Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 41
THAIS AND THEIR ATTITUDES TOWARDS FARANG MONEY
As a social service (yes guys, I really mean that) I am going to present a primer on Thais and their attitudes towards Farang money. If you already are an experienced traveler or an ex-pat you will be nodding all the way through this. But it never hurts to review. If you are a newbie and you are reading Stick's site to prepare you for your first trip to Thailand; I recommend that you have this submission printed out and then tattooed on your chest. That way when you are dressing in the morning at the Nana hotel you will get to review it in the mirror. In addition to a basic theorem, I will also be presenting three corollaries plus a wrap-up personal experience.
Basic Theorem: Thais Believe That All Of Your Money Should Be Their Money.
Now what does this mean? What this means is so chilling and out of this world for a Westerner that you may at first think I am kidding. I am not. What this means is that if your total net worth is say 4 million baht (100,000 dollars) then the sidewalk vendor selling bowls of noodle soup feels that they ought to be able to charge you 4 million baht (100,000 dollars) for a bowl of soup. Why? Because 'Thais Believe That All Of Your Money Should Be Their Money'. See how simple this is! If you have just started making faces, or blustering, or expostulating because that seems unlikely or silly or stupid or beyond belief; than that is all the more reason why you need this economic primer. Remember; this is Thailand. As soon as you got on the plane you left the world behind. You wanted adventure in a different place. Well, baby; you are going to get it.
I can easily imagine committee meetings within the government that try to streamline this process. For example; it may be possible someday to ascertain a person's net worth by computer. That will of course also include any property (bikes, dolls, hummel collections) and cash (piggy banks) of your legal dependents (children and wife). At Immigration on entry to the country you will be required to sign over your entire estate. The government will then issue you a chit or a ticket or stamp your hand or brand your ass. You can now wander the country and get involved in purchasing goods and services without having to hand over cash. You have already given them everything. Of course, there will be vendors and police and banks that will try to double charge you, but that is another story. And of course there will be bar-girls who will call you 'Cheap Charlie' when you show them the chit instead of showing them some baht, but again that is another story. This is really what Thais want. They want all of your money. The fact that they have to provide goods and services to get some of the money really irritates them. It requires work. It shouldn't be necessary. And the fact that farangs don't understand that they should give Thais all their money is another giant headache and irritant for Thais. How can farangs be so stupid.
In addition, they want all of your money NOW. The fact that the bowl of noodle soup has a market economic value of 20 baht is completely immaterial when dealing with farangs. Remember, there are two economies in Thailand. There is the Thai-Thai economy and there is the Thai-Farang economy. They want 100,000 dollars for the soup and they shouldn't have to smile for it either. Thai culture blows–just give us the money.
Now, there are three corollaries to this Theorem (Thais Believe That All Of Your Money Should Be Their Money).
Well, actually they are not really corollaries, but this isn't algebra. They are three linked ideas. To wit: the notion that all of your money should be their money without regard to actual market based or bargaining based value can be a little stressful. And you do not want to stress on your vacation. Luckily, there are three personality types of individuals who will not be stressed by this situation. If you are one of these types of individuals or if you can contort your personality into one of these personality types during your vacation, the stress will go away. Examples:
The Rich Person: To the rich person the notion of having to sign over all of their assets holds no stress because the rich have a marvelous facility for being able to go out and find more money. In fact, one of the ways the rich measure each other is by how often they have gone broke and then gotten rich again. So if you are rich, this Thai-Farang theory of asset reallocation holds no fear.
The Ignorant Person: Some people's armor against the world is an ignorance that is all encompassing. Especially regarding money. Having all of their assets seized at Thai Immigration holds no fear for them. They were never too clear what the money and the assets were for in the first place. These are some of Thailand's favorite tourists. They are known as DCS's (Double Charge Specials). They delight in being double charged. They think they are mixing with the locals and learning about the ways of the common people. They like the attention.
