I love Italy, but there are things I, as a foreigner, fail to understand. The system "Pagare prima alla cassa" - "Pay first at the cashier" is one of them.
It is common when taking gas, you first have to go to the cashier and "deposit" money before allowing to fill your tank. Like I would know exactly how much I need to fill up?!
So I park the car next to the pump, lock the car, walk over to the cashier, queue up, deposit 50 Euro, walk back to the car, put in as much as I can, walk back to the cashier, and claim the difference. And when I find out I deposited too little to fill the tank, I leave the gas station unfulfilled. As if I, and not my tank, were half empty.
I will spare you the description how it works if you pay with credit card. And how you can claim the difference back.
Nowhere else in Europe I encountered this system.
But it is not only at gas stations you pay first. When going to a coffee bar, for my morning shot, I have to queue up at the cashier first, order what I want, pay and I get a ticket. Then I queue up at the bar, with my ticket in my hand - which I figured out to be the standard sign meaning "I am waiting to be served". When it is my turn, I put the ticket on the counter, the barman tears it half way and puts it back on the counter. When the coffee is served, only then the ticket is taken away.
I understand the rationale but can not understand the logic as more often than not, they forget to ask for the ticket. Or don't tear up the ticket. So I wonder how effective the system really is.
And obviously, I confuse the hell out of them, as my regular shot is a 'Doppio Latte', a "double Latte", which most cashiers register on the ticket as two Latte's, which the barman translates into.. two Latte's. So I have to make sure I snatch the barman's attention during the two seconds he grabs my ticket, deciphers the order, tears it up and turns around to prepare the coffee, to make sure he heard my "Doppio Latte, per favore"...
There are many things I don't understand about Italy. Probably that is why I love it here...
More on The Road about Living in Italy