Stickman Readers' Submissions June 24th, 2013

Do Arab Bars Habitually Fleece Drunken Customers?

I was saddened and a little perturbed to read in this week’s column about that savage attack by doormen on a punter. It is hard to believe that such a savage, and by the sounds of it, wanton attack, could have been deserved.

I don’t know anything about the Arab personally but I have believed for a few years now that at least a couple of his bars habitually over-charge or fleece drunken customers when they think that they can get away with it. Furthermore, if the customer is not a local they do not care if he picks up on it. I suffered this fate personally in several of his bars (including two separate but similar occurrences in the same bar! It shall remain nameless but X to the mamasan!)

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I vaguely recall one occasion when I just might have had a lucky escape after protesting too loudly about being well over-charged in a certain Soi Cowboy Arab bar. However I did ultimately pay my bill (and it might have been just as well for my sake) but the senior Customer Relationship Manager (or whatever she is SUPPOSED to be) simply smirked in a most infuriating manner when I said that I would not be returning and that she was not getting any tip. My two little dancer girls who were working there did seem genuinely concerned for me and were all apologies as I was leaving when they were out of her earshot. Of course this was probably their own form of customer relationship management.

I’d estimate that I was ultimately over-charged by up to 1,500 Baht – not a huge amount admittedly when you have a good job back home but nobody likes being ripped off… especially after a few drinks.

Briefly: I had been buying a few drinks for two pretty dancers and myself… and some others. Now please be advised that I am a right-wing, Irish bean-counter. I know when I am in the right (in most cases), I can drink a few… and I am able to count. Anyway I was presented with my check-bin and had a quick scan of it. I could see that it was simply all over the place with mistakes but none of the mistakes were in my favour. They were not genuine mistakes. Some were so blatant that it was quite unbelievable. And this bill was presented to me, a regular, annual customer.

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Up to this point there had been smiles all round. My countenance quickly changed and I could sense uneasiness developing among the staff. The girls waded in and looked at the bill, apparently trying to help. A calculator appeared out of nowhere but they appeared not to be able to use it properly. I had tots done in my head quicker than they could do on the calculator… no exaggeration. But I suspect that this could have been just part of their game.

I became annoyed very quickly and voiced my opinion loudly. I was perfectly correct in what I said. In hindsight, however, I was alone in this location and the way that I spoke was probably not very clever. I could sense that I was being watched by all present. Of course mamasan came over and took the tab away.

Eventually she returned and handed me a revised bill. I was expecting to see a significant reduction from the original bill amount but upon inspection I found that it was only reduced by about 400 Baht. I checked the drink-chits to the bill summary and found that they added. I then allocated the correct amount of drink chits to each of us – the correct amount to each girl, to myself, the two to the mamasan and two other ones that I had been coaxed into buying for other girls. However, there were still a bunch of drink-chits left over and unaccounted for that were obviously padding my bill. I continued to protest loudly. I insisted that I was not going to pay that bill. Mamasan insisted that the bill was correct but I insisted that it was not and I was not paying. Nobody was smiling any longer.

The bill was taken away again and a third one was slammed down in front of me. It showed a further small reduction – something stupid like 80 Baht – but was still not right. I estimate that I was still being over-charged in the region of 1,200 – 1,500 Baht. Although I was annoyed I had felt a little bit embarrassed all along. I was being made to feel like a cheapskate even though I was in the right. However I was now beginning to feel quite uncomfortable and something inside just said to me to pay it and get to hell out of there. This is what I did but only tipped the two dancing girls who did not have any real input into the bill preparation. I certainly did not tip anyone else and let it known that I would not be returning. I never have gone back there.

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I can’t help but wonder how close I might have been if I had kept shouting my head off… I really hope that that guy mentioned last week’s column was not as badly hurt as it sounded. There but for the grace of God go I.

I say, let's boycott the Arab bars.

Stickman's thoughts:

With computerised billing this sort of thing just should not happen. It eliminates the once not uncommon practice of staff adding drinks that were not ordered – and pocketing the money. I actually thought all of the Arab's bars had computerised billing.

While you have every right to feel aggrieved if charged for drink you didn't order, you have to be a little more careful in Thailand with how you respond. Getting hot and bothered might be somewhat acceptable in the West, but here it seldom gets anywhere – and can even be interpreted as a sign of aggression and prompts things "kicking off"! This is not to say that I suggest you don't complain, but that have to finesse it more here than you would back home.

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