US Swim team in Budapest gets taste of Hungary’s way of doing business

I visit Budapest every year and enjoy my stay there although the Hungarian way of doing business bothers me.   Here’s a story about the US Swim Team that illustrates how business is done in Budapest. (Read details here in Hungarian.)

US Swim Team

Small corruption was always part of life in Hungary.   In the old days when I bought produce at the market, I knew when I weighed it at home it will be 10-20% less. (In those days there were no scales at the markets either.)  When I was in a rush and had only a large banknote to pay the cab driver, I expected him to inform me with a smile that he has no change.  In a restaurant, I was not surprised to get a menu without printed prices.   Now things are done differently, tricks are more organized, almost institutionalized.

The US Team is in Budapest at the FINA World Championship and before arriving they hired a local company to take care of their stay, reserving the rooms, meals and transportation. The accommodation at the Marriott in two-bed hotel rooms was offered for 50,000 Ft/night/person (190 USD) and an additional 35,000 Ft (130 USD) for food (full board).   In other words one room (two person sharing) with full board would cost 170,000 Ft/night – that is almost 650 USD!   I assume that the team reserved lots of rooms and the 650 dollar/room/night price already included a volume discount.  (The USA Swimming National Team has 106 members.)

When American officials saw the numbers, they were shocked.  650 USD/night for a room?  They complained and you would expect that the companies involved would present their documentation and explain how the charge was calculated.

This is not what happened.  They simply lowered the price!   The new charge for accommodation 44,800 Ft (170 USD) and full board for 15,040 Ft (57 USD).  Suddenly one room (two person) with full board cost about 120,000 Ft or 450 USD a night!

Two hundred dollars less per room per night is about a 30% discount!   And you just had to ask for it.   They explained that they lowered the price in order to make sure to have successful participation in the competition.   Considering the number of rooms and days this “casual overcharge” amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.  To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if the so called discounted price is also a bit of a rip-off.

Welcome to Hungary!

György Lázár

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *