Take home pay

Take home pay

Spanish people have an in-built reflex which obliges them to check if everything has been paid or not before they leave any bar or restaurant

Friday, 3 November 2023, 17:52


If you're ever in a restaurant with a group of Spanish people and somebody with a mischievous grin asks the question '¿Hacemos un simpa?', just shake your head, tut loudly and whip out your wallet in the most ostentatious manner possible.

A 'simpa' is the deliberate act of leaving an establishment without paying the bill. The term comes from an abbreviation of 'sin pagar' ('without paying') and is, fortunately, a relatively rare occurrence, although there's a 47-year-old bloke in Zaragoza who's been arrested 46 times for a vast array of simpas employing a modus operandi which often involves cadging a cigarette from another customer, popping outside to smoke before showing an extremely clean pair of heels to all concerned.

In eight years at the Shakespeare, we've been the victim of this practice on two occasions, one of them only last week when a woman concocted some yarn about having been mugged the previous evening and her phone being broken and not having any cash on her and needing to nip to her apartment for some money and... actually I can't remember anymore, I think I must have nodded off. Anyway, she never came back.

There are two other categories of non-payment. The first is the misunderstanding where each person in a group thinks someone else has paid. This has happened to us on five or six occasions over the years and the people concerned have always settled up at a later date, apologising profusely as they did so. There's really no need to apologise – these are genuine mistakes.

The other reason for non-payment is when tourists from the UK come to Spain and, quite understandably, want to get involved with as many local customs as possible. One of these customs is to pay your bill at the end of the evening rather than for every round of drinks individually as they would be used to doing back home. It's not uncommon for visitors like this to get up from their table, offer a cheery wave and a plethora of thank yous before promptly disappearing through the exit oblivious to the fact they haven't yet spent a penny. Unfortunately, the only remedy available to us in these circumstances is a brisk dash down the street in hot pursuit and a whispered explanation, which mostly results in much clasping of heads in hands and a deluge of apologies. Conversely, Spanish people have an in-built reflex which obliges them to check if everything has been paid or not before they leave any establishment. It's hard-wired.

As you can probably tell, we've always been extremely fortunate with regard to this type of occurrence but for a restaurant dealing with much larger bills, anything of the kind can be very damaging. Just ask the bar owners of Zaragoza.

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