Stickman Readers' Submissions June 29th, 2013

Finessing the Clip Joint Overcharge

Having read with interest the many stories on here regarding overcharges at the usual places in Patpong or Cowboy, I thought I would pass along my experience at a similar joint in Taipei many years ago (more than 15 at least) and an approach that worked for me in avoiding the overcharge.

In the early 90's I visited Taipei a lot in my APAC sales manager job seeing many customers often with a marketing teammate and occasionally having a night free for a little carousing. We might start by going to the Huaxi night market and watch the local hawkers unzip a few cobras and then sell their blood mixed with alcohol to mostly old gents who believed it increased their stamina. There used to be brothels nearby to service the follow on trade, but that is long gone now.

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Next we would taxi to a bar area called "the zone" which is short for Combat Zone – an area for foreigners that originally started serving the US military during the Vietnam war. It's been a few years since I've been there but even in recent years it has undergone the changes one would expect as a country develops as Taiwan has. The zone covers an area about three blocks square similar in size to Patpong.

In those days the places in the zone varied from what might be called G-Clubs where the girls dressed fancy and the final bill including girl take out was in the $200-400USD range to more regular beer bars where one might just have a drink and occasionally get lucky with a waitress.

My partner in crime back then was a guy who I'll call Joe who was a marketing manager but really a monger in the first degree. Of Italian lineage he was the archetypical party guy who spent his money like a drunken sailor and thought little of it.

One night while bar hopping we decided to take a crack at the infamous Charlie Brown's. Everyone who knew the zone knew that this place was a clip joint, but somehow with sufficient liquid courage Joe and I decided to pay a call just to see what it was like. Before we climbed a narrow stairway to reach the place we put our main money in our shoes and checked to see that our credit cards were well hidden. The idea was to have just enough to pay the bill so that we could wave empty wallets in case things got dicey.

As one might suspect the room we entered was empty except for a few girls of average looks and dress with an ordinary bar fronting what appeared to be a back room. Joe and I started ordering drinks and bought our ladies a drink being careful to ask how much for the guys and how much for the ladies. I kept a running tab in my mind and made a minor show of counting as we drank.

About an hour in we reached our limit of something like $50 worth of drinks and told the ladies we had to move to the next place so please bring us the bill. We were not terribly surprised to see the bill was about double what we ordered, so I began to quietly remind the ladies of my previous count and showed them that the bill was obviously wrong. This got us nowhere.

Our next step was to empty our wallets and show them that was all we had while still arguing the correctness of my total. Next thing we heard was some shouting in Chinese followed by footsteps from the back room.

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Out from the back room came two Chinese guys that looked like sumo wrestlers and it appeared we might be in for a major hurt.

Sales people are taught to think on their feet. You never know what a customer might say or do and you must be prepared for anything. So as the two sumo-looking guys slowly approached us, I clutched at my chest and collapsed to the floor, whereupon I began to groan and spasm leaving the ladies and the wrestlers dumbfounded. Being a clever guy Joe picked up on my plan and started shouting "he's having a heart attack … get a doctor." He bent over me and started wailing about why we should have stayed in our hotel. I continued to groan and then staggered as I tried to get up.

Our hosts remained with their feet glued to the floor. So Joe grabbed me and made a big show of hoisting me up and dragging me to the stairway. We went down slowly with Joe still yelling for a doctor and an ambulance. Once out the door, we grabbed a taxi and laughed ourselves silly on the way back to our hotel.

For years afterward Joe use to tell his fellow marketing teammates about the night he saved me from a heart attack and I saved us from an overcharge and possibly much worse.

I'm not sure if this approach has been tried yet in Patpong. The Thais may react differently than the Chinese. Let me know if ever works for you.

Cheers, D

Stickman's thoughts:

This approach could help in certain situations and I remember one fellow did this last year in Bangkok when he ended up in a police booth. He feigned health issues and managed to get out ok.

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