Barely five minutes after hitting the streets of Bangkok, a jolly, friendly fellow approached. Conservative and 50ish, the short man put himself head-on into our path and opened with a warm greeting and big smile.
“Hello! First time in Bangkok?”
“Oh, I am teacher!” The man gestured vaguely as if his school were right around the corner. “Where are you from?”
“Sweden,” Bob replied.
“Oh, guess where I go on Monday—AmsterDAM! And guess why—honeyMOON!” He put his palms together and gave a little bow.
“Congratulations!” Bob and I said.
“Where you go now?”
His face falls. “Oh, I’m sorry, it is closed today. Holiday!”
“Well, we’ll just walk around then. Goodbye!”
Short and sweet. He didn’t persist, like most of his ilk. But the man was a scammer of the gentlest kind. MBK market, a huge mall not far from our encounter, was certainly not closed, and neither was it a holiday. The man simply wanted to reroute our day. He wanted to take us to a tailor, a gem shop, or a souvenir shop he knows of (his “brother’s,” of course), where he’d collect a little commission just for bringing us.
A jackfruit seller in Bangkok wrestles open the huge fruit, then laboriously picks out and trims the delicious yellow part.
While this is a fairly harmless scam, it can lead to serious disappointment. I heard about several visitors who were detoured from their intended destinations by their taxi drivers, thereby losing perhaps their only opportunity to visit the Grand Palace, or the floating market, or wherever they were headed.
Sound naive? To quote myself:
Cynicism is an unnatural state for a traveler who has come far to experience a new land and unfamiliar customs. We’re prepared to accept our local hosts, however alien or exotic they seem to us. After all, it’s their country. We want to like them. Yet, we don’t know how to read these foreigners, even though they may seem just like us. We can’t always interpret their body language, their facial expressions, their gestures. We’re at a distinct disadvantage as tourists and travelers, due to our nature as much as our innocence.
—Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Scams
I’ve heard of this tout scam being reversed to the visitor’s advantage. Let a taxi or tuk-tuk driver take you to three shops and collect his commissions. In exchange, the driver should be at your service for the rest of the day.