Tourists left reeling after tipping scam

Two Danish tourists were left out of pocket after they were fooled into leaving a 20 percent tip at a Stockholm restaurant recently, despite the fact that tipping in Sweden is optional.

”This sounds like an attempt to trick uninformed tourists into paying more,” Clemens Wantschura of the Swedish Hotels and Restaurant Association (Sveriges hotell- och restaurangföretagare -SHR) told The Local.

In June, Danish couple Paul Eller and his wife Else-Marie visited Stockholm over a long weekend. While here, they decided to take the opportunity to dine out in the restaurant Stortorgskällaren in the picturesque Gamla Stan (Old Town) district.

The visit was a success until they were presented with a bill on which a red stamp at the bottom stated that a service charge of 20 percent wasn’t included. The couple decided to ask the waiter what this meant.

”The waiter said that restaurants in Sweden can choose whether or not they want to include a tip in the price,” Eller told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily.

But according to the Swedish Hotels and Restaurant Association this is not the case.

”A tip should never be anything more than a reward for good service to the serving staff – it has nothing to do with the restaurant,” said Wantschura.

Wantschura added that there is always an ongoing discussion as to how much one should leave as a tip, but he maintained that there are no stipulated rules to how much you should leave, or whether you should pay the waiting staff anything at all.

“You should keep in mind, as well, that all serving staff in Sweden are salaried, they don’t have to survive on tips as the case may be in other countries,” said Wantschura.

“I tell people they must decide themselves if they want to pay anything, and in that case how much, depending on how much they thought the service was worth.”

The chairman of the management board responsible for running the restaurant in question, Conny Lantz, told DN that there hasn’t been any instructions from the board to encourage guests to pay any extras. He said he doesn’t know how the red stamp came to be on the receipt.

“We are taking this very seriously and will conduct a full investigation,” Lantz assured DN.

According to the paper, this particular method is not a scam that police in Sweden are familiar with. Neither has Clemens Wantschura heard of anything similar.

“No, this is news to me, but I am glad it has been brought up in the national media as it will be picked up on by more people that way,” he said.

In the end, Paul Eller and his wife added an extra 240 kronor ($35) on their bill after the meal in Stockholm’s Gamla Stan.

“To see a restaurant tricking its customers this way feels sad. I feel diddled and disappointed,” he said to DN.

Wantschura advised customers faced with a demand similar to the one the Ellers received to simply refuse to pay the extra charge.

“They should say that they are only prepared to pay for what they have ordered – the items listed on the bill. And they should stand their ground,” Wantschura told The Local.

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.