Update To The Face Concept
This is an update to my recent submission, The Most Ridiculous And Unproductive Concept Every Invented, published 5/2/2014.
Thanks for you all your responses from everyone, some positive some negative, I must admit I did learn a bit from some of the responses, and while some confirmed my opinions and views on this topic of face. And this incident confirmed it even further.
Ok, so this incident happened less then 24 hours ago, I am currently visiting Thailand to see the girlfriend.
A few days ago, I walked past a bar that had some awesome looking cocktails on a table outside with a promotion on a stand saying "promotions of the month" 100 baht for these cocktails and spirits, with the names of 5 cocktails and 3 spirits with an actual display of 3 of 5 cocktails.
Since they looked so good, and one of them was my favorite, I took a photo of this thinking I'll show my friend who is coming soon and we should have a great night.
Fast forward to last night, as I walked past looking for my friend the waitress basically tried to persuade us to come in saying, look at our promotions. After walking past this bar 3 times in a few minutes to find my friend, and to be attempted to be persuaded to come in, we entered, we were already going to go there anyway.
Anyway, we ordered from various waitresses for food and drink, each time we simply said can we have one more of the special cocktails from the front or we pointed to them.
Bill time came, and we were charged full prices for everything, which ended by to be 1500 baht odd over what was correct and so here began the dramas.
I am a very philosophical and reasonable person, and I stand by my values and views unless I am proven wrong of which I am happy to admit my mistakes fully, unlike many Thais.
However I understand that I am a tourist in this country, and often it's "the farang is always wrong", so I must be careful of which battles to fight or to what extent I should stand up for myself.
After informing the waitress that we had been charged incorrectly, there was a little gathering of the waitresses like pigeons around a bag of seeds.
One of the waitresses came up to me and said that that promotion isn't on tonight
One came up and said that promotion finished at 10pm
One came up and said the boss decides the promotions
The waitress that ushered us in came up to us and said that she never said the cocktails were 100 baht and all she said was to check out our great cocktails. And that she offered us one free drink – which was news to me. Surprise surprise the free drink was not taken off the bill as well.
Lady boss arrives who speaks good English, and we basically go in circles up and back for a while. So in the end, I decide that this was wasting my time, and I asked her to call the police, which she happily obliged.
So we sat there for 10 odd minutes, and the police had not arrived, so I ask her to call again, and this time they were here in a few minutes. Five or six turn up. I was seated, and I noticed that all but one of them were shorter then me, (I'm not a tall guy) but built well, so in order to maintain calm and to not appear threatening, I remained seated, and decided not to raise my voice or make any sudden movements since all had guns.
I forgot to mention, before the cops had arrived, one of the arguments that was flown my way was that the staff are all well trained and wouldn't make a mistake. My girlfriend then proceeded to ask one of the girls involved in the night, what tonight's promotions were, to which she snapped in Thai something along the lines of "how the hell am I supposed to know, it's not my job, it's the boss' job!", with a dismissive look / gesture. At this point my girlfriend nearly lost it (bless her) for losing face' and I had to use my hand and grab her leg while I was still seated to so she wasn't going to lunge forward or walk to the other side. In the meantime said waitress was being calmed down and half restrained by other staff and ushered to the back of the group of staff. At which point she burst in tears.
After that a lot of conversation between the girlfriend and boss was in Thai so I didn't understand what was said.
Once the police were here, they didn't do much except listen and just stood there which I don't blame them. You can imagine a small table at the entrance of the bar which was in full view of the public as it was an outside table on a Main Street, surrounded by 4-5 police, one police bike, one police van and anywhere up to 6 staff, and how much attention we were getting.
Anyway, I got involved in the conversation, and 20 minutes summarized into a few lines was
– she is the boss and worked everyday and this promotion wasn't out today.
– my staff are all well trained.
– why do I lie and say her staff lie.
– there was no food put out on the promotion table (even there it was still there at this point).
– there was never a promotion let alone a mention of anything about price or 100 baht.
– it was just a display and nothing else.
I at this point bring out the photo and say, you say, there was no food outside, there was no mention of promotion, there was no mention of price or 100 baht, and that it says promotion of the MONTH, so what this photo proves that you are a liar. Being found out she wanted to look at the photo and she took my phone off to the back to get it examined by the FBI since she would lose face in front of up to 12 people.
