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You can probably thank Hollywood blockbusters like The Hangover, or the fact that all things delicious and thrilling are generally cheap in Thailand, but for a variety of reasons Bangkok is a city that loves to party and hardly ever sleeps. No matter how tired your eyes though, you may want to pay attention the next time you pick up a tab in the city.

Quite a few popular bars are now using a sneaky trick to charge customers more than expected when the bill comes, and it’s catching on fast, especially in buzzy hotel bars.

Drinking establishments in Bangkok typically levy a 10% service charge in addition to a standard 7% VAT. It’s what people know, and it’s not unlike drinking in most parts of the world. Some wildly popular bars however are now adding an additional 10% mystery tax when the bill comes, that’s not disclosed when ordering, and it’s got people puzzled. That $10 drink on the menu might actually be $12.70 when you come to pay for it.

The problem is, there is no “new” tax.

Bars are just unwittingly getting people to pay their taxes for them. Bangkok raised taxes on late night bars which serve drinks and play music into the morning hours years ago and the 10% tax was never meant to be something customers faced – just something that bars paid. It’s just the cost of doing business, as they say – and most bars either didn’t raise prices, or raised them marginally to adjust.

According to BK, a leading Bangkok publication, quite a few popular bars, including a World Top 50 are now sneakily adding this 10% “e-tax” surcharge onto every nightly bill. Apparently, even Bangkok locals experienced in the arts of a night out out have been caught-out, as they receive a final bill higher than expected.

Wouldn’t it just make more sense to raise drink prices than to put a bogus tax on the bill?

Bars which tend to cater to visitors have recently snatched this updated “e-tax” up as an opportunity to extract an extra 10% out of traveller pockets without them any the wiser. Unlike V&A tax, it’s not a tax bar customers should be dealing with it, yet there’s presently nothing you can do about it. The situation is made particularly frustrating when it’s presented out of nowhere at the end of the night, and never disclosed on bar menus or prices beforehand.

In predictable fashion, this is all taking place in places where guests are more likely to be none the wiser to local norms and Thai tax rates. Bars like Spasso at the Grand Hyatt, the Rosewood bar and Bamboo Room at the Four Seasons are amongst the most namely offenders choosing to pass off this 10% additional tax as standard. It’s not.

As this story gains traction, one can only hope that these bars either set their prices properly, or drop the mystery add on tax. It’s hard enough to keep track of a tab when you see the prices up front, let alone when they add mystery surcharges.

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