Friendly, Smiling Scammers

If you read about the dangers and annoyances of Bangkok in guidebooks then you'll inevitably hear about the scammers. They see naive travelers looking at maps trying to figure out where to go. They will approach in a friendly manner and will inform you that your destination is closed today (but other options exist!). And then they propose a new trip that happens to take you to this other location: A gem shop, a high-stakes card game, an antique parlor, a tailor. The end game is to get the tourist to one of these locations where they will either be completely lied to or pressured incredibly to purchase something.

With that in mind and how precisely it matched my suit-buying experience back on May 2nd I wish we had our current guidebook back then. I probably paid $500 for a $300 suit. What amazes me now as I look back on the entire scam was how freakishly well executed it was. The first English-speaking Thai that approached us was very helpful and friendly without a hint of sleaze, saying that the tailor was the Thai national factory and that it was only open one week per year and today was the last day. We'd just stop in to get the taxi driver a gas coupon. Didn't have to buy anything.

Some warning bells went off, but at one of the temples during the day another random Thai (that we had never seen) came over to us and struck up a conversation. Said he knew about the National Tailor and bought suits there himself. So when I purchased the suit and thought about whether it was a scam I had outside affirmation, or so I thought. I have the money (still do) to afford the mistake once, and it is pretty damn funny now that I look back at it.

And now that we're back in Bangkok as world-wary travelers I see bald-faced greedy scams at least once an hour. We flagged down a taxi at one point and asked how much to go to a very common destination but he wouldn't take us unless we stopped by a tailor for 5 minutes. We tried to get taxis three times from outside major sights and were quoted prices about six times a reasonable amount.

As I was getting quite fed up with this sleazy greed (Erin too) we were approached by a well-dressed man telling us that our destination was closed. He insisted. I said in a rather forceful tone: "I bet your friend sells gems. No? A tailor then?". He quickly said "It's open today, it's open!", wanting to be rid of us. The feeling was mutual.

While you read quite a lot about how kind and polite the Thais are, you get a really sour impression when that politeness means they don't approach you (which is seen as impolite). Most of your interactions with locals outside of restaurants are with sleazy scammers. It doesn't help with impressions.

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