Stickman Readers' Submissions May 22nd, 2004

The Hua Hin Hoaxers

Having returned from Blighty after a five week refresher trip home (first time for seven years) and a particularly relaxing four or five day jaunt to Prachuap Kirican (not sure of the spelling) and Pranburi, the Mrs and I found ourselves on the last leg in Hua Hin.

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Recently, we've taken quite a shine to this Brighton of Thailand as it is very westernised which makes a pleasant contrast to the strictly Thai content of many of our hols in the realm – Hua Hin is easy, convenient and offers great choice and good value.

This being our state of mind, relaxed and content we spent time with the two bright yellow t-shirted market researchers who had stopped us down from the Sofitel. They were so relieved that we took ten mins to give them our address and a few basic details, stating that at 16:00 we were their first success of the day!! Very warming!

As a reward for our participation we were offered a scratch card each from two different packs. My wife scored a picture of a travel bag on wheels and I a star. Apparently, I had hit the jack pot as I was entitled to four different prizes; 1000 baht off a Thai Airways ticket, a holiday for two, a digital camera or a cruise! Now, I never win these things so it was a fine end to our hols. To collect our prizes all we had to do was go to the second floor of the hotel opposite and listen to a 30 min pitch! Aarrrr, I hear you cry! Yet, I have spent five years in the direct sales industry, two of them selling fax, photocopiers and mobile phones door to door on industrial estates and three in direct sales as a financial consultant for Canada Life, AMP and Pearl – I can handle myself pretty well as I've used more of these tricks than Jack Lemon and Al Pacino in the movie Glenco / Glengarry. I was up for it and I'll tell you how it went.

Firstly, we were met and greeted by a young Thai and then met our pitcher. A very friendly and affable Scotsman. He did a good job in making the pitch which centred around the Tai-Pan group and the purchase of a card which entitled everyone I know – even the maid, to discount hols at 50 quid a week in top class hotels, around the world – some offering suites at this rate, discount ariline tickets and cruises. Now, any number of people can use this card at the same time – I guess you could invite the world and his mia noi!! This lasted for some hour or so and then we were introduced to the closer – an extremely dubious looking Canuck, wearing eye liner, a tieless plaid shirt with rolled up sleeves and tats on his forearm! Well….. We'd already been introduced to an Asian gentleman who is purported to own one of these swanky hotels and his wife another! This fact alone would beg the question of why is their operation run on a minimal budget with all the furniture in the room adding up in value to less than 50,000 baht – about the size of a medium sized restaurant, but more importantly, why is he shoddily dressed and sporting what my Mrs believes is a very dodgy 'syrup' (Cockney slang for wig).

The close centred around a huge discount from 520,000 baht, to 320,000 baht if I buy today. This was my get out as I was able to counter this with a comment on the availability of plastic and I'm sure he could get hold of more cards tomorrow. This took us to an issue of trust, surprise, surprise to which he answered that if he could do this for me for 10,000 baht today, cash, would I go for it. I jumped at the chance! However, he then went on to explain that it would also incur three years of so of 11,000 baht a month before I could use the card! Of course I questioned the security of my dosh to which he delivered his coup de grace. He and his company were covered by the Thai Tourist Authority and that any problems would be solved by the tourist police and to have no reservations. I went on to explain that they are the constabulary who have murdered two thousand of their fellow countrymen in cold blood last year! He replied that being given a work permit made them legit. To which I retorted that they all answer to the Prime Minister who sports his own brand of legality which sees him break every rule in the book with impunity, such as hidden assets declaration, getting his daughter into Chula even though she failed to make the GPA and a wife who has bought a prime piece of land at a knock down price with the paper work being pushed through on New Years Eve – a holiday, so that she would only pay a fraction of the stamp duty – ripping off the kingdom to the tune of millions of baht!! This pretty much took the wind out of him and off we went with our prizes, but bear with me as this is only a lengthy intro to the nut of my missive.

Some 8/9 years ago, when living in Japan I and my friends were offered a very similar deal by a very good Japanese friend. He'd spent a couple of years in Oz to make it as a guitar player and on return couldn't get any jobs in Japan as he was now considered tainted – no longer Japanese and a potentially bad influence in the work place! After trying a few ideas of his own he fell into this game – the old hotels trying to get through the low season and pay the utilities with cheap hols to get bods in beds, so to speak! Some of the Japanese in our extended social circuit gave it a try as they were marrying and this would provide a cheap honeymoon in Hawaii – they took both extended families and returned armed with photos, raving about it. Well, we began to give it a shot as it was so cheap and I bought a couple to Tahiti and many others bought more. Our friends began to relate this to work colleagues and my brother did the same with his fellow japanese teachers. A lot of cash was handed over which was passed on to Kimi's contact. Then Black Monday came when Kimi began to receive angry phone calls from customers in travel agents who had turned up to receive their tickets but to be told that no money had been passed over. In short, pay up or else!! (think Yakuza!!). Kimi now found himself in a dire predicament as Mr. Big was not answering his phone while Kimi's was red hot!

Well, Kimi's family, friends and their friends and work colleagues had all handed over millions of Yen. While he tried to find a solution to this, he took a job on the road works swinging the Darth Vader stick to guide the traffic and then disappeared for ever!! Now, I don't know if he killed himself in the traditional Japanese fashion or was disposed of by Mr. Big and his henchmen or by angry customers but I dearly hope that he made it to a new life here or in Cuba or somewhere under a new name and is living well.

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My brother, being committed to his life in Japan, repaid his fellow Japanese with his own money (could you imagine Thais doing that??), over 2 million baht – just as he was saving to buy a house in England for him and his new Chinese bride and the rest of us chalked it up to the rich tapestry of expat life.

I tell this as a cautionary tale – beware of those guys selling the low season bargain hols and cards as it's a crock of shit but like the Nigerian scams are always around waiting to catch you off guard. You have been warned!!!

PS. my prize was the two day holiday for two, not including transport or food but requiring our attendance at a 'presentation'!!!!!

Stickman's thoughts:

The TAT and the Tourist police should be stamping down on this nonsense, they really should.

nana plaza