When she came back, I unfortunately made the genuine mistake of saying it was taken last night, when it was taken two days ago. My oh my, did her face light up, she literally started dancing around calling me a liar, and thinking that for some reason getting the dates wrong by a day actually helped rebut my original argument (I guess in her eyes I lost face, even though I had caught her out in three lies in one sentence, but I guess that's the whole point of face right? You only lose face when it suits you!) She wouldn't shut up about me getting the date wrong, even though during this time the table with food and drinks is still there, I go and have a look at the stand and surprise surprise the a4 stand with the promotion price and list had magically disappeared.
Anyway, the further crux of the next lot of arguments was that, they had a promotion a few days ago, on the busiest night of the week, to which I replied you don't normally do promos on your busy nights, to which apparently a new DJ/band was playing.
My essential argument was that you can't advertise something and then stiff someone at the end, nor can you get someone in on a false pretense and change the deal especially if it wasn't written there as basic first law e.g.. Time restrictions and other conditions.
The police at this point obviously concluded that this wasn't going anywhere, so they suggested / told for us to make a statement at the police station. At this point I am still very aware that I am a foreigner in this country, and what that means. Luckily I didn't have my passport with me in case they beat it out of me. I was doing 60 calculations per second in my head thinking, is this a losing battle that I should just concede, or do I still feel confident that it's a reasonable situation or should I stand by my beliefs as both my parents have taught me, while integrating the fact of my non familiar environment.
Girlfriend basically explains and says, you have the option to pay now and not have to go to the station? To which I reply, I don't like to get ripped off. She says "Ok, let's go."
And off we get bundled with 3 cops and ourselves into a 20 minute trip, which is thought, why is the closest station so far? Am I going to get beaten into a confession or paying?
Once we arrive at the station, for some reason the first waitress who ushered us in, and a bar guy (whom I didn't remember seeing) are also at the station.
Another hour later, after talking to me and the girlfriend, then to the original waitress then us three together.
Unfortunately I didn't understand most of it, but the girlfriend left to chat with the bar guy, whilst the waitress insisted that she simply ushered me in saying great cocktails and that she didn't even know about the promotion since this was her first day back after a week and that did I want an apology from me for face? but I still had to pay, and the boss considers this her responsibility. And she didn't want to cause problems, and she didn't want to be there
I basically explained to the waitress who was quite a nice girl
My general summary of my comments to her were
– you shouldn't be here, your boss should
– I am not paying for your bars mistakes/lies/problems
– I don't care if you lied, the other staff lied, it's none of my concern
– I don't want or need an apology
– if you are willing to admit to a mistake, you should be fixing it, not making other pay it
– doesn't your boss understand how bad for business a group of cops at the entrance of a visible area to the main road is
– I even gave her examples of being involved in a car accident that's not your fault and the being apologised to but yet refusing to pay up and telling you that you had to fix your own car
She seemed not to understand my last comment,
The police chief or senior guy basically said to me in Thai (translated via the girlfriend) that if this is not sorted out soon, the only option was to go to court and that could take a long time, I said that I was more then happy to go to court. <You STUPID idiot! – Stick>
I went to see what the girlfriend was up to and the bar guy and her was busily punching numbers into his phone. I assume calculating what the bill would have been with discounts which. So a figure was shown to me which I agreed, and I gave it to the waitress, whom surprise surprise said I think another 300 would be better (do how come face doesn't apply here?!?!? How convenient). I told her "don't be ridiculous"
It was now close to 4 hours since the bill was produced and very late at night, we were very tired, and it made for a very interesting night.
Unfortunately our night ended up with a sour note and I did not enjoy one bit of it. Think of a person who has only had a few speeding fines in his life suddenly being taken away to a police station at the early hours of the morning in a police with guns in a country where bribery and beatings occur more then back home while not speaking the language.
However, I will continue to stand up for my beliefs as it makes me sleep at night. Do I consider it a loss or a win for me? I consider it a win for me, since I paid exactly what I was told, nothing more nothing less. As for whether I lost face or not, I couldn't give a shit. Did the bar owner / waitress lose face or not? I also don't give a shit whatsoever. Fixing a mistake you made is basic human decency, face or no face.
Finally, I understand this whole argument is not solely based on face but has different elements contributing to it. But the fact that face was brought into it multiple of times by others including my girl friend, just shows still how ