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How Thais Screw Farangs And Getting Even

  • Written by Ben Dover
  • August 24th, 2005
  • 29 min read


On a recent trip to Phuket, I wanted to rent a motorcycle and cruise around the island to enjoy the scenery a little bit instead of doing the normal car rental thing. I liked the idea of getting some wind in my face. My little Porn was also game for that as well because then she could hug me for hours on end, something she loves doing all of the time, which I most certainly enjoy as she is very affectionate.

So we begin our search along the main street (Thaweewong Road) along the Patong Beach. I walked up to this Thai guy who had a bunch of motorcycles in front of him and I asked him how much for a cruiser bike and he said, “600 baht per day.” That is quite high, especially in light of the fact that he had no customers, so after some diligent negotiating I got him down to 500 baht. Sounds reasonable compared to other bikes that I have rented previously. Then he asks me for my passport for security and I tell him that he can see my passport and I have a photocopy for him that he can hold onto. I also tell him that I can give him the standard deposit of say 1,000 baht. He said, “No. Must have passport. No can rent, if have no passport.” I said, “But I DO have a passport, I just am NOT going to give you my passport for security. If the police stop me for any reason, which they are so fond of doing to farangs riding around in Thailand, then I can get my ass hauled to jail.”. After 15 minutes of hard negotiating, this idiot would not budge. So, I left. Then I talked to some other rental guys and they wanted upwards of 700 baht per day which was rape.

Finally, I found a place a minute or so from outskirts of Patong that had some cruiser bikes. So, I walked up to the Thai guy standing there and I told him that I wanted to rent a bike. He showed me several bikes and I chose one. He said that the price was 700 baht. I was getting pissed off at wasting all of this time, so finally, we agreed upon 600 baht because he would not go any lower. I told the guy that I would pay the higher price than normal because I was going on a day trip to Phi Phi the next day and I could not return the bike until about 8PM because the cruise ended around 6:30PM and then it would take me 40 minutes or so to get back to the hotel to return the bike. So, basically, I would be renting it for about 28 hours instead of 24. He said, “No, we close 6. You must bring bike back before 6PM.” I told him that we CANNOT do that and that he would have to come back later to meet us or we would not be renting the bike at the higher price than I could get elsewhere. He agreed. I had Porn translate the same concept and repeat it so that he clearly understood that we could NOT return the bike within 24 hours, but would bring it back by 8PM the following day.

Then he dropped the bombshell after everything was agreed upon. “I need your passport.” I said “What?”

Yep, once again, he wanted my passport. I said that there was no way that I was going to let him take my passport and keep it. Then he asked if my teeruk Porn had a passport and she said, “Yes, I have.”. Then I asked if he could hold her passport instead of mine, but that I would be the driver. Oddly enough, he had no problem with this scenario, so long as he held onto someone’s passport.

In the U.S. if someone rents a car, then they had better be the person driving, because if something happens, then the renter basically just ‘bought the car’. Second or additional drivers ALWAYS must show driver’s licenses or something similar and must also sign the contract. But once again, welcome to Thailand.

So now get this, we tell the owner that we do not have her passport here because it is back at the hotel, because we never predicted this predicament. So then the owner starts to prepare the bike for us to leave on. My teeruk and I are looking at each other, not knowing what the owner is doing because we just told him that we do not have her passport with us. We told him again that we do not have it on us at the moment. He said nothing.

Then he starts the bike, asks us to choose which helmets we like, and then points us to the bike and says, “OK, you bring passport back.” Wow, nice security and control this moron has over his business!!! What an idiot!!! Now at this point no contract had been signed and the owner had no passport and he had no idea who we were going to go or where we were staying, but he gave us the motorcycle anyway, after originally insisting on holding an actual (not photocopied) passport. Unbelievable stupidity!

Geez, I would love to let this guy run my business one day. I am sure that would abide by all of the rules and use his common sense to always protect my assets from theft and damage…yeah right.

