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Swindlers Are Part of the Travel Experience, But Here’s One Racket You Can Easily Avoid

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Swindlers Are Part of the Travel Experience, But Here’s One Racket You Can Easily Avoid

Million Mile SecretsSwindlers Are Part of the Travel Experience, But Here’s One Racket You Can Easily AvoidMillion Mile Secrets Team

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INSIDER SECRET: Southeast Asia is a great place visit because you book super cheap flights there with miles & points. And once you get there, everything is incredibly inexpensive.

A few years ago my wife and I visited Thailand on our honeymoon. It was the first big trip we booked together with miles & points. We enjoyed our time traveling through Southeast Asia. But we had an interesting experience with a tuk-tuk driver that if you’ve ever visited Thailand you’re probably familiar with.

Getting around with tuk-tuk rides was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip. But some of the “business tactics” rubbed me the wrong way.

Scam Or Adventure Sometimes Its Hard To Tell
The View of the Chao Phraya River From Our Room at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok Wasn’t Too Shabby

We Were Lucky to Visit Bangkok During “National Sales Week!”

After getting a good night’s sleep at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, and grabbing some inexpensive Pad Thai, we were ready to go shopping. I wanted to see if I could purchase a cheap Thai-Pod at the Pantip Plaza electronics mall.

My wife, Jessica, and I were looking at map trying to figure out the best way to get to the mall when a friendly gentlemen approached us. He made some small talk asking us where we were from, what we did, and where we were going. At the time, I was a teacher. And coincidentally, he was a teacher too!

He gave us some tips on sights to see, which were mostly locations of Buddha statues. And he let us know that we picked the perfect week to visit because there was a national expo going on with great sales! He let us know that we could find better deals if we didn’t go to the mall.

And he said that tuk-tuks with a certain color license plates were officially certified and would charge us less. So we could get a ride to the deals and tourist sites for only 10 Baht per person (~30 cents each at the time)!

Our new “friend” waived a tuk-tuk over. We waited while he “negotiated” a cheap fare with our driver. Just like that, we were off to see a giant Buddha in our first tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok!

Scam Or Adventure Sometimes Its Hard To Tell
This giant Buddha was one of many we would see that day

While visiting Buddha sites wasn’t on our original itinerary, we were on vacation and enjoyed the unexpected side trip. Plus, I was excited to visit the national expo.

After the first Buddha site, we stopped at a dinky tailor shop in a random neighborhood. We went inside and talked to the tailor for ~5 minutes. Our conversation consisted of him explaining my options for custom clothing and me telling him that I wasn’t interested. When we left, the tailor appeared angry with the tuk-tuk driver.

It was a strange detour, but we got back on the road and ready to…see another Buddha. This one was a smiling Buddha. At this stop we met another friendly local who talked to us about the Buddha statue. He even mentioned that we were visiting Bangkok at the perfect time because of the national expo and the great sales they were having.

Enough With the Buddha Statues, Let’s Get to the Sales!

During our adventure, my wife and I discussed our good luck with the timing of our trip and the big sales in Thailand. Could it be destiny?

Our next stop was a jewelry shop, where our driver let us know he would get a ticket for a free tank of gas if we purchased something. Why? Because of the national sale!

I know nothing about jewelry and wasn’t interested in learning. So I didn’t buy anything and we were off to our next Buddha!

Scam Or Adventure Sometimes Its Hard To Tell
At this point, I was done looking at Buddha statues and just wanted to visit the national expo!

At our next stop, we spent some time walking around the grounds of a temple looking at Buddha statues. When we were out of sight of our tuk-tuk driver, my wife and I discussed finding a new ride to the electronics mall, but we didn’t really know where we were. Then, our driver found us and waived us down from the other side of the temple.

He was very customer service oriented.

I asked our driver about the national expo and was expecting he’d take us to a giant convention center. Instead, he took us to a different tailor. While you can get great deals on custom tailored suits in Southeast Asia, I wasn’t sure the work would be done before we left the country. And I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone involved in this “deal.”

I said to my wife that there must be a national expo somewhere! Everyone we met kept mentioning it. It would be hard to believe that this was one big trick.

But before we could make sense of the situation, it was time to visit another Buddha.

