annoys me when I read about people being ripped off like that, especially when he must know full well that you are a resident and not a tourist, either way it is still wrong.

I'm sorry to say I laughed so much at the way you described the situation and wished that I had been there to see it, you really have a way with words.

I have been lucky when I go to the shops and market, as there so few yabanci here I dont think it would occur to them to charge more.

Anyway thanks for sharing and forgive me for laughing. :welcome:

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For every person like this man there are SO many other Turks who would never do what he does. I don't think in the ten years in Turkey I've ever been cheated by a bakkal owner, but this guy was making in pretty obvious in some of my purchases. Perhaps my paying him anyway, without a fuss, got his confidence up. I'm happy I made you laugh, with this story how could anyone not get a laugh--I'm still laughing as I write this! I wish somebody could have videotaped it, it was classic!

It's not over yet, he always sits outside the store, and I walk by every day (I was a regular customer). Let's see what he does next. Then we'll see what I do next. He deserves every bit of this. Oh what fun!

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Oh me too - let's stand up for our rights!!!

Our local bakkal also has a reputation - it's known as the

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I have an idea. Just take a Turkish friend with you, who should pretend to be a foreigner , and when the shopkeeper openly overcharged, simply call 'Maliye'. Maliye is the name of the Government ofiice in charge of tax collection, and other related issues, andf any citizen can call it for ccomplaint. But considering that calling the Maliye and telling all he story demands some working Turkish, your friend would do this, and also would act as a witness. Yes, please do this. Take a Turkish friend with you , and a cell phone,, and just call Maliye. It has an emergency call number like police or fire department, but somehow I dont remember it at this moment.

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I like to think he employed some of his naval vocabulary for the occasion.

I know exactly what you mean by that, Lozengelegend! The US Air Force vocabulary is probably about the same!

Saffron, excellent advice, thank you! I am so happy you are a part of this community... you do so much to help us wherever you can, and I know that Turks in general have that same "Turkish heart" as you do. Maybe you can offer some advice, and maybe we can help stop this kind of problem, using Turkey Central. Saffron, you are our friend... you've already helped so many of us expats learn your country and language, simply to help us. I know that many Turks are of the same heart and this is why I love your country. May Turkish businesses operate honestly and fairly. Some don't, like in any country. But we, as foreigners, are easy to take advantage of.

I'd like to write some of my random thoughts and would like to read your replies...

What about starting an expats organization, which exists to fight for the rights of expats in Turkey? That is, not a simple website, forum, or whatever. We have enough of those. I'm talking about a real organization which supports us as expats, and fights for our rights, with lawyers, or others who will support us. I know a lawyer in Izmir who has a wonderful reputation with expats and who has done great service for us. I could talk with him about what would be involved.

I think that the expat community in Turkey can be a VERY strong force if we could band together and fight for our rights as an organized group. Right now we're completely fragmented, "every man for himself." We are also isolated to our various towns, and tend to deal only with the local government. I've read some articles about the expats in certain places forming organizations to work with local government, but after the government officials welcomed the idea with big smiles and handshakes, they did nothing when issues were brought to them, and the expats walked away entirely disappointed.

My issue, that is, buying four beers at the bakkal (convenience store) is nothing compared to how expats get cheated on real estate deals, involving thousands and thousands of pounds, dollars, lira, or whatever. Couldn't we band together, as a legal organization in Turkey, with the sole purpose of supporting and defending expats, no matter who they might be or what situation they're in?

We're here to support expats, travelers, or whoever comes to Turkey, seems to me this might be a natural, and noble, extension of our organization. We'd be happy to found an manage an organization like this if there is a need for it.

Not only that, but we're happy to provide a place to expose businesses who cheat expats or tourists.

The question is, could, and should, we make an organization to defend expats, and could we help as Turkey Central (we would love to)? More coming further, I do have some other ideas, I'd just like to see any replies first. Ideas, anyone? Do you think a Turkey expats organization would be a good idea? Again these are just some random first-time thoughts...

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Thank you Ken, and I think this is a very good idea. Before writing this post I took a quick look at the legislation concerning foundation of non-profit organizations. In the Turkish Civil Code and the Law of Associaitons, it is openly stated that foreigners, with real or artificial personality, can found or join an associaiton. The only thing requested from a foriegner to join an association is the residence permit. In other words any one who has the legal right to live here can found or join this type of non-profit organizations. (Opening a branch of a foreign-based organization is another issue and subject to prior approval of the Minisitry of Interior).