Anyway, I wasn’t about to argue with this guy at this point because everything was in my favor now. But being an honest guy and a man of my word, I took Porn back to the hotel to fetch her passport. Plus, I did not want to do anything whereby I might have the boys in brown searching for me hoping to arrest a farang on theft charges of a motorcycle. We returned to the bike shop from the hotel a few minutes later.

Porn jumped off the back of the bike, passport in hand, and proceeded to go to the back of the shop where the guy was sitting at a desk. I followed her there a minute later. He pulled out the contract and filled a bunch of stuff out and then my girlfriend signed it and gave him her passport. I was admiring some of the rice burner crotch-rockets parked and wondered whether I should have picked one of those instead. Although I have ridden bikes all of my life, I figured that it would be best to just stick with a more comfortable cruiser bike.

So, my little teeruk finished the paperwork and off we went, with my little 40 kilo teeruk hanging on for dear life. Although she has ridden, and driven, motorbikes all of her life, she has never been on a big and fast bike like the one that we were on. It was kind of fun hearing her scream every now and then as I rolled on the throttle hard on a nice mountain sweeper curve!!!

Well, we wanted to change our clothes and take a quick afternoon shower (after a quick love-making session of course!), so we proceeded back to the hotel again. Well, when we arrived there, my teeruk handed me the contract to keep in my wallet for safe-keeping. I decided to read the contract.

I think that at this point, all you avid Stick readers know what happened next. Sure enough, after being told twice (once even in Thai) about our planned day trip the following day whereby we would not be able to take the bike back until 8PM, the asshole owner had written in the contract that we had to return the bike by 6PM and my unknowing innocent teeruk had signed it without batting an eye, not knowing any better, and obviously not being used to signing contracts, let alone having an innate knowledge of the legal ramifications and responsibilities of what breaking those terms that were written might mean to her.

Well, instantly, I was enraged. I raised my voice (without yelling mind you) and asked her if she had read the contract that she had just signed. She said no. No my teeruk is very smart and she can read and write Thai just fine, so she certainly could have read the contract, but she did not understand the importance of doing that. She knew that I was pissed and she also knew that she had made a mistake, so she looked down at the floor in shame and became somewhat shy and withdrawn.

I felt so sad for her, because she felt so guilty and stupid about being duped by that Thai owner, that I could not stay angry at her. So I walked up to her and gave her a big hug and a kiss and then I took her on to the bed (you can imagine what happened there).

After we showered we headed back to the bike shop. We walked up to the owner and there was this old lady who was there with him the previous times that we were there. I always assumed that she was the guy’s mother, the owner. But as it turns out, she was his WIFE! I have never seen a young Thai guy in his late 20s married to a woman clearly in her 40s. I could not believe it! Anyway, I marched right up to the guy, and shoved the contract in his face and told him that the time was wrong, that he was supposed to write 8PM, not 6PM. He pretended like he did not understand what we were talking about as if the conversation about the return time had never occurred. Then he said, “OK, you can return bike at 8PM. Contract say 100 baht for each hour past 6PM.” Oh sure, I would love for you to [email protected]#k me in the ass for another 200 baht for returning the bike 2 hours beyond 24 after we had clearly agreed, not 30 minutes previously, that it was the same price to return the bike at 8PM as it was at 6PM. What a piece of shit this guy was.

I was getting very pissed at this scamster, so I said, “OK, call the police. RIGHT NOW!!!”. He looked at me not knowing what to think, so I said, “Call the tourist police RIGHT NOW and I will explain what happened.” I just stood there with my arms crossed, steam coming out of my ears, ready to pounce on this jackass if he so much said a bad word in Thai. I yelled at the guy again and said, “You call the police NOW or I will call the tourist police” and he could tell I was pissed off.

