Is This A Record Bansko Restaurant Rip Off?

Aug 30, 2009 13 Comments by

OBETSANOVA MEHANA, is a Bansko restaurant that is named and shamed in today’s review from Bansko Blog readers, Patrick and Sylvia from Ireland. Read on to see why their meal was as much fun as having a tooth pulled.

Firstly my many thanks to them for sending this in. Restaurant owners and operators are changing every season: so your up to date reports are sought. This site relies on your feedback like Patrick and Sylvia’a to quickly identify those which indulge in rip offs like this one. For a  positive review on a Bansko restaurant, and my reliable value favourite, I receved nothing but praise for the Victoria restaurant opposite the Kempinski Grand Arena… click here for my review:

OK, so here’s the email from Patrick:

“…My wife and I have just returned from a fantastic month long holiday in Bansko. We took in the Jazz Festival — which was amazing. It was so professional, entertaining and free. We also tried out some of the hill walking tours and visited the majestic Rila Monastery with a great guide, Marin Erinin. Thank you! Marin. We will definitely be spending our future summer holidays in Bansko.

Unfortunately we did have a very nasty and intimidating experience at the Obetsanova Mehana. It is situated immediately to the right of the Church, as you approach the square downhill from Pirin Street.

To cut this long story as short as possible, what happened was as follows :-

  1. My wife and I each had a Beer. ( total approx 10 leva)
  2. We had a Shopska Salad to share. ( approximately 6 leva)
  3. We enquired as to whether a main meal of roasted meats, with vegetables on two skewers, pictured on the menu was sufficient for two —  and the waiter said yes it was. The price beside picture was 29.40 Leva.
  4. Total bill expected 45.50 Leva
  5. Total Bill presented 158 Leva !

As you can imagine this amount came as a major shock to us.

We queried the bill with the waiter — who said it was correct. He then went on to show that each piece of meat and each vegetable had been priced separately and amounted to the 158 leva shown. When we pointed out that the picture of the meal in the menu had a price of 29.40 leva beside it,  he said “that that was the price for a fish course, and had nothing to do with the meal that we had chosen from the picture.”…

…When we asked him to show us the price of our chosen meal in the menu he said that ” it is not displayed in the menu.”

We decided that 50 leva was the most we were going to pay. So, I put a fifty leva note in the bill folder and presented it to the waiter who had now retreated into the restaurant. When he opened the bill folder and saw the fifty leva note he became enraged. I attempted to leave the restaurant but he aggressively pushed me back in through the door. He then called a man who seemed to be the “owner” of the restaurant — and who had been observing what was happening. He came over to us, looked at the bill and said it was correct.

When I protested further and asked to be shown the price of the meal in the menu he confirmed that that particular meal was not priced in the menu. At the same time he took from his pocket a toy gun and began to stroke it. He said to the waiter “Give them a 10% discount”.

At this stage I felt totally intimidated and frightened. Thoughts of ‘Mafia’ were coming into my head. I made a quick calculation and concluded that our lives were worth more than the discounted price of approximately 140 leva. So, we paid the price and headed for home as quickly as possible.

Lessons learned were :-

  1. Don’t select a meal from a menu picture unless you confirm the price.
  2. Don’t ever visit this restaurant again.
  3. Make sure you tell as many people as possible about the rip-off.
  4. This type of rip-off must be stopped in order to protect what is good about Bansko.

In spite of this nasty incident we will continue to love Bansko and it will be our Summer and Winter holiday destination for as long as we live.

(Patrick and Sylvia are fictional names: the story is true)

My comment: Thank you Patrick and Sylvia for sharing this. I really admire how this one bad experience has not put you off. But I have to say Bulgaria’s reputation is pretty poor for this type of thing. I have heard of other intimidation stories when faced with over priced taxis in Bansko (and elsewhere).

So a quick reminder to check charges first and ask for meter to be switched on before jumping in. I’ve been caught out several times. Caution in Sofia as well as Bansko. Especially the airport terminals (check for OK Supertrans and rate — never take a tout), Pliska hotel, Alexander Nevski Church areas, Sheraton hotel, bus and train stations. Please note taxis are legally allowed to charge what they like, as long as the price is displayed in the nearside windscreen. I’ve made this mistake when in a rush in Sofia, so believe me, it’s an easy trap to fall into.

What do you think?  What would you have done — anything different? Please comment below.

I do urge readers to send reviews of restaurants that they have visited whether they are positive or negative. In the case of the latter anonymity is guaranteed… I have changed names here to protect the real persons

In the run up to the ski season, I will not be shy on exposing similar stories… but will also to praise the many excellent restaurants, bars, cafe’s and clubs. Be sure to sign up to get the inside track first.

