One of the major differences I see in the cultural food habits in South India and Bombay are the way payments are made. No matter where you go in Mumbai, there are waiters ready to take your order and at the end of your meal, hand you a bill.
On the contrary, in most south indian restaurants, the concept of writing down a receipt does not exist. Most prevalent among those restaurants are eateries which are lovingly called ‘mess’. The waiter / waitresses in such places are called akka / anna, chetta / chechi, depending on the part of south india you visit. The most interesting part however is when you go to pay for your food to the cashier, who is usually a stout / old – man / lady, you say what you had by yourself. The akka / anna, chetta / chechi doesn’t accompany you or rather does not even notify the cashier what your meal was.
There is so much trust in the customers that the mess owners believe that they will not lie. Transactions are made on good karma. So, in this scenario even if you had a hefty meal with lots of eggs, you could just say 2 dosai, pay the fare of 2 dosai and walk away.
Or so I thought.
There was a group of 3 students who came to eat at this particular mess where I was having my usual two dosai and one omlette. At the cashier, I promptly told the old lady what I had for breakfast and she gave a reassuring nod that approved of my eating habits. I handed her a 50 rupee note and got back the 5 rupee change. We exchanged thank you’s and I left. As I was unlocking my cycle right outside the mess, the 3 students were having a hard time telling the old lady what their breakfast was. To make things worse, she called their waiter to check if they were telling her the truth. Turns out, they were telling her that they had Two Sada Dosai, instead of Two Roast Dosai because they thought both kinds of Dosai cost the same. Typical rookie mistake. It was sorted right away and they paid her the fare.
My question here is how did the old lady come to know that they did not have sada and something else instead, when she was sitting in the cashiers place all this while? There is also a small wall between where those students were eating and the cashiers. There are no cctv cameras in this place.
This is not the only place I have observed such instances happen. Most cashiers who do not believe in the system of receipts and bill, somehow have an inherent power of gauging truth from a lie. Such cashiers have an old school ancestral power passed down from generations, that does their bidding.
Could our next generation of restaurateurs implement this technique and imagine being profitable? Only time will tell.
However, If I open a restaurant, I am definitely learning this ancestral knowledge from mess cashiers and implementing them in my business venture.
Because, Inventory is a bitch whilst Karma isn’t. 🙂