Nowadays, I find that going out requires a lot more strategic planning on my part. I used to think that the only thing I needed to calculate was the time difference between normal time and African time in order to avoid sitting on my own for an hour or two. However, now I find that I need to plan what time to start heading back home as well.
Actually it’s not really about what time I should try and get back home, it’s more about guessing what time I should head back home in order to avoid paying consumption tax for the rest of the group. Don’t judge me though; that same thought goes through everyone’s mind when they’re sitting in a group of 4 or more friends whose current financial status may or may not be robust, yet one or two still insist that the drinks keep flowing. Oh it’s a dangerous game indeed, but believe me, there’s no such thing as loyalty on cocktails night.
I, like many of you, probably learnt this lesson the hard way. You know what it’s like: you’re going out with a few of your friends but guess who brought their cousin along? Ah, that’s okay though, the more the merrier. Two girls instead of one, who could complain? Oh, but it turns out that they have to head home quite early. Apparently her parents have set an 11pm curfew.
Quite unfortunate really, but it’s okay, because they’ve given you the exact amount of money to cover the cost of their drinks as set on the menu. Oh, the other girls have suddenly remembered that they should probably head home too? That’s fair, I mean maybe their parents have all set a similar curfew. These things happen. You can’t really complain because they’ve contributed the price of their drinks as set on the menu. Another 20 minutes go by and you and your last remaining friend decide to call it a night. You ask for the bill and your heart skips a beat as you read that little, cheeky section of the bill called “Consumption tax”.
It is a bit cheeky, isn’t it? Because it sort of sneaks up on you! It’s not advertised on the menu but I guess that adds to the thrill of the dining out experience. You never really know how broke you’ll end up being until the end of the night! In a world where things are becoming more and more predictable, it’s nice to know that you can still be surprised! It’s the little things or, in the case of your bill, the bloody expensive things, that really make your night. To your dismay, you’ve discovered that even if you divide the total consumption tax two ways between you and your friend, you’re still paying tax worth more than double the value of the drinks that you personally consumed.
It’s a sad realisation, isn’t it? You start to wonder whether the girls had planned this all along. I mean they did, as most girls do, decide to go to the bathroom at the same time and they did spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom together. Perhaps they were using this valuable time to synchronise their watches? Perhaps they were merely ahead of the curve? Consumption tax does have a way of making one paranoid like that. I guess when you feel deceived, paranoia is never too far behind. Oh but it wasn’t the girls who deceived you. No, they outsmarted you perhaps but it was that damn menu that led you to believe that they had paid their fair share. It would appear that the restaurant decided to omit that extra 5% (in addition to the 5% VAT and 10% service charge…obviously) that you have to pay, from the menu.
I studied marketing for 3 years and I reckon that omitting such a significant charge from one’s menu might even be classified as “false advertising”. You were essentially sold goods under the false pretence that you’d be paying a lot less for it. From a business standpoint, it’s a brilliant strategy because it ensures that the naïve won’t be thrown off by what they actually have to pay, in reality, to eat or drink at your establishment. However, I can’t help but feel that the consumer is getting screwed over in the process. I can’t help but think that such false advertising should be banned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of taxes. I realise how important they are to the running of a country but I’d rather be told the truth about what I’m paying for my food and drinks upfront than endure a nasty shock when it’s too late to do anything about it.
What do you guys think about consumption tax?
Ayanam Udoma is a poet and blogger who moved to England at 16. He returned to Nigeria after his degree in marketing to participate in the NYSC program. He is now trying to adjust back into the “Naija” lifestyle. He blogs at A-Zone Poetry.