The Philosopher: If you are one of these strange birds then you are lucky. You will have a wonderful time in Thailand. I suspect that you have a wonderful time everywhere you go. These are the dudes and the dudesses that have some kind of lame-ass fatalistic philosophy that precludes them from every judging others. 'What ever Will Be Will Be' or 'Whatever Happens Was Meant To Happen' or 'It Is All According To A Grand Plan' or 'It All Comes Out In The End'; blah, blah, blah, etc. These are not the people you send back for the ammo. These people are never under stress because they never defend themselves. Of course they never defend others either, so basically they are useless people with no standards and no backbone. They will naturally, over time, become Thailand's premier tourists. If Immigration ever initiates a discount system for certain targeted tourists, they will get the discount. So some pigtailed useless bit of protoplasm with a tattoo and a backpack from Khao San road may get into the Kingdom with a discount and the successful, high standards business man will get the full standard reaming. Thailand.
Now, in case you have been reading this submission primer on the Thais attitude towards Farang money with a somewhat jaundiced eye; let me describe to you a personal experience and then you ask yourself how you would have handled it.
I am checking into the Nana Hotel years ago and as part of the check-in procedure they require me to give them my credit card. They write down the card number in the check-in paperwork. I am not paying in advance using the credit card. They simply want the card number to indemnify themselves against loss in case I leave the hotel and forget to pay the bill. Or in case I am hit by a car and end up in the hospital in a coma. Or am seized by aliens and taken up to the planet Zebron in a spaceship. The credit card number is their insurance policy against future expenses. This is standard business practice and I endorse it. A couple of hours later I decide it would be a good time to put my valuables in the safe deposit box. The hotel safe deposit box is a FREE service offered to all hotel quests. So I sign up for the safe deposit box. When presented with the box I put in my American $100 bills, credit cards, American Express checks, airline tickets, passport, and other assorted documents. Then I close the lid and turn the box around so that the clerk can put it away. Now it starts. The Thailand experience. The clerk explains that I cannot sign up for a hotel safe deposit box unless the box has at least 1000 baht inside it. Oh really, I say; Why is that? She explains that it is hotel policy. Well, I say; I assumed that it was hotel policy since I am standing in the hotel talking to a hotel staffmember and I am a hotel quest, but I wonder if you could take time out of your busy customer service day to explain the policy to me. She explains that the 1000 baht is in case there is a hotel expense associated with the box. No, I say; that eventuality is covered by my credit card number which you have on file; and the box is a free service available to paying quests. Now I get the Mumble and the Face. You have all seen the Face. The face that says gargle with razor blades and die you farang scum. The distance between the Land of Smiles and The Face can be as short as one question. She and I are now in a toboggan together and we are sitting on top of the hill; it is all down hill from here.
Now, if you are a newbie to Thailand you are not sure what I did. But if you are an experienced Thai traveler or an ex-pat you know exactly what I did. That's right, I reached into my wallet and took out a 1000 baht note and put it into the box. Thereby cementing in the ignorant Thai mind that they were right all along. Remember, they want ALL your money, and they want it NOW. They can't believe that you make such a fuss over a measly 1000 baht.
Now, since this example makes no business or economic sense; that just leaves me cynicism. The only reason that I can think of for requiring farang hotel quests to put 1000 baht notes in the safe deposit box is this; Let's imagine it is the night shift and some hotel clerk is short of cash or just has a Thai theory about redistributing the wealth. He or she doesn't have to open box after box looking for baht. They know in advance that any box they open will have at least 1000 baht.
Well, dear reader; What would you have done? Remember, you only have three choices of behavior: Rich Man, Ignorant Man, or Philosopher. I went with Philosopher (Must Be My Karma–Don't Sweat The Small Stuff–It's God's Will). Good Luck. And remember: Thais Believe That All Of Your Money Should Be Their Money.
My crown as chief cynic has been well and truly taken from me…