Scam Or Adventure Sometimes Its Hard To Tell
Guess what’s just beyond this guardian? Fun & adventure? Nope, It’s another Buddha!

After the last Buddha adventure, I was done with the search for the great sale. During our ride, the tuk-tuk driver had suggested different trips we could take around the country. And unfortunately, our last stop wasn’t a large convention center featuring big sales. It was a travel agency where we would be blessed with the opportunity to purchase these fantastic excursions!

At this point, we refused to get out of the tuk-tuk, thanked our driver, and told him to take us to our hotel. He argued for a bit, but I was tired of “his check out the great sales” charade. He took us to the water taxi for our hotel and we paid him 20 Baht (~60 cents).

The first thing I did when we got back to the hotel was Google the details of our trip. And I found a blog post detailing someone else’s experience that was EXACTLY like ours.  From the national expo to the friendly strangers at each stop confirming the great timing of our trip. As you’ve probably guessed by now, the driver and his team make money by getting kickbacks from the stores they take unsuspecting tourists to visit.

We felt the sweet kiss of shame realizing we lost an afternoon to a racket. But we did get a steeply discounted 4-hour tour of every Buddha in Bangkok for the rock bottom price of 60 cents!

I realize this racket is a standard business practice in some areas. And as much as I don’t like it, I would have been okay if the driver had more upfront with how he gets paid. Or better yet, just charge me full price for my ride so we both don’t leave the experience without feeling scammed and frustrated. I was beyond happy with every other tuk-tuk ride I took because everyone knew what they were giving and getting upfront.

Have you had a similar experience in Bangkok? How did you handle it?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Lol, I can confirm it’s been national sales week every week since at least 2002. I hopped in a tuk tuk on the promise of “great deals” I caught on after the first trip to a tailor shop and had the driver return my to my hotel.

As a rule don’t take tuk tuks in Thailand, especially in tourist areas. Cabs are cheaper, cleaner and safer.

I’d say tuk tuks can be quite a fun experience worth trying at least once 🙂

Almost the exact same thing happened to me and this was an early 2000’s. Except mine was to temples another big old i almost the exact same thing happened to me and this was an early 2000‘s. Except mine I just wanted a Turk til rude to Wat Arun Temple across the River. After four hours of him taking me from store to store to store he finally takes me to a spot about 100 feet away from where he picked me up at and said I could just take the water taxi across the river in five minutes and get to Wat Arun. I felt like a complete idiot.

Ramblin' Randy

Haha, this was a GREAT report…and YES! Exact thing happened to me in Bangkok! I was impressed with the planted “actors” actually on scene at the Buddhas! This nice, old and very unassuming man taught me how to pray at the Buddha before casually mentioning this special “sales day” and how lucky I was. I thought I’d hit the jackpot! Hahaha! I actually bought a suit!!!

huh?

“We got while he negotiated a cheap fare with our driver.”

“While you can find get great deals on custom tailored suits in Southeast Asia, I wasn’t sure the work would be done before we left the country.”

Jason Stauffer

Good eye, thanks for letting me know.

let me know when you want a free editor. yes. free. no catches. i don’t believe in money. and i edit other points and miles posts.

Last year in Ankara Turkey a shoe shiner dropped his brush while walking down the street in front of me. I picked it up and handed it to him and he followed me for the next 10 minutes insisting to shine my shoes and he was offended that I wouldn’t let him. I was not going to stop and didnt know what the intent of this person. My Asics running shoes didnt really need a shine anyways…

That guys needs to do a better job of understanding his target market. I wonder if the brush drop was one of his sales tactics.

Yes. It is. This is a common scam in Turkey. Shoe shiner just happens to drop his brush while he just happens to be walking in front of a tourist. The kind tourist returns the brush, and the grateful shoe shiner insists on a “free shine.”

Of course while you’re sitting on a park bench in your socks some sort of upsell begins. Either he has a sick child in the hospital, or he can “repair” your shoes for a fee, etc. etc. etc.

I wish I was kidding when I say that I met an American guy who paid $50 for a free shoeshine of his Nikes. “I guess I paid a little too much,” he told me. “But the guy did a *really* good job!”

Jason Stauffer

For $50 my Nikes better look brand new!

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