Humiliated, then finally vindicated. Still pretty angry. Stopped at 7-11 to get some water last night. Bill came to 56 baht. Had a hundred baht note and a thousand baht note in my wallet. Could have paid with the hundred, decided to break the thousand instead. You know what a hassle it can be to pay with big bills around here. A noodle vendor isn't prepared to make change when you hand him a thousand or five-hundred baht bill for a twenty baht bowl of soup. And taxi drivers will flat-out rip you off, claiming to not have change even if they do, until you finally give up, exasperated, letting him keep the difference. So, whenever I'm in a place like 7-11 that does a lot of business, I try to break my big bills.
I handed the girl my 1000 baht note and 6 baht in coins, expecting to receive 950 in change. She gave me 50 and asked me to wait a minute. Not enough cash in the till, she had to open the safe for the rest. This took a while. All around me, it's the usual Asian pandemonium: lots of people, lots of elbows, nobody with the discipline or good manners to wait their turn, pushing, shoving, jostling for position in the queue- all wondering who this troublesome Farang is standing in their way.
Finally, the girl hands me, WHAT? ONLY FOUR HUNDRED BAHT! It would seem she thinks I gave her a 500 rather than a 1000 baht bill. I tell her, firmly but politely, that I gave her ONE THOUSAND BAHT. "No," she insists, "You give me only 500." Then, some miserable old hag loitering around the counter says to the clerk (I understand Thai), "I saw him give you 500." Oh, boy! Now I'm really fucked! Not only is it my Farang word against the Thai clerk's, now there's a lying bitch eyewitness calling me a fraud and a thief! I'm thinking of just giving up and walking out at this point, then I realize that would really make me look guilty. I hold my ground and repeat: "I gave you 1000 baht. I'M CERTAIN!" At that point the false witness left the scene and the clerk proceeded to count every last baht in the register. Time crawled by- probably only five minutes, but it was eternity to me. It took every ounce of self control I could muster to stand still and keep my mouth shut. I was OUTRAGED! And the A/C was turned off due to the rainy weather. Whenever Thais see rain, they imagine they feel cold. (Nonsense! Rain or no rain it is never cold in Thailand.) It was hot as hell and stuffy to boot.
I can keep my mouth shut and my teeth clenched. I can keep my hands still, balled fists concealed in my pockets. But I cannot keep my face from flushing bright red, nor stop the sweat from beading on my bald head and running down my anger-furrowed brow in rivulets. I cannot prevent the veins from protruding on my temples, pulsing visibly with every heartbeat; nor can I keep my eyes from bulging out of their sockets when those ocular organs behold such injustice. In short, although I can keep from screaming and stomping the ground and pounding my fists on the counter, no one is fooled. It's plain for all to see that I'm one PISSED OFF FARANG! I was trying hard to appear not to notice the crowd of curious onlookers gathering around me, and failing miserably in the attempt. All eyes were fixed on me and I fairly squirmed under the pressure- adding immeasurably to their delight. The crowd was finally disappointed, though. The clerk finished the tally, said, "Sorry Sir!," and handed me the rest of my change: 500 baht more. The End
Although Thais try to pull scams on us quite often, sometimes they just make mistakes. I've received TOO MUCH change back almost as often as I've received too little. (And, yes, I return the excess). I don't know exactly what Thais learn in school, but arithmetic doesn't seem to be a much-emphasized subject.
As for this story, I'm afraid I failed to describe adequately the extent of the chaos at that 7-11. The girls working the cash registers were in quite a flurried state to serve the deluge of impatient customers crowding the counter. When I insisted that I had given her a 1000 baht note, the girl's face registered blank confusion and consternation. She and another clerk then went through a very thorough accounting, comparing the register receipts against the cash in the drawer. When they found that I had been right, they looked genuinely embarrassed, and, what is very, VERY rare for a Thai, even expressed sincere apology.
I returned to the store the next day, and the same girl was there. She seemed amazed and delighted to see me and told me that after the incident the previous evening, she had never expected to see me again. I told her "mai pen rai," and explained that I understood it all to have been an honest mistake. She appeared GREATLY relieved to hear this from me.
Perhaps I'm naive, but I do not believe she was trying to rip me off. I know this is a common scam, but seeing the look on her face, and hearing the tone of her voice, I just don't think that's what she was up to. I could be wrong. She could be a consummate actress and the old hag could have been her accomplice. After many years of visiting Thailand, I've grown rather cynical myself. But I still believe that most Thais in most situations are basically honest
I bet this has happened to others many times. Whenever I hand over a 1,000 baht night for something that costs less than 500 baht, I always make a point of saying to the vendor "neung pun baht na krap". This leaves them with no doubt in their mind that I was fully aware of the note I gave them.