At this point I did something that I have never really considered before, but looking back, it was a very persuasive thing to do and I actually used the Thai corrupt system to my own benefit. Normally, I carry around a rather hefty load of cash in case of emergencies or something, but I also leave a lot in the safe in the hotel (I am not stupid enough to carry all of my money in one place). Now, I had recently exchanged some 100s (US dollars) into baht. So I reached into my wallet and pulled out somewhere around 80,000 baht that was composed of crisp and new Thai 1000 baht notes. The owner’s eyes perked up slightly at the sight of that much money in one place. And now here is the clincher. I repeated, while holding up in the air in front of his face waving the money back and forth, “Now, I will call the tourist police and we will see what they say and who they believe.” Then, while still waving the money in front of him, I reached into my pocket with my other hand and grabbed my cell phone and said to Porn, “Honey, take my phone and call the police now.”

Well, after hearing that, the guy almost shit his pants because he knew clearly what I was implying…that I would pay ANY price to the police to get this guy into some serious trouble. Strangely enough, his demeanor suddenly changed dramatically.

Now at this point, sensing some serious imminent trouble, the wife jumped in and said, “It’s OK, you can bring back at 8PM.” Then the husband turned to the wife and wife started arguing.

From what I can tell, I can imagine that the conversation went something like this:

Husband: Why did you just tell them that they could bring it back at 8PM for the same charge?

Wife: Because that is what we agreed to before.

Husband: But they signed the contract where I changed that time back to 6PM

Wife: But that is not what they understood and that is not what we said.

Husband: But we screwed the farang and we have a contract in writing

Wife: But he is very angry and I am afraid of him

Husband: So what? Now we have his money and her passport.

Wife: But he wants to call the police.

Husband: It is our word against his and we have a signed contract by his girlfriend

Wife: Yes, but they are going to call the tourist police and she speaks Thai and she will tell them what happened

Husband: I don’t know

Wife: Did you see how much money he has? He will call the police and pay them off and we are going to have some problems!

Husband: OK, tell them to bring it back by 8PM

The wife then said that it was OK to bring it back by 8PM. I asked the husband to change the contract, but he had marched off and she could not find him. Well at this point, I was rather tired of all of this bullshit and my day was wasting arguing with that idiot, so I decided that they probably would honor their final word (out of fear of the police, not because they wanted to be honest businesspeople), so I left and enjoyed the rest of the day cruising around on the bike. I didn’t let the guy get to me, because I had scared him. I think that he will definitely think twice before he ever tries to pull another bait and switch tactic like that again on a farang. <Scared him? 80,000 baht is worth kiling you for….he had probably gone out back looking for his hidden stash of bullets to load his pistol! Stick>

Well, we returned it by 8PM the next day and they were all happy as though nothing had happened the previous day and were even joking a bit. I just gave them the cold shoulder and said, “Mai pen rai.” And my teeruk and I left in waiting taxi.

Needless to say, on my next trip to Phuket, I will NOT be renting from that same jerk. Why these Thai businesspeople have no concept of the satisfied repeat customer is truly incomprehensible and beyond me.

Fast forward to 2 days later.

Well, it was a beautiful day and my little teeruk and I decided to rent a jet ski and tool around in Patong Bay for a bit.

Well, not knowing how much it costs, I went to several owners of jet skis along the beach and quickly realized that they all seemed to charged the exact same amount, 1,000 baht for 15 minutes (if I remember correctly). Now, once again, noting that it was low-season, and after a catastrophic and devastating blow to the economy with the December tsunami, you would think that someone would try to entice a customer with a lower price than the next guy just to garner some scraps of business, but NOPE. Same collusion going on here as those tuk tuk touts in those little red death traps all waiting for some unknowing twit to pay 100 baht to go 2 blocks. Well, these jet ski operators were no different. STUPID!!! They would rather sit idle all day and not make a penny rather than reduce their price to gain customers, while still making a profit. The wonderful Thai way strikes again. Perhaps all of these jet skis are owned by one person however and that the workers must charge that price, I do not know, but it just seems too odd that everyone’s price is the same, even with no customers.

Well, not really needing to haggle too much, as I am not really hurting for money, I picked a jet ski operator whose location was somewhat close to my hotel as I had seen him for the last few days in the same location on the beach.

