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 thai-blogs.com 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.

23 responses to “The Great Tuk-Tuk Scam!

  1. The second time I went to the Grand Palace with a local Thai, I was approached at the doorway by a guy who told us the palace was closed… of cos my Thai friend knew it was nonsense and took me across the street to complaint to a policeman… only to be ignored.

    Looking good Steve! Nice pics! 😀

  2. You and Richard are doing us a big favor by unmasking all these scams!

    That was very funny, you going to Singapore and Richard going to Japan, and you stayaing in Riverside Hotel and Richard on Kaosan Road. Luckilly, the crooks must have been too engrossed with how to scam you to spot the little loopholes in your stories. LOL

  3. quite a funny story to hear or read, i am glad you guys are able to tell us all about this scams that for sure will still be there in years to come, it is sad how thai people resort to this tactics in order to get money, but not all people are the same and not all thais are the same. Thank for a wonderful blog.
    Have a nice day.

  4. ahahaha these scamming posts are my favorite yet! your “adventures” are really funny.

    My boyfriend is thai and he said he even gets “scammed” because he looks so americanized (haircut, clothes) when he goes to visit his home…that they think he was a US-born thai and therefore doesn’t know the culture or the language (when in fact, he lived in thailand most of his life).
    He said when they try to scam him he whips out his perfect thai and scolds them for it…they’re always quite embarassed and act all nice to him since he’s pissed off by then!

  5. You guys need to do a video expose.

    Hey, do the fake 27 year old boy scouts still ply Sukhumvit for donations?

  6. There is a misconception that Thai people don’t get scammed. They do though not always in the same way.

  7. I’m Thai but I sure can totally pretend to go along and get scammed as much.

    Oddly enough, by myself I get mistaken for a “Farang” a LOT. It’s the way I carried myself I think. They lump me with the Asian-American = Farang also category.

    But going around the city with Brandon (a few steps behind mom)? I’m immediately Thai. Heh.

    Good job, gentlemen! The Nation should publish this…well, blurring out your faces and names and stuff. 😉

  8. Oh and Steve, nice touch on the hat, sunglasses and backpack. Instant tourist! Hahaha!

    Now let’s see what Richard’s “Farang Tourist” gitup is like. 🙂

  9. Steve Suphan

    Thanks for the comment, it was definitely an interesting day out. Lots more happened, check out Richard’s new blog soon. The pics ought to be good too.

    Sure, Thais often scam Thais too – especially rich Bangkokians when they go on vacation.

  10. Steve was the typical tourist. I have been here many times and have never been scammed.

  11. When my husband and I came to visit Bangkok prior to moving here we were taken in by a tuk tuk scam and were taken to a few temples, a jewellery shop and a tailors. (I am ashamed to admit it but…..we actually believed the guy when he said that China Town was closed!!)

  12. Scammed Tourist

    Yes, one year ago I did not know better and was scammed by what started with two nicely glad students, boy and girl, near Thammassat, near Grand Palace. They took me through the same routine as here, with extra enforcement for the scamming in some temple where conveniently some other man said that the place we were about to go was very good. Ended with the tailor shop where yes, I spent horrible amount of money. Now I know better, too sad and angry at myself that I had to learn this way of this very talented routine that these people run. It was very big money for me that I lost (the value of goods probably max third of what I paid).

  13. Actually, aside from the guy with bad teeth who wouldn’t let Richard take photos, that doesn’t sound like a bad little trip for Bt20!

    Especially if you end up with a free bevvy at the end of it. Might be an option for the Lonely Planet – talk yourself into a tuk-tuk scam to see a couple of Buddhas, soak up the ambiance of a scammy tailor’s, go to a well presented jewelery shop and cap it all off with a big bottle of Leo!

  14. Hi guys.
    I bin to Bangers so many times I forget. Always approached by shady characters and inevitable Tuk Tuk driver. Not once have I fallen victim. At the end of many tours I find myself at the same jewellery company. I enjoy their cold drinks, usually 2 – 3 ……….lol Then I race thru the place followed by my “Minder”, out and into a new mercedes van and whipped back to my digs. I love Bangers, going again soon. Common sense will keep ya safe from scammers.
    Kiwi Pete

  15. scam, scam and more scams, I just walk rather than ride

  16. S they used false info to take you cheaply on a cheap tour that is sponsored by these shops just like some cheap software is sponsored by banners. They showed you some random places, but since you paid so little for the tour, where’s the true deceit in this? Nobody made you part with your money. I understand it so even the jewelry was not counterfeit, is that right?

  17. @ M.A.B. – No you are wrong there. We didn’t follow it through and buy anything. This is the worse thing about the scams – many of the jewelry stores lie to you saying that you can sell for 400% profit in your home country and that the customer should buy now as it is a government sponsored store with a one day only sale. Hundreds of people have complained to the Toruist Authority of Thailand about these scams. They go home and find out that the gems are not worth much money. It is not helping the reputation of Thailand because these people have been ripped off and lost a lot of money – and they are telling everybody about it on the Internet – saying that the TAT did not do anything to close down these scams. I first heard about these scams 3 or 4 years ago. They are still happening today. Why?

  18. Great story, made me chuckle .. But you WERE scammed, on my first day in Thailand, 10 years ago .. It was free, must be a sign of the times.

    I still remember those petrol coupons ..

  19. Same thing happened first time I was in Bangkok. After refusing to go to the shops I eventually paid off the tuk-tuk driver with 100 baht (still getting used to the money), and, hopelessly lost, took a taxi back to my hotel. Did not feel ripped off as I had a long ride round town and a tuk-tuk ride is essential for first timers. If you get caught out second time, maybe you should stay home.

    Regarding the gem stores, the greedy falang who buy a few bits of glass thinking they can sell them back home and cover the cost of their holiday really deserve all they get.

  20. The scamming continues.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/10603108@N08/2482185097/
    Erawan Shrine Con Artists

  21. Photos of scammers in view of Police Box.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/29324583@N05/

    Don’t expect help from thai police if you have trouble in Thailand.

  22. Well I was told about these scams but when we were in Bkk we found this quite interesting and cheap way of seeing Bkk from one side to another side of the city…I really don’t care if they get petrol or money…I don’t feel scammed as they didn’t took my money anyways, Instead of that,we had a ride around Bkk for 10 bhat…How nice is that…Only the Indian tailors were bit rude (we were laughing a lot though) but the free refreshing drinks in the jewelery shop were quite nice :))))…I would even recommend other ppl to take this offer..but make sure you agree with them only on one stop for 5 min…Anyways you made us laughing as we remembered this Tuk Tuk only one stop for petrol LOL….
    In this way actually someone else is paying for your tuk tuk ride, why would anyone complain about that..
    Good job guys

  23. I was brought on a tour of phuket town well all the gold shops that is and of course the tailors. I actually enjoyed the trip I bought nothing and got free snacks and drinks. I even gave the guty 50baht tip so all in all he done well and I got to see a lot of phuket including the famous hill over looking ther town