The Great Tuk-Tuk Scam!

After, having talked about the idea for ages and ages, myself and the Webmaster Mr Richard finally got round to seeing for ourselves first-hand just how the cheapo Bangkok Tuk-Tuk scam works.

Up early, adorning the most touristy-looking set of clothing, cap and sunglasses that I could find in my wardrobe, I went to meet Richard before the scam-baiting and discuss our plans. Both of us, having lived in Thailand for donkeys years had read and heard so much about the supposed 10Baht Tuk-Tuk, that it was certainly time to get scammed deliberately just to see how it was for the average unassuming tourist/backpacker.

Parking the car near Pinklao Bridge, the first destination of the day was….of course….the epicenter of ‘scamming the naïve tourist’ – The Grand Palace. Alas though, after having walked just 50 meters from the car carrying a Lonely Planet map, pretending we were lost and didn’t speak a word of Thai, we were approached by a young burly looking guy, politely offering advice on sightseeing. And, before we could hardly mutter a word, he was suggesting a tour of the Big Buddha temple, the Lucky Buddha temple and fortunately, by complete chance – a government fashion shop was holding a grand Thai New Year sale which…..wasn’t to be missed! Just as he was explaining that a Tuk-Tuk ride would cost an unbelievably cheap 10Baht, we were once again granted heavenly luck when a cheerful-looking Tuk-Tuk driver appeared from absolutely nowhere. Such incredible co-incidence!

Getting out a pen and paper (every darned scammer asked us for a piece of paper to write on!) he wrote down the itinerary:
11am – Go see Big Buddha
12 o’clock – Get the good luck; visit Lucky Buddha
1pm – Take photo Marble Temple (Richard and I turned this one down)
1:30pm – Shopping at groovy Government fashion shop

Now, what the heck was this Big Buddha and Lucky Buddha?! Once whisked away, we soon realized that our Tuk-Tuk hardly spoke a word of English besides “Very good shopping fashion shop, special price for you” and “You want massage sexy girl?” Arriving at the first spot, we realized that The Big Buddha was in fact Intaram Temple in the Dusit area. Walking around, Richard took the cheap opportunity to snap loadsa pics and we noticed dozens of other tourists who had also arrived in a scammy Tuk-Tuk. Giving him his dues though, the Tuk-Tuk was cheerful friendly guy.

On asking why the fare was so cheap, all the Tuk-Tuk drivers reply “If you go to look Fashion Shop 5 minutes I get free petrol coupons”. This is absolute nonsense! As they do in fact get 200baht commission, regardless to whether you buy or not. To add more to this complete lies, our Tuk-Tuk guy even showed us a corny counterfeit coupon – with Esso printed on it! Laughable.

So, our next stop was The Lucky Buddha Temple (aka: Sitiram Temple, near Ratchadamnoern Road) which Richard was quite chuffed about as he had always wanted to visit. Just as he was taking some pictures, a shabby-looking guy came up to us and said “You no take photo”. Now, this guy was pretty rude and when we protested he pointed to a sign in Thai language about ‘Buddhism’, and lying through his grimy teeth explained “This photo, say in Thai – can not take photo”. Next, he really flipped-out when Richard turned around and took a quick snap of the sign. Who the guy actually was we had no idea, but he was definitely a scammer of some kind. To add more to his lies he said “Foriegner can not photo because not Buddhist” and to top it off reckoned “You listen me, I am security guard”. Now this guy was speaking so much ‘bull’ that you could almost smell it on his breath!

Next destination was the wonderful government fashion shop. Of course, it was nothing of the sort, but instead a huge Indian run tailors. Richard pretended that he needed the toilet but instead went for a quick look around the back. As for me, I was lynched immediately but a couple of English-speaking Thai-Indians. On asking them whether the shop-gaff was government-run, he also lied “Oh yes, the government is giving the foreigner very special prices today”. Sat down, I was offered a coffee and handed a set of brochures full of corny pictures of models with their head and legs edited in wearing a Cashmere Suit – tacky Photo-Shop style.

Here, myself and Richard, kinda got our stories mixed-up! The Indian guy asked “Good Sir, I am wanting to know where you are going after Thailand” to which I replied “Mmmmm….. Singapore”.
“And where are you staying in Bangkok?” “Mmmmm….The Riverside Hotel”.
Next, I tried to say to the guy that I wasn’t interested but my friend in the toilet certainly was. Richard, when he finally got back immediately stated that he wasn’t interested! And to blow our undercover even more quickly, replied to the above same questions
“After Thailand, we’re going to Japan” and “Yes, we’re staying on Khao Sarn Road”. Nevermind, we soon headed for the door and back to our ever-smiling Tuk-Tuk.

As scammers always are, his faced soon dropped when we told him that we wanted to get back to The Grand Palace. He was insistent though, that we check out a Jewelry Store (again, friggin government owned!). Great, I had always wanted to be taken to a scammy Gem Shop. I was a little disappointed though, as this gaff did not look like one of those infamous gem scam stores which are always closing down (and opening up again) for ripping of tourists. In the car-park were tens of Tuk-Tuks, and we noticed a couple of foreigners arguing with their driver looking obviously cheesed-off like “I told you that I wanted to go to The Grand Palace”.

We were welcomed at the entranced by a couple of pretty promo girls who offered us a drink. Incredibly I saw a few foreigners in there drinking beer! So, the next time you fancy a tour of three temples and a free beer thrown-in, you know what to do! They gave us a guided tour of their small factory (which was quite interesting) before being taken into the main shopping hall. I had a good look at their rings, they were nice-like, but the prices weren’t that much different to what you find in Europe, I thought the place was real expensive for Thailand. Our guide was quite polite though and wasn’t that pushy. After telling her that we weren’t interested in buying she took as next door to a spacious gift shop full of overpriced souvenirs. After a quick browse, we fled the scene and the taxi driver agreed this time to take us directly to The Grand Palace.

Don’t forget your map if you want to be scammed!

Strolling around The Grand Palace we were approached by swarms of scammy Tuk-Tuk drivers and their cronies offering trips to a couple of other temples and more darned government fashion shops and jewelry stores. Of course, even though we were just 100 meters from the entrance, they all claimed something along the lines of
“You go Grand Palace? Can not! Now, have a Buddhist ceremony, tourists can not go in, only Thai people. But open again 3 o’clock, I send you back here after you go with me”.
Again, all the scammers offered silly fares ranging between 5-40baht. I would guess however, that if you said “How about a trip for free” that they would agree.

These scammers claiming that the Emerald Buddha Temple and The Grand Palace are closed, when they are not, are in theory seriously breaking the law. These Tuk-Tuk scams have been going on for years and the government has never enforced any kind of severe crackdown. I advise that they do something right now, otherwise The Kingdom will continually lose floods of potential tourists.

And finally, all the foreigners suck-up to the scammers about receiving petrol coupons for taking them to such stores. That is complete quack-wack – help to spread the truth! They get cash!

Come back to tomorrow for Richard’s own report and more of his exclusive pictures of the scams that we experienced “on the side” on this same day. Richard said that he has never been scammed so many times in his entire life.

Edited: Check out Richard’s scam report Tourist Scams in Bangkok.

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