Bars and Restaurants

About the author

I enjoy tech, apps, entrepreneurship, podcasting and collaboration with others. I love travelling as well as skiing, hiking, MTB, paragliding, cooking and good food.

13 Responses to “Is This A Record Bansko Restaurant Rip Off?”

  1. Violeta says:

    Hello! I'm a Bulgarian and I live in Sofia, but have been on vacation in Bansko countless times.
    I have to say I'm really really sorry such a thing has happened. I'm aware these kinds of rip-offs of foreigners happen all the time. It's sad but it's a fact.

    I think I know which restaurant that is, but I'm not exactly sure. If it is the one I'm thinking about, then we've eaten there before and we haven't had any problems. However, that was a few years ago, and owners might have changed by now, although the mehanas there are usually a family business..

    I'm 99% sure that if a bulgarian was at your table and had ordered the food for you, you wouldn't have been ripped-off. The thing is, it's a wide-spread belief here that foreigners come with "tons of money in their pockets and wouldn't notice if their bill was a little higher than it's supposed to be", although in this particular situation it's certainly not just "a little" higher.. I can tell you – even if Bansko is one of the more expensive destinations in Bulgaria, such a bill is ridiculous..

    The only question I've got for you guys is, didn't anyone try to help you with the problem? Surely there were other customers.. Because if we were there, I'm positive we would have got involved.

    Again, I'm awfully sorry this happened to you! Good thing this site exists, then, so you can share such info 🙂

  2. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Violeta,

    Thanks for your comments and for your support for this web site.

    I believe there were no other customers in the restaurant at the time.

    And yes, having a Bulgarian with you makes such "tricks", such as this one from Patrick, very unlikely.


  3. Douglas says:

    OBETSANOVA MEHANA – The problem with this Mehana is that they always try to upsell, we ordered a pork knuckle for 25bgn and they said we should try a similar lamb dish. we were tempted but as usual we asked the price, it was 90bgn. If we had not thought to ask we to would have been caught out. We cannot reccomend a restuarant that treats its guests this way.

  4. LanceNelson says:

    Hi Douglas,

    Thank you for your comment, and further evidence to avoid this one. Your views are helpful.

    And a timely reminder that waiters selling alternative items undisclosed on a menu, without disclosing the new item price, is a trick which they only entertain because they get away with it.

    Looking ahead — and reminded by a recent ban, albeit temporary, on London's famous Brick Lane's 50 plus Bangladeshi restaurants — I do wish touts would be outlawed in Bansko. I suspect I may be in the majority on this one — but equally resigned the chances of this wish be realised are about the same as pigs flying.

    The search for the new ski season's restaurants (including Kempinsky restaurants, Pirin golf club, other hotels, and outlying towns and villages) that offer a quality dining experience will start soon.

    Any rips from pricing, tricks, intimidationreaders experience that I am informed about will be posted here!

  5. fotis says:

    i dont know if it is the same mexana but last weekend i went to the big one facing the statue at the beginning of the square, this one has also a big sign BARBEQUE. anyway i ordered a botled wine of 19 leva and thy said they only have their house wine at a cheap price wich unfortounately i didnt ask…..the price was…49leva!!! and the wine was BAD!!! AVOID THIS MEXANA BY ANY MEANS

  6. Bob says:

    Bansko is a rip off anyway. Lift prices there are €35 per day which is unbelievable when you consider there are plenty of ski resorts in the Alps, let alone the Pyrenees where the ski mountains are better and snowfall much higher, around €25 per day and these are western countries, not an eastern country where everything is significantly cheaper. I can't understand why people go all the way over there to get ripped off. The reason is they compare Bansko to premier Alpine resorts where lift prices can be €50 and food really pricy, they don't realize there are cheaper alternatives. Bansko is such a rip off in so many ways it hurts and they are going to continue to flease. Its heavy marketing that has yielded the uniformed.

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Bob,

      Thank you for your comment. The Pyrenees are superb. I had a most fabulous time in Baqueira Beret in Pyrenees. But to get the sake sort of accommodation from the same distance from the lift was well over double the price of Bansko. Bansko is more than the sum of ots parts, and it does a bit depend what you enjoy. After a good snow fall the off piste through the trees is surprisingly goog. The pisted runs, all snow cannoned, are also particularly pleasing.