In order to start an association, there must be at least 7 founding members..

Only 7 people, after completing the necessary documents- like evidence of ownership or rent of an office, details of the founders, which, in the case of a foreigner the evidence of nationality, present them to the relevant authorirty, and upon this presentation, the associaiton is deemed to have been found legally. No prior approval is needed.. the association can open branch offices in other locations as well with at least three people.

As far as I know form a few association managers I talked to before, the most important thing to pay attention is limiting the activities to the stated purpose. Even with all the good intend, any activity sounding not relevant to the original purpose may put the organization into risk.

I think this would be indeed a very good attempt. Not only expats or toursits, also the businessmen who want to carry out their job in a honest and fair way would benefit from this greatly, they too suffer, because of unfair competition..

In the long run, every body involved would benefit...

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Thanks for looking into that, Saffron!

Wow, I had a feeling there would be more to do with it than I thought! It would be quite an undertaking with so many expat communities involved, scattered up and down the Aegean, Istanbul, and Ankara. I had been thinking about what would be necessary, and if one was even necessary. It seems like a lot of matters are handled locally, like with real estate, construction companies, local stores.

The first post was kind of throwing the idea out there... now I'm thinking that there are probably agencies which exist already, about where to file a complaint, or at least threaten to complain, for example, the "Maliye," which I didn't know about. For tourism, there's TURSAB. There's probably somewhere to complain about real estate and construction companies, which already exists. Knowing where complaints would be filed, if there are any we don't know about, posting them and publicizing them would be a start.

Other businesses and entities probably have some government office or association which polices itself as well. Perhaps, at least, getting that info out would help for starters.

I haven't even seen the bakkal owner lately, but at least my absence will become conspicuous!

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A very interesting discussion here ! I've been flat out lately since returning from the UK, but logged in to catch up on things, and certainly had a good laugh at your story, Ben ! Though of course it's not funny being ripped off like that ! If I knew where that bakkal was, I'd go in and buy some beers, and if they overcharged me, I'd say, "What ! This must be the place which overcharges foreigners .... I've read all about it on the internet!" That may surely hurt him as much (if not more) than the threat of being reported to Maliye !

I am reminded of the time last winter when we ordered bags of coal for heating. When the bags were delivered, my son was carrying them into the coal cellar and felt some bags were considerably lighter than the rest. We weighed them and found some as low as 13kg, which should have been 25kg ! I immediately called the small bakkal in

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Saffron, you can answer this - if you have a problem with the service from a local business, can the Kaymakam help? And can they help resident foreigners as well as Turkish citizens?

I suppose what would be helpful is a sort of Citizen's Advice Bureau: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/ . In the UK, the CAB says: "Our advice helps people resolve their debt, benefits, housing, legal, discrimination, employment, immigration, consumer and other problems and is available to everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age, nationality, disability or religion."By the way, the Maliye is the tax office - but I didn't know you could go to them with your tax receipts to complain about overcharging!

What sort of food items have a standard price, by the way? Apart from bread and beer... :welcome:

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Hi Laura, everybody has the right to talk to Kaymakam or even Vali -governor, as they are there for the people. This type of complaints, I mean, complaining about something at the office of Kaymakam or Vali happens when a citizen cannot solve his/ her problem, which may be personal or collective, through the usual ways. Let me give an example to show what I mean. If the tapu officer in Antioch had prolonged the formalities of my issue for another unneccesry period, and if the office director wouldnt interfere with the situation, I would be going right to the governor to complain. But this doesnt mean that I would be suing the tapu officer; taking action against a government employee is a different thing and has its own procedural rules. What I might have done would be just saying, ' sir, they are doing this do me, please take some action'..

Or a collective issue: A group of local people can go to Kaymakam or Governor to seek a solution to their local problem which can only solved by the state. Shortly, referring the situation to Kaymakam or Vali is not a legal prodecure to follow, but a normal request of a citizen from the administrator representing the state, and people do this when they find no other solution..

Maliye is the office monitoring business activities.

