Mexico’s Curious Rules for Listing Prices

July 8, 2019
There’s been a recent kerfluffle on our local “Expats in Yucatan” FB group, with many grazing-gringos writing angry (confused) comments over a supposed ‘cheating’ restaurant bill that offers some fun insights into Mexico & how gringos react. … Check out the bill below ….   If you do simple math, it looks like the restaurant’s computer cannot add up the items correctly,  …. but … This is Mexico …  The line items on a Mexican receipt are different than the USA or Canada – because we tell the consumer the REAL final price, by including the tax.  (but the receipt has a final hidden additional twist) …

Where American businesses & Canadian businesses hide their tax charges from consumers, by adding special State & Local taxes only at the end, when you pay the bill,  instead Mexico’s list prices are exactly what you pay.   Unfortunately, this Mexican system confuses many foreigners,  especially when they see the Total Taxes listed~reported (broken-out) as a  separate additional line item at the bottom of the bill … making it look like some sort of double billing of taxes.

Here’s an image of the bill that drew all the outrage on a local FB group:
Restaurant Receipt

As required by Mexican law … The food items prices on the receipt MATCH the full price listed on the menu, including the 16% IVA.

So … If you add up the individual items,  they do NOT match the “Subtotal”, because the “Subtotal” does NOT include the 16% IVA … while the menu’s full list-price and the receipt line items include the 16% IVA.

A talented local expat (Chris) explains:
Here is the Correct explanation, verified by an ★experienced, highly qualified Mexican accountant who works for Hyatt★ and knows all the applicable laws about restaurant bills backwards and forwards:

The menu price is shown in the detail. First item is one hamburger for $320 pesos. That amount, matching the menu, *includes* IVA.

Notice both points: 
1) matching the menu and
2) including IVA.

(Menu prices must include IVA by law)

Total all the DETAIL food items and you get $2255 pesos.

Add the Subtotal and the IVA lines and you get $2255. Detail total matches, that’s good.

★ Note this point: By law, IVA must be shown on the bill, so the Subtotal is the food total *without* IVA. IVA is then listed separately to show you the tax amount.

Perfect so far: We have a match between Detail Total and Subtotal plus IVA. This far is correct.

But the Total is MORE than $2255!

$2593 pesos. What..???

It is 15% more, exactly $338 pesos, but there’s no line showing “Tip” added.

So the customer may just glance at the total, add 10-20% and pay the Tip TWICE!

The Total MUST EQUAL Subtotal plus IVA, which also equals the sum of all ordered menu items.

Otherwise, you’re paying a tip twice.

By the way, adding the tip to the bill in Mexico is not legal. This ticket could be taken to PROFECO for an official complaint against the restaurant.”

= = = = = = = = = =
So … Yes,  the top part of the receipt was correct … but … the restaurant did have a big ERROR by inappropriately adding a hidden 15% Tip in the Subtotal.

and Yes … PROFECO is the Mexican government agency for Consumer Advocacy.

and Yes … Someone did some special programming on the restaurant’s POS (point of sale) software, to illegally add in an extra 15% tip …

~ ON TOP of the $16 US dollar hamburger …
~ ON TOP of the $45 peso (typically cheap) Sol beers …
~ ON TOP of the $34 US dollar steak …

So … Yes,  you can save even more by enjoying simple tacos, added up by a real cashier, without the cheating-programmer’s tricks …  God bless programmers *grin*

Happy Trails,

*     *     *     *
Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry

Read-on MacDuff . . .


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4 Responses to Mexico’s Curious Rules for Listing Prices

  1. MJ Henry says:

    Thank you for this post. It is most helpful in understanding restaurant bills. Muchas gracias MJH

    Sent from my iPad


  2. If you eat in a joint that charges 320 pesos for a freaking burger, you deserve what you get. That’s what I think.

  3. yucalandia says:

    And yes … as a result of the gringo’s confusion over why the individual food charges (including taxes) did not add up to the “Subtotal” (without taxes) … so he says that he intentionally left no tip.
    which begs a question … When some programmer (or owner) messes with the cash register software, and the waiter does not know … Should we stiff the waiter, for a computer-programmed scam.

    which begs another question … When some programmer (or owner) messes with the cash register software, and the waiter does not know … Do the OWNER & PROGRAMMER share the double-charged tip with the waiters ???

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