We paid the guy, got on the jet ski, and had a great time. The only problem was that I had forgotten my watch and I had no way to time how long we were gone. Well, I had given the guy my digital camera to take some pictures of my teeruk and I on the waves and I checked the time on the camera before we left. The guy says that he will jump up and down and wave his hands when the time is up. Fair enough.

So we cruise around for awhile. It is rather difficult to track time in your brain when you are doing something exciting and fun like jumping over huge waves in the ocean going 40 kM/hour. So, as my teeruk and I were cruising by the rental guy on one pass we noticed that he was waving his hands, so we knew that it was time to come in. I felt guilty that we had not checked the shores lately to see if he had been signaling us before because we were having so much fun. I feared that we might have gone way over our allotted time and that the jet ski operator was going to be pissed at us. Well, we cruised into the sand, got off, and gave him our life jackets. Then he handed us the camera and I checked the time before I looked at the pictures that the guy had take of us. Sure enough, it showed that we had only been gone 11 minutes. I was pissed, but what could I do at that point…tell the guy that I want to go back out for 4 minutes, again with no watch? I just figured, mai pen rai…the farang gets screwed again, and my teeruk and I left.

The next day we wanted to rent a jet ski again, but this time we steered clear of that same guy who was trying to get us to rent from him again. What an idiot if he thinks that after he screwed me out of time before that I would actually use his services again. Besides, this time, I brought my water-tight submersible watch with a countdown timer and alarm! No mistakes or being short-changed this time for khun farang.

So we found another guy and paid him the standard 1,000 baht and off we went in the green-blue sea for another 15 minutes of high adrenalin sanook.

We returned this time EXACTLY 15 minutes later and as we cruised towards the sand there were now some people swimming in front of where the operator was standing so we had to slightly turn and angle towards the beach instead driving straight in towards the shore like you usually would do. Suddenly, the engine started to sputter. Then a big wave came up behind us and lifted us up about 5 feet in the air. We were at the crest of wave, riding it towards to sand while the engine was dying, right in front of people swimming.

I did NOT want to hit anyone with a 100 kilo watercraft with 2 riders on it as well as we could have caused some serious injuries or even a death. But then the engine died, while the jet ski was turned at about a 45 degree angle, as my teeruk and I (and the jet ski) began to fall forward off of the wave.

With no engine power, I had absolutely NO control and we capsized and both fell off into the water (5 feet below) as the jet ski overturned. The jet ski then fell off the crest of the wave and landed on top of us. The jet ski hit Porn in the head pretty hard. I grabbed her immediately to see if she was OK and she said yes. Thank God.

Well, right as we capsized, the operator was coming running out into the ocean, no doubt because he heard the engine trouble and saw us on the crest of a huge wave. He got to us right at the moment that we flipped over and fell off of the jet ski. He immediately grabbed the jet ski and was violently trying to turn the jet ski over. Well he was not very big, so even though I had just gotten somewhat thrashed by the wave, I helped him the right the jet ski.

Now, at this point, my teeruk and I had gotten slammed pretty good by that wave (and the jet ski) and we were spitting out salt water out of our nose and were choking as well from the large intake of seawater into our lungs. We did not come close to drowning or anything, but it was rather unpleasant. I wasn’t going to complain or anything because we had 15 minutes of fun and were relatively unscathed. In fact, I started laughing because we had tipped over and so did my little Porn, even after being struck in the head by the jet ski after she fell off the back as we tipped over. She was such a little trooper! I gave her a big hug.

So we wade over to the guy holding the jet ski and hand him back the life vests. By this time, the owner had opened the seat under which the engine compartment is housed in a rubber-surround sealed, watertight compartment.

Now, I may not work for Yamaha designing jet skis or anything like that, but it seems to me that logic dictates that if there is an engine in any type of vehicle that goes near the water, that it had better be sealed off from the water, because water and the air intake on an engine do NOT mix well. And it also occurred to me that some engineer along the way while designing this marvelous toy, probably already figured that at some point, riders of a jet ski will probably, at some point, actually fall off and overturn the watercraft on a large wave. Obviously those engineers already figured that one out.