When a shopkeeper violates trade law and prodecures, he is accountable for this before Maliye: For instance writing and giving the bill to the customer is an obligation of the shopkeeper, likewise, asking for the bill , too, is an obligation of the citizen. If he refuses to give it, you can report this immediately. As to overcharging, this is definetly misusing the trust of the customer and unfair competion. If you report this to Maliye, they would come to check what is going on. Most probably the shopkeeper would deny this, but just the fear from Maliye is enough for him to be careful next time, and if the dispute turns into a serious one, the bill will serve as evidence. How can you use it? You can ask a few friend to go and buy the same thing: on the bill the item purchased is specified, along with the brand name. If he, lets say sells a bottle of milk of this or that brand, at different prices to different persons when there is no acceptable reason for this price difference, his intend will be obvious.

What are the standard priced items? many products with brand name are sold on the basis of a dealer agreement. The dealer is supposed to monitor the retailers for price standards and other trade standards of the producer. I cannot know and make a list of them, naturally, but if you check the shelves of 'supermarkets', you will notice that many things are sold following some trade policy. A supermarket can apply a special discount, probably as per the agreement with the producer, but, except for this, brand products are sold at consistent prices. I dont mean that bakkal has to sell an item at the same price with the supermarket, I mean, supermarket can be an example of more or less standard items like milk, yoghurt, soap, etc. A bakkal will be a bit more expensive than a supermarket, this is normal and usual. But again this doesnt mean that he is free to sell whatever he wants at whatever price he likes to different customers. If he does this only once, he can say 'oh sorry, by mistake' But if you can evidence what he is doing, with bills, he cannot simply say oh sorry and get rid of Maliye. What if you want to call Maliye and complain when you have no evidence of witness? They will still come, listen to you, understand the problem and most probably warn the shopkeeper and go. This alone is enough for him!!

I'm editing this post later, to make a summary of this confusing issue..

With standard priced items, I mean the goods sold under an agreement, like beer or many brands of icecream. The price consistency at supermarkets is not always the sign of a some standard price fixed by some agreement, but regular shopping from them will soon give an idea about standard prices. The guaranteed way to prove the mistake done to a customer is the bill, which is called 'fish' when it is printed by 'yazar kasa'. A 'yazar kasa' is a registered machine printing the bills, keeping the cash, etc, which is subject to inspection by Maliye when it deems necessary. Those 'fishes 'or bills are the only evidence of taxable income of the shop owner, so Maliye has a strict control over them. Therefore a shop owner cannot make joke on that. If you ask for the bill, which you are expected to ask, he cannot dare to refuse to give, and cannot play with it. Once in Antakya a pastry shop has the habit of refusing to give the bill, saying each time 'yazar kasa doesnt work now, it needs some repair'. Hearing the same excuse for the third time I called Maliye. Since then, their yazar kasa never fails.

Naturally Maliye is not the only authority which brings rules and sanctions. A businessman or a shop owner, like any other citizen, will be prosecuted if he is involved in fraudulant acts in his business. But the petition will be filed with the public prosecutor- savcı-, then.

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I'm glad that this info would be used in the efforts to solve the problem.. :welcome:I noticed that an important point is missing in my post, concerning the question of Laura:There is a distinction between going to kaymakam or vali to find a solution for some personal or local problem, but official complaints can also be filed with them. For instance if the parents of a student want to complain about some wrong practice of the school principal, they will file this complaint with the office of kaymakam or vali. Or any other wrong practice in the public domain. Like when a Muhtar fails to perform his task, kaymakam's office is the place to complain officially. Probably the list is long, these examples just came to my mind .

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Let's go fis'ing!!!

I went to the bakkal again. Immediately the owner an his wife began talking, I didn't understand them, but the seemed a bit distressed with my presence and the conversation was probably about me. I bought 2 beers. "Ne kadar?" (how much) I asked. The rest I'll just write in English. "5 YTL," he said. He explained that a beer was 2.25 YTL. "You took more money from me before. I'm going to report you to the Maliye," I said (THANKS SAFFRON!). "No, no," he said. "It was a mistake. A beer here is 2.25 YTL." I gave him a look which I only use in such situations... just the look, with an ample portion of deafening silence. :eyebrow[1]:

We must have the best set of emoticons at TC, even one which has the look that I gave this guy!

"I should report you to the Maliye," I said. Wow, what a change in expression the mention of the word "Maliye" causes. I really like that word.

"Fis istiyorum." (I want a receipt)." He gladly gave it to me.

Well, now you'll know how I spent my afternoon.

Just for fun, I went to the bakkal down the street, and bought two beers. I paid 5 YTL, and he kept it. I asked the man for a "fis" as he was giving me my change. He had charged me 4.50 YTL for 2 beers. But gave me a fis for 5 YTL. Why that was, I'm not sure.

