The most stressful part of my entire week in the Holy Land was negotiating for lunch in Bethlehem. Oh how I hate it when restaurants don’t have posted prices!
We were right in tourist central, near the Church of the Nativity, and hungry for lunch. The touts were aggressive and every placed looked tasty.
We stopped by a couple places and neither had printed menus. I just turned around and walked out. You never want to put yourself in a position to be taken advantage of by a lack of a printed menu. Always ask for the price beforehand lest you be shocked by a huge bill. Best to get it in writing.
But it was getting late in the afternoon and my wife and son were hungry. So against my better judgement, I decided to negotiate when the third restaurant also didn’t have a menu. He wanted 60NIS for a quarter chicken with sides. That’s $17.50…simply absurd.
The way I negotiate is by laughing when I am quoted a price. Don’t show anger. Don’t show fear. Instead just show humor and amusement (even though I don’t find the process of bargaining humorous or amusing).
The restaurant owner was absolutely desperate for my business. It was a rainy day and there were few tourists out and about. Heidi, even more skeptical than I was, just wanted to turn around and go out.
But we negotiated and I got him down to 40NIS for a half chicken (after 10 minutes and once walking out). I also ordered a shawarma for 20NIS. We shook hands, sat down, and ate. The food was tasty.
I was still afraid, though.
There was no printed menu, after all. What if the receipt said 400NIS? I’ve heard of it happening. Heck, it happened to my own brother in Jerusalem…
Before the bill could even come, I paid him in cash. He shook my hand. Then he offered us tea…on the house.
It was mint tea and it was tasty.
And that was it. We shook hands again and headed out. Crisis avoided.
I still would have enjoyed lunch a lot more had there been a printed menu…