Then, out of the blue the owner starts yelling at us in Thai and in English. I look at him rather perplexed.

He said, “Look, you break jet ski!”

I said, “What?”

He said, “Look water in engine. You break engine.”

I said, “Hey, jet skis are SUPPOSED be ridden on the water! But, water cannot get into the engine compartment!”

He then pointed to the engine and there appeared to be broken structural cross member, which is a supporting piece of metal that keeps the jet ski stiff and prevents too much twisting of the fiberglass hull when you hit big waves while riding it.

He reached into the engine compartment and wiped some grease off the engine and said, “Look. You break! You must pay. You break jet ski!”

I said, “No, I didn’t, the jet ski died as we were coming in to the beach. It broke BEFORE we fell off!”

He kept yelling and called for his buddies who were on the shore watching this unfold.

Two other Thai guys came out to help the guy pull the jet ski up on to the sand. The whole time the guy kept yelling and talking down to me like I was a little kid. I was starting to to get pissed off.

I had my teeruk explain to the guy that the jet ski died before we capsized and that was the REASON that we tipped over!!!

He was raising his voice at her in Thai as well. The conversation started to get heated and then he said, “You pay my 2,000 baht and everything OK.”

I said, “No, I am not going to pay you anything.”

He said, “Remember I tell you before you go that jet ski have no insurance? I tell you that, you remember?”

I said, “ Well, yes, but I did not hit anything and nobody was hurt. But perhaps YOU should have insurance in case your jet ski breaks, like it did when we were riding it!”

Well this made him start to get really angry. Then he said again, “You pay me 2,000 baht, then everything OK. Good for you, good for me.”

I said, “Are you stupid? Paying you 2,000 baht is NOT good for me, it is ONLY good for you.”

Then he said, “Ok, we call police.”

I said, “OK, call the police.”

Then he said, “You wait here, we get police. You stay here. Not move.”

Well, I was tired of this rip off artist with questionable maintenance on his jet ski, so I started to walk up the beach towards my hotel. He followed us only 2 feet away and kept yelling at us and standing in front of us to try to block our way.

Well, this was really starting to get out of hand because tourists who were sunning themselves on beach chairs were all sitting up and turning around to see what the hell was going on because this guy and I were beginning to yell at each other.

I just kept walking and the guy kept trying to block my way. The entire time, he was yelling at his buddies to call the police immediately (as this was translated by my girlfriend).

Now, being Thai, she had a great deal of fear of confrontation with the ‘boys in brown’. She said that maybe I should pay him. I told her, in no uncertain terms, that we did NOT break the jet ski, but that the jet ski broke down causing us to flip over. I could tell that she was getting very scared of this guy because he was now really raising his voice to her in Thai saying God knows what to try to scare her. This is not too difficult because my teeruk is rather shy, quiet, and very timid. She would not hurt a fly.

But this guy would not let up and he kept yelling to his friends and then I kept telling him that I would not pay him anything and he kept telling me to go with him to the police. By this time, he had called over a couple other jet ski operator buddies of his and they were standing around us in a circle while the owner was yelling at us.

Well, I can take some jerk yelling at me, but I will never allow any man to talk to my girlfriend in that manner. I was careful not to lose control as I have read numerous stories on the Stick where some Thai guys beat the crap out of an unsuspecting farang. Now, I was getting pretty pumped up at this point, and having taken MANY years of Tae Kwon Do, I was fully prepared to kick the shit out of these 55 kilo weaklings, but a cool head prevailed. Plus, I could see the fear in my teeruk’s eyes as she had totally shut down and was cowering next to me, not knowing what kind of rumble was about to ensue. She had also totally stopped translating for me because she was so scared of these thugs.

So, I stopped walking, turned around, squinted my eyes like Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, pointed my index finger right in front of the owner’s face and said, while gritting my teeth and clenching my other fist ready to punch him in the face, “Do NOT…EVER yell at my girlfriend AGAIN!” I yelled each word that was capitalized in that last sentence.

