Lisbon restaurant scams international tourists

Dear Editor,

After the festivities, my wife and I wanted to eat a late dinner in Lisbon’s nearby central commercial district in Baixa. Between 00:30 and 01:00 we walked into the Portugal No Prato restaurant. The waiter immediately seated us and told us that because it is New Year’s they have a limited menu (lie#1).

As we scanned the menu, the waiter told us we could not enjoy our choices (lie#2) but he recommended a mixed fish plate. We agreed along with an appetizer of shrimp. He told us we could not order wine by the glass, but only by the bottle (lie#3).

Since it was a cheap bottle (our assumption) we agreed. As we looked around, we saw that other local patrons were able to order what they chose after we were served.

We took pictures of our meal, as we typically do when we eat out, and ate the food as much as we could. When we were satisfied, we asked for an espresso and the check. The waiter brought what we thought was a bill and told us it would be €200 plus 10% gratuity.

We examined our check and noticed we were overcharged. We told him to charge it to my credit card (so I could dispute the charge) but they said the machine was not working (lie#4), so we paid in cash to avoid legal ramifications. I was escorted by the waiter to the ATM to make sure I could get the cash.

When we returned to our stay, we immediately did research online and noticed an outrageous trend with this establishment, specifically to international tourists and in a very long period of time as well as numerous claims similar to ours. Many even on the same day.

We noticed the same scam as well as others being illegally conducted, but not documented. We noticed several websites covered these incidents.

We went to the tourist police station the next morning to inform them of the incident. They told us to file a complaint in the complaints book in the restaurant with the owner, and to call the police if there were signs of trouble.

We had a copy made of our bill, now brought to our attention as not even a bill, but a fake (lie#5). The police officer stamped it with their seal and we returned to the restaurant. We returned to the same waiter and asked for our money back and the complaints book, after showing him the stamped copy and informing him that we had just returned from the police station.

He kept questioning us. We refused to answer his questions and told him to call the owner. He again lied (#6) telling us that his colleague standing next to him was the owner, and didn’t understand any English.

I told the waiter to ask him to present a business card, verifying that he was the owner or I would call the police. The waiter told us to wait for him to call the “big boss”. The waiter begins to try and reproduce our receipt copy as a final bill (lie#7).

Twenty minutes later, a man walks in, who we assumed was the owner, and begins to fumble around with the register for about 10 minutes and then gives us the same bill, but in a different order with final sale on it, slams it on the table, and then begins serving other customers.

We returned to the tourist police station and they inform us to call 112 for a local patrol to assist us. They arrive and we explain our situation to them. They escort us back into the restaurant so we can file the complaint in the complaints book. We returned to the tourist police station and filed a police report.

We are the very few to have done this, but one of hundreds of tourists cheated in various ways by this establishment.

Quentin Richardson
By email