Prague Markets – Pay By Weight What You Need To Know
In any of the Prague markets both internal or external there’ll be food stalls. People are used to things like fruit and vegetables being sold by the kilo but they don’t often associate it with food stalls. In Prague we divide these into “Fixed” i.e. shish-kebab, hot-dogs, hot chestnuts, trdlo etc and to be specific it’s a fixed price for a fixed meal. Or it’s “Pay-by-weight” i.e. variable amount of anything served from a bowl or cut from a spit. No problem so far.
Pay-By-Weight is the tricky bit. Quite simply this used to be (and in some places still is) the most likely place where you can be gouged for paying inflated prices so here’s a quick review of how it works and your rights.
How to Spot if its Pay By Weight
At any of the Prague markets on certain food offers as I described earlier i.e. variable amounts, you’ll see that it’s priced per 100g. So when you see a nice big “CZK99” then look underneath it to see if the little /100g is present i.e. in the picture at the top of this post you can see how small the text may be. That’s why people get a bit of a shock when they suddenly get asked for CZK400 for something they though would cost CZK99. Remember that fruit and veg in markets will also be pay-by-weight.
Horrors of the Past
By “the Past” I mean 2017. The aim of the Prague markets seller was to get a bowl or plate of food into your hands before asking for the cash. This meant that you felt that you had to pay what was asked and that could have been up to three times what you expected.
Tour Tips: I’ve put some recommended food tour options below as they specialise in presenting a multi-course tasting menu which gives you the opportunity to try food that otherwise would have been pay-by-weight.
How it Works Now in the Prague Markets
There are strict rules in place but first understand the weights that we are talking about. 100g is a snack, 200g can be considered as a starter, 300g or more would be the equivalent of a main course. The seller will understand the word “grams” so feel free to ask for a specific weight and not a “portion” (see end of page). This is how it works:
1) You say how much you want based on the weight that I’ve just described, lets say “200g of Old Prague Ham”. Never ask for a “portion”.
2) The seller places an amount onto a bowl or plate and then MUST weigh it.
3) The seller MUST now tell you the exact weight and price BEFORE he gives it to you.
4) If you asked for 200g and the guy cuts 350g then you decide if you want to pay for the extra. If you don’t then the seller MUST reduce the amount to bring it into line with the original request.
So basically if you feel like you’re being gouged and the seller does not comply with the rules then you have the right to simply walk away.
I believe that eating hot street food especially during Prague markets both seasonal and all-year arts/craft markets will add to the enjoyment of your trip and I hope that this post will give you some confidence when ordering.
An Actual Example – One Of Many!
Last December I was on Republic Square with a Christmas Markets Tour. An Italian guy in front of me simply asked for “two portions of Old Prague Ham”. The seller cut 867 grams of meat onto the plate and at CZK89 per 100g that worked out at a whopping CZK771. He asked for a little less and the guy removed 250g so still it was going to work out at more than CZK550 for more than half a kilo of meat. Remember that this is a snack so keep the portion size to 100-200g especially when queues are small and you’ll likely get more than you asked for in any case. And just so you know, I asked for 200g of Old Prague Ham and got 250g (I accepted it) and I asked for 100g of Halušky (Gnocchi) and got 120g (I accepted that as well).