Thursday, 11 August 2016

Massaging the Figures

A few weeks ago there was an amusing story in the local paper. I don't suppose it was particularly amusing for one person, but they did kind of ask for it. It concerns an incident on Tsambika Beach.

Anyone who's been watching the Greek financial situation for any length of time at all will know that the subject of apodei'xeis is a hot potato these days. An apo'deixi is a receipt for a purchase. The word literally means evidence, or proof. Recently introduced government regulations on the changing hands of cash for goods or services now stipulate that if the customer is not given and apo'deixi, then they are not obliged to pay for the goods or services in question. In fact, retail establishments are obliged by law to display a sign telling the public precisely this. Of course, having already parted with your cash and then had your host wish you a good day while turning to serve the next customer, you may have found it not so easy to demand your money back when he or she has failed to place the receipt in your hand, or indeed in the bag or box containing your purchase.

When you sit in a café sipping your frappé, you ought by rights to see your receipt sitting there on the table already, telling you how much cash to leave behind when you get up to leave. Reputable establishments do of course set the receipt down along with the drinks, usually in a little perspex holder, or perhaps a small stainless steel cup or glass into which you can drop your coins if that's how you like to do it. Here are three examples of café/bars on Naxos and Paros where they do it right...

Receipt under the glass ashtray

Receipt in one of those little perspex holders (left of one of the frappés)

Receipt (just behind my Metaxa balloon) in a small glass tumbler
Now, it's not only when you go and sit in a restaurant or a café/bar that this regulation applies, of course. The giving of a receipt not only ensures that the business pays the necessary Value Added Tax on the purchase, but it also ensures that the business is legal.

And so to the point of this piece. If you spend any length of time on a Greek beach it's quite likely that at some point a young person (more often than not a fairly attractive female) will tap you on the toes, to encourage you to slip off the headphones, and ask you if you'd like a massage.

"Ooh yes, that would be nice," you think and so you negotiate the price. Having done that you stretch out and prepare to be seriously chilled out while those hands go to work. I bet that at this stage it's probably not even important to you whether this person is working legally or not. Whether they are running a legitimate business or just pocketing wads of tax-free cash, eh? Thought so. The problem is, the law also states that if you do not insist on being given a receipt then you too are acting illegally. It's for this reason that my wife and I now never leave a filling station having topped up the car without insisting that the pump attendant (remember those, you folk living in the UK?) give us our receipt. 

Well, actually, in the interests of accuracy there are two reasons for this. Reason 1: Police have been known to actually stop motorists seen leaving the forecourt and ask to see their receipt for the petrol (gas, guys. But surely, gas is a ...well, gas, not a liquid. Oh, I get it, it's short for 'gasolene'. But that's petrol over on this side of the pond, isn't it chaps?) that they've just bought. If the driver cannot show the nice polite officer his receipt, his apo'deixi, then he's fined on the spot. or even worse. Ouch. Reason 2: Everything you buy, from your newspaper to your general weekly shop, your shoe repair or your mobile phone top-up - every receipt you get you must keep according to the law in Greece. In fact, you're meant to keep all your receipts for a minimum of five years. This is so that if the tax authorities decide to investigate you because they don't like the look of your tax return for some reason or other, they can ask to see them and you have to provide the evidence that you've spent the right amount on living expenses that the government decides that you should have.

This is why all over Greece there are couples and families with cupboards or the space under their beds crammed with shoe boxes and old supermarket bags stuffed with these wretched slips of paper, most of which have had to be sorted according to date order and stapled together so that they can be totted up. You're required to show that a certain amount has been spent, as I mentioned above. That amount varies depending on your particular circumstances. Don't even get me started on the absurdities of the way the tax system works here. Well I did sound off about it in this post, but you'll have to read a long way into it to get to the relevant bit).

So, here you are enjoying having your back muscles kneaded and pounded when without warning the hands mysteriously disappear and the fun stops. You open one eye, then the other and your masseuse is nowhere in sight. What on earth is going on? Why, her flip-flops are still on the sand at your feet. Her bottle of oil that she uses to facilitate the kneading process lays covered in sand grains beside your sun bed.

Then, all of a sudden a young attractive Greek girl runs past, all the while peeling off her clothes to reveal a skimpy bikini underneath. She's giving chase. Who is she chasing? Apparently your masseuse.

This is what actually happened to someone a few weeks ago on Tsambika Beach. A young Oriental girl was doing a massage, apparently without a license, when three off-duty tax officials came sauntering along the beach in her direction. Two fellas and one girl as it happens. Apparently, the girl tax official thought, "Here, this girl's breaking the law. I must apprehend her forthwith!" The two fellas weren't quite so keen to get involved, allegedly. The masseuse, seeing the tax official, or rather hearing her shout, "STOP RIGHT THERE! I'M MAKING AN ARREST! YOU'RE OPERATING ILLEGALLY!" dropped everything and ran into the sea, where she began swimming fully-clothed vigorously away from the shore.

The story in the local paper said, and this was what floored me, that the masseuse had the idea that if she were away from dry land then she couldn't be arrested. The two less than enthusiastic (allegedly) male tax officials cried out to their girl colleague to leave it alone, since as the offender was actually in the sea then it was now a matter for the coastguard! Topping it all and making it a really unlucky day for the illegal masseuse, the female tax official had her bikini on under her clothes and so stripped off to plunge into the sea after her quarry.

An arrest was duly made and the hapless masseuse was towed by the neck back to the shore and the Police were duly summoned, whereupon the felon was carted off to the cells.

The moral of the story? Always get a receipt. I don't know whether the person receiving the massage was apprehended, but I wouldn't bet against it.


  1. Oh dear. You just can't get away from it can you? At least they aren't keeping fake receipts to cover their you know what's as my friends used to do after all if you're family they don't want to charge you

  2. John, what do you think about the establishments that bring your 'ticket' in the shot glass or whatever, as soon as you've ordered a drink. You then order one or even several, more and when you come to pay they just give the total amount verbally?

    1. They should give you a new receipt for every order you make. Simple as that. If they don't, they can not only make up the price they charge you, but they can also evade paying the tax on the subsequent drinks.

  3. Well yes I realised why they were doing it but not sure of my feelings about it. I guess the 'culprits' are paying some tax, and I would have my receipt if challenged ........
    I have to add that the same situation regarding the customer needing to ensure they have a till receipt and being obliged to produce it if requested by a tax official, has applied on our visits to Italy over the last 10 or 12 years and I can't say it has helped the country's economic situation !!

  4. How do you manage to give gifts to friends and family? Does a receipt have to be given as well so they can prove if it was bought?


    1. The situation with giving gifts is the same the world over surely Baz. The person who actually buys the product should be given the receipt at the point of purchase. Whether or not they pass that along to the recipient of the gift is a personal decision. I always kept receipts for gifts when I lived in the UK, so that if there was a problem with the product then I could tell the recipient that I had the receipt for just such a situation if needed.