Delightful Northern Thailand – Or Not?
Once again we touch down in that most liveable of SE Asian towns. We make sure that the first dinner there is at our favourite place.
I used to like it more than its neighbours on rim nam Ping. But about a year ago I heard about a certain scam they'd play on customers of "La Brasserie", that pleasant multi-level riverside eatery next to Good View, Riverside and others: It was said that they give you a machine-printed bill with the correct items, but still a too high total. The warning also appeared in Stickman’s Weekly 30/10/2005.
And guess what, after another *delicious* dinner with very nice canned background jazz and attentive service, we experienced the same dirty trick.
Come check-bin time, we get two papers: Handwritten in Thai, all items and individual prices, but no grand total on that paper. Plus a small slip from a printing calculator – showing all the individual prices and a printed grand total of 700.
It is very easy to believe that this sum is true – a machine has printed it after all. But then, there had been these reports of scams with the bill. So I add the numbers on the bill up – first top to bottom and then the other way round.
Each time the grand total sounds wrong – the prices on the slip add up to only 600 baht, while it clearly states 700 as the grand total.
Interestingly, the upper edge of the calculator slip looks ruffled and torn. Shouldn't it be immaculately slick? I believe the scam works like this: On top of the slip they type a 100 baht price that isn't justified; then they type a few blank lines; then they type all the prices we actually have to pay; then they make the machine type the grand total; then they tear off the first single 100 baht line by hand; then they clip it to the handwritten bill and bring it to us customers – the correct individual items with the oversized grand total.
Over this bill, we calculate and whisper for ten minutes. The waiter looks skeptical. Finally I tell him very politely that the price should be 600 baht only.
Ten minutes later the waiter comes back with a new slip from his calculator – this time with the correct total. He places the wrong and the correct slip next to each other and mumbles sth like "Funny, same items, but one time 600 and one time 700". Yes, funny.
When we walk out, we get questioning looks from a farang couple. They had been watching our lengthy inspection of the bill and the exchange with the waiter. I quietly advise them to scrutinize their bill carefully. There are other farangs on more remote tables, but I don't tour them with my advice. I don't know why, but I feel no urge to warn the Thai-only groups there. Funny. We do ponder talking to the management about this, but finally just leave for good. We are sad because we lose our favourite northern dining venue in such a shameful way and we feel sick as we might have been cheated this way several times already. It’s not the sum, but the way we are treated.
When I report my observations on the Lonely Planet forum, I get flamed for being a rich fat westerner who should allow those skinny underpaid third-world waiters a bit of extra cash.
We rent a jeep from a well-respected agency and drive off north. The horn, the fuel gauge and the windscreen wiper never work right from the start. The air-conditioning breaks down after two days.
The River View Lodge in Tha Thon offers a salad with eggs and chicken meat that sounds tempting. It comes with neither eggs nor chicken meat, but the posted price is charged.
Back in town, the Writer's Club offers another salad with eggs. It comes with eggs, but at ten baht more than posted.
I don't report my newest observations to the Lonely Planet Forum.
Enough. We finish our last breakfast in the pseudo-pompous breakfast hall of Chiang Mai's Duangtawan hotel on Loi Kroh Road. As we walk back to the lifts and press our floor number, I hear the waiters calling me excitedly: "SIR! SIR!" They hand us the bag and the camera we forgot at our table.
Do you grin and bear it, or do you kick up a stink….could make for some interesting submissions.