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A Saudi lady from Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia relates how she and her husband have often been subject to unscrupulous practices by establishments. She writes, “This does happen to me quite often but to tell you the truth it never bothered me as much as what restaurants do to us. Just two days ago, I was having dinner with my husband at a restaurant. My husband and I always have the habit of reviewing the bill, and for good reason.”

“When the bill came this time, there was an overcharge of 75 riyals. This of course is not new to us because we are used to being ripped off. And maybe that’s why we got into the habit of reviewing the bill in the first place. The idea is that these restaurants really do get away with it because they print all receipts in English.”

Another lady from Jeddah tells me of how frustrating it is when stores do not advertise their ‘return policy’ specifically when it comes to ladies’ garments. “They insist that there is nothing wrong with the dress, even though I keep telling them it does not fit. And when that finally gets through to them, they are reluctant to refund my money.”

Read more by Tariq A. Al Maeena

A written complaint

In another incident, an expatriate in Jeddah describes the unpleasant shock he received with his phone bill. There were exorbitant charges to countries he had never heard of.

And since he was living alone here, there was no possibility of anyone else using his line. After trying for some time, he finally managed to connect to the phone company rep for an explanation.

He was told that he would have to take his complaint directly to the main office in the southern part of the city. As his bill was substantial, he had to take time off work and make his way there. He was finally told by a high level executive to pay the bill as it was, and then forward a written complaint to the head office in Riyadh.

Demanding explanations

An airline maintenance worker relates how he recently turned his new car into the dealer for a first-time check-up. After he picked it up, he noticed that evening that the interior lights would not come on. Disgruntled, he made his way back to the dealership the next morning and spoke to the person in charge of the Service department.

Having being asked to leave the car there for another day, he returned at the end of the day to pick it up along with a bill for SR 565.

So what can consumers do in the face of such practices? It is crucial for consumers in Saudi Arabia to assert their rights and take a stand against unjust charges. When faced with discrepancies in bills or unfair policies, we must thoroughly review the charges, question any inconsistencies, and demand explanations.

If satisfaction is not achieved at the initial stage, it is important to escalate the matter to higher authorities or consumer protection agencies. By staying vigilant and proactive, we can hold establishments accountable and foster a fairer marketplace for all.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi sociopolitical commentator.