Test finds foreigners charged more in central Prague restaurants

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague

Some restaurants in Prague’s central district discriminate against foreigners, according to the Czech Trade Inspection Authority. The agency says that in several restaurants in the area, English-speaking inspectors posing as tourists were automatically levied with a service charge – unlike their Czech-speaking colleagues who dined in the same place at the same time.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
The Czech Trade Inspection Authority recently carried out checks in restaurants in downtown Prague. The agency would not reveal their names but says they are all located in the most popular tourist sites such as Wenceslas and Old Town Squares and the Prague Castle Area.

The checks revealed that out of 13 restaurants inspected, eight were found to discriminate against their English-speaking clients. I spoke to one of the inspectors, who asked to remain nameless.

“The typical problem is overcharging tourists. When the tourists pay their checks, the restaurants charge them tips but that’s against the law became tips are not obligatory.”

How large are the tips that are automatically included on the checks?

“Usually between 5 and 15 percent of the amount.”

Tipping in Czech restaurants and pubs varies from a few crowns to round up the check to 5 to 10 percent tips in more upscale establishments. But they are never legally included in the total amount.

Illustrative photo: archive of Radio Prague
The inspector says that after she and her colleagues reveal their identities, the waiters and restaurant managers are often defensive, arguing that they are in fact helping foreigners to adapt.

“They are surprised but they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. They say it’s a common practice in other European countries. They say it’s good for the tourists to learn how much they should tip in the Czech Republic.”

The eight Prague restaurants that have been found out to discriminate against foreigners are facing fines of between 10,000 and 100,000 crowns depending on the seriousness of the offence.

In the coming months, the Trade Inspection Authority will send their inspectors to check the establishments again to see if the rules are being followed. If not, the fines could be much higher, of up to a million crowns.

The agency only began targeting nationality-based discrimination a few years ago. The inspector says that while offences such as overcharging are still quite frequent, what has changed is the customers’ approach.

“I’m not sure that I have seen much improvement because we’ve only been doing this intensively for a year or two.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
"But where I have seen improvement is the customers who are more assertive and they complain – in the restaurants or to us. And these are not only Czechs but also foreigners who complain to us over these incidents.”

When in doubt over their check, patrons should always make sure no handwritten amount is added. The e-mail address for submitting complaints to the Trade Inspection Authority can be found on their website, coi.cz.