      But I like change, but I think generally Bansko, with some insider's info, is certainly not a rip off. Hey where else can you enjoy a 1 euos beer just off the pists (Peshterite) and a half decent meal? Or indeed stay in a 5 star hotel, right by the lift, for around £600 per person including flights (from the UK/Ireland)? Or where the nightlife is so varied and affordable? It's not the nest skiing fro sure — but you speak to a family man with two children, and I think Bansko can be a top choice.

      This is why more and more people are giving it a go. And then returning the following year.

      Beware of a few rip off places, (even subscribe for you free guide here) and ,well, let me know your htoughts. Summer activities are great value too, compare to Chamonix etc.

      • Bob says:

        Yes, I hear you. Bansko offers great opportunities for more luxurious accommodation and for sure the food and drink in general is cheaper than what you will find in the Alps or the Pyrenees. But its the lift prices that concern me. They used to be reasonably priced but they have really shot up over the last couple of years and are, in my opinion hugely beyond where they should be. I would be concerned whether the lift price are now fixed or whether they are going to continue to rise.

        I believe Bansko lift price should not exceed €20 or €90 for 6 day pass based on its location and amount of terrain offered. Of course, much like fuel prices, its unlikely the figure will ever decrease, so in my opinion the current price should remain fixed for many years to come until it fall inline with where it should be.

        • LanceNelson says:

          Hi Bob,

          Yes 55 lev (after 5 lv refund of card) is €28 for a one day lift pass. The upside is they put in a nice new quad chair lift last season and they upgraded the Bunderitsa quad to a six person lift. They also put in more snow cannon — and its this last point that possibly the other comparable resorts dont quite compare. Rather controversially I suggest the lift pass increases for weekends, to keep down the queues, and use this to subsidise decreases during the week. I also think they should introduce family early booking tickets and early booking ski season tickets – like the top US resorts do.

          I totally agree with you that the price should remain where it is. If new lifts go in then, maybe at some times a little more could be charged. But I think some more variable pricing to keep people coming during the week would be sensible as well as better priced 6 day passes. Cheap 6 day passes encourages longer stays and four day midweek deal passes keep some skiers and boarders in Bansko away from the weekends.

          A very good debate here, as the price of a lift pass is absolutely key for some people. It makes or breaks their decision as to whether they will come to Bansko or not. Overall, I think I am happy for budget skiiers to go to Borovets and Pamporovo. I'll pay a little more for quieter slopes and more overall quality in Bansko. Most of all I would like to hope that the return has proved sufficiently profitable for Ulen that one day they will be given permission to extend the area. Environmental concerns cannot also be dismissed and a sustainable tourist industry must also figure in the debate.

          • Bob says:

            The problem with raising the lift price at weekends is it prices out the locals (i.e people from the country, I realise actual locals get a concession). After all it is their "neck of the wood" and I'm sure many are already priced out due to the heavy influence of Tourism & investment from the western half of Europe.

  7. Jim says:

    Hi, after reading of ' Patrick & Sylvia's ' experience at OBETSANOVA MEHANA I thought I would post a comment on Bansco. We have just returned from Bansco and found the place to have an interesting mix of modern style and traditional atmosphere. In relation to the publicising of Bansco as a summer venue, I think this should be encouraged as I feel there are definitely two sides to Bansco. Most of the negative comments i have read appertain to the Ski season and this may be when more controversy arises due to this being the time of year when the locals need to make as much money as possible.
    Unscrupulous behaviour occurs in any busy holiday destination any where in the world under those circumstances.
    However, we found the whole experience very pleasurable and interesting. The mountains were beautiful and the walking was ideal. Our 4 star hotel, the St Ivan Rilski could not be faulted and dining out was so inexpensive. The weather was also excellent with temperatures in the 80's & 90's.

    Continued in next comment

    • LanceNelson says:

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your comments and sit is good news that you enjoyed your stay in Bansko. I think Bansko continues to improve service levels — with fine quality food and customer service now available. There seem to be much fewer complaints on dining out in mehana's. Attitudes in Bansko, and elsewhere in Bulgaria as I recently enjoyed in Sopot, seems to be getting better and better. What else did you enjoy?

  8. Andrea says:

    My boyfriend and i had the most nasty and traumatic experience at Chardaka next to the statue in the old town. After refusing to pay 59 levs for a glass of dreadful wine i was kicked to the ground and punched over and over again by the barman who was surrounded by his mates. I asked for the police to be called after they blocked our way out but he got nasty. I left 10 levs for my wine, together with the money for the warm beer and told him that i refused to be ripped off. There was only one other couple in the restaurant and the guy tried to sort it out. He was horrified at the assault and eventually they let us go. Do not go near this place.

Leave a Reply