At this point he got a little scared and calmed down a bit, but kept pressing me to pay him 2,000 baht.

He kept pleading his case to my girlfriend because she thought, in her screwed Thai way, that it would be best to pay him and leave, but I would have NONE of that. I lead my life by principles and I was not going to let some Thai piece of crap steal my money and try to defraud me and then hustle me for some money with the threat of calling the police. No way.

My girlfriend then started talking to him because he was directing everything to her in Thai, now in a more calm manner, because I began to ignore him and keep walking.

Now, every time that I ignored him and turned to walk, my girlfriend would get afraid of him as he blocked her way and she would stop giving him ample opportunity to break her down.

Well, I could see what was happening and it was not looking good. I told my girlfriend, “Every time that you talk to him and try to reason with him. He wins. Every time that you stop walking and delay our going to the hotel you making sure 100% that the police will come here BEFORE we get to the hotel. Do NOT stop again and do NOT talk to him anymore! Do you understand me?”

She looked down sheepishly and said, “Yes, I understand.” So I took her hand and she squeezed very tightly and we continued walking down the beach to our hotel. The guy kept walking next to us saying, “You wait. Police coming now. Police come now. You stay here.”

We had been stopped in our tracks so many times by the owner standing in front of us while bitching in Thai and English that we were moving at a snail’s pace toward our hotel and I think that we only walked 100 feet in about 5 minutes.

It was not clear to me if he meant that the police were right behind us on the beach, or if the police could see us and were expecting us to return the ‘scene of the crime’, or what. I was afraid to turn around and check to see if the police were actually standing 150 feet behind me with a baton in their hands at which point they would summon us to return to the jet ski rental location.

Well, at this point, I was getting a little nervous myself and did not exactly want to spend the rest of my holiday afternoon dealing with the police while having 3 locals colluding about some B.S. story about how I broke the guy’s jet ski.

So, I grabbed my teeruk’s hand and we walked slowly down the beach towards our hotel. After 50 or 60 feet, the other operators who had encircled us, dropped back away and went back to their jet skis.

But the operator kept following us and we kept ignoring him. As we approached closer to our hotel, I got fed up. I was now afraid that if we were to get off the beach and go into our hotel that he would know where we were staying and that could lead to some definite trouble down the road if he wanted to try to go after us.

Suddenly a lightning bolt hit my mind as I remembered what many readers on the Stick site have mentioned about Thai culture. So, I stopped, turned around, raised my arms in an outstretched manner like I was going to give a long lost friend a big hug and said very calmly with a rather smarmy smile, “Don’t worry. Mai pen rai. Mai pen rai!”

Then he started to say something again, but I cut him off and said again, “Mai pen rai!”

Then I turned around, teeruk in tow, and proceeded to continue walking up the beach towards my hotel.

Well, this actually did the trick!!!

I was elated. My girlfriend was very surprised that I said that, or maybe she was surprised that my timing was impeccable as the guy was almost ready to give up because we were ignoring him at that point.

I was laughing inside as this guy had accepted my explanation using his native tongue’s primary excuse phrase and this had caused him to give up.

My girlfriend and I kept walking for a minute or so and then calmly walked into another hotel pretending that it was our hotel as a diversion. Then we walked through the side of the hotel back to the street and then back-tracked to our actual hotel we were actually staying.

I did not look down the street as I was afraid of spotting the guy on the street looking for us, but my teeruk said that she saw the guy standing on the street in the approximate location up the beach where we had rented it, but I never saw him. I think that she was just scared.

Anyway, we never heard from that guy again and wisely decided against renting another jet ski or even going back to the beach. Besides, my teeruk did not want to get too dark from spending too much time in the sun!

So instead of the normal Thai translation of mai pen rai meaning ‘whatever’, my new translation for mai pen rai is ‘SHIT HAPPENS!!!’

Stickman's thoughts:

Motorcycle and jet ski hire are both dirty business in Phuket and you have to be a bit careful. You handled the jet ski incident remarkably well and I loved the bit about walking into another hotel!