Thursday, September 3, 2009

Exploiting the memory of Bob Marley

Update: We weren't exploited during a tour of Montego Bay, Jamaica, in August 2014, above and below, unlike the 2009 Bob Marley tour I wrote about here.


During our visit last week to the island of Jamaica, we wanted to learn more about the Rastaman and reggae superstar Bob Marley, whose music has long inspired us. 

So one day, we drove to Ocho Rios (Jamaicans say "Ochee"), on the island's north coast, to have lunch at Mama Marley's Bar & Grill, one of the businesses his family has established since his death.

We had a pleasant lunch of bean-and-chicken soup, and steamed red snapper with rice and sauteed cabbage, plus a beer, juice, bottled water and coffee. 
The check, which wasn't itemized, seemed high at $53.17 U.S., because the food we ordered totaled just under $30. After I had paid and was arranging a tour of Bob Marley's boyhood home and tomb, I asked for an itemized bill.

10% service charge

The waitress didn't hesitate to show it to me. In addition to the food and drink we had ordered, there was a 16.5% General Consumption Tax added and a 10% service charge, which the waitress quickly explained went to the restaurant, not to her. 

I had given her an $8 tip on the $53.17, about 15%, so the lunch cost me $61 or so. Seemed high. And why is the restaurant hitting up customers for a 10% service charge?

I paid the Asian Indian restaurant manager $150 for a tour and lunch the next day: a driver would pick up me and my wife at our Montego Bay hotel, about 65 miles from Ochee, drive back to Runaway Bay and then take us on a tortuous, 45-minute trip up into the hills of Saint Ann's Parish to a place known as Nine Mile.

Country roads from hell

The road is narrow and filled with potholes, blind curves, frightening drop-offs, and there were numerous close calls. The driver was rushing and almost always blowing his van's horn to warn other, unseen vehicles around the next curve. But we made it alive.

The hilltop complex we visited included a restaurant serving the same dishes as Mama Marley's in Ochee, a full bar, a gift shop, Bob Marley's small, two-room, boyhood home; a chapel containing an elaborate tomb of Italian marble and Rastafari's Star of David in a stained-glass window through which the rising sun shines.

As a guide showed us around, I realized that Bob Marley is as much a revolutionary figure to Jamaicans as Che Guevara is to Cubans.
Our included lunch was jerk-chicken and mahi-mahi sandwiches, fruit juice and Red Stripe beer. 

$70 DVD

On the way up in the van, we had watched "Rebel Music: The Bob Marley Story," an extraordinary, 89-minute DVD made in 2000 that documented how the guitar player and singer fought against injustice on the island until his death in 1981. 

In the gift shop, I asked the Asian Indian manager for the DVD and the price was $70 U.S., which seemed like a lot, but I bought it anyway. (This DVD also plays non-stop on a flat-screen TV at Mama Marley's in Ochee.)

Three days later, as we were leaving Jamaica, I stopped at an airport shop, which was selling the same DVD For $42 U.S. When I got home, I called the restaurant, but the manager was unmoved.
Below is the link to the Web sites of the Bob Marley Foundation and Mama Marley's (she died in 2008). You can decide whether the family and its Asian Indian managers have added a third "R" to the singer's Rastafari and reggae legend -- rip-off.

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