The fis doesn't say what you bought, unfortunately, it just gives the amount. Anyway, he gave me my black plastic, recycled from tires or whatever bag, which seems to be reserved for the purchase of alcohol. I also had my fis. I then went to the shop who cheated me, and bought two more beers, with it plainly obvious that I had two beers from another store, with the fis in the same hand which was carrying the bag (in abundantly plain view). :)

By this time, he knew exactly what I was doing. I'd threatened to report him to the Maliye already, and that had him worried. Now I come in with two beers from another store, with a fis in hand, and buy two beers a his store and yes, I asked for a fis. :rtfm[1]:

Well, at the end of my excursion, that is, my effort to help all of the expats in Turkey, I found that the true price of a beer is 2.25 Lira at a bakkal in Cesme. I also hope that I gave the shop owner a bit of a scare, since he knows that I know quite a few other expats, and now, THANKS TO SAFFRON, I know what the Maliye is now. :wink3:

So I've done my part in service to the expat community for the day... so if you'll excuse me, I have some beers to drink... :beer[1]:

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is a very useful and interesting discussion. Can I ask another question about this? Would the belediyesi Zabita play any part in checking out tradesmen? I've seen them collecting money from market traders for their stalls, checking on house alterations and prosecuting people for dumping rubbish. What is their role?

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I think the Zabita are "report takers" for the police and serve as kind of a police auxiliary. I've always wondered what their role was! But I don't know if they'd get involved in something like that, I got pretty good results already, he gives me a "fis" every time and the prices are lower!

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Good news Ken!! :yeah[1]: Zabıta, first of all, are employed by Municipality. They are called belediye zabıtası -zabıta of the municipalty- or shortly zabıta. They monitor tradesmen, among other tasks, to ensure that they obey the municipal rules,concerning environmetal sanity, use of common areas like parks and pavements -if you see pavements and similar areas full of commercial goods, this is not because this is free, but because zabıta is somehow happy with this situation, or the mayor tolerates this for the reasons only he knows, which sometimes includes a pity for the sellers, who are , in some cases his voters. In this context I want to give an example, if, lets say, if a shop owner occupies a passage where you are supposed to walk through while coming home, this de facto occupant can be removed by zabıta when you report.

The municipality also monitors the shops for the purposes of sanity. In particular the producers of food, like bread, candy, soft drinks, etc. You may have watched on the TV a group of zabıta, accompanied by TV journalists, pointing to a dirty wall of container..

In Turkey there is a rule concerning price tags or labels on the items sold. I dont know exactly which class of tradesmen are obligated to put labels on the items sold, because this rule, too, is violated here and there. But when an item is supposed to be sold with a price label on it, but the shop owner fails to do this, zabıta again is the authority to warn him or charge fines accordingly. I know this is the most important point of this thread so I think to obtain a list of such goods, or the class of tradesmen who are bound wtih this rule.

You can see zabıta walking through open market places (pazar), to check if they put price tags, keep clean the place, sell spoiled food or not, etc..

If you suspect that an open market seller cheated you , you can report the situtation to zabıta.

The tasks of zabıta are not limited to the above, but these just came to my mind..

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The municipality also monitors the shops for the purposes of sanity.

SaffronI hope you won't mind that I had a little smile at this.... I think you meant 'sanitation', but I love the idea of an inspector who comes in to ensure that the bakkal is of sound mind!

I have to say - I wish my Turkish was a quarter as good as your English.


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No, I dont mind! sanitation is one of the problematic words for a tranlator ..

When I want to talk about a hygenic situation in general, I cannot find a word for it. Sanitation seems to be a good one, but then it is often used for drainage, sewage disposal etc, so I'm afraid of using it, or I should say, I WAS afraid of using it while working as a translator.

I couldnt know in which cases hygenic condiditons are referred to or just sewage disposal. For a translator , writing a word for sewage disposal in the wrong place is a disaster! I finally deleted the word from my memory..

On the other hand, hygene sounds like more technical or medical. In an operation room, hygenic conditions should be maintained. So I cannot use it freely whenever some 'clean and healthy' conditions are referred to..

This is one of the thousands of words that gave me headach while working..

In fact, just for this type of reasons I left my job never to turn back..

Now, I just enjoy using English for communication purposes, and leave all the headache to those who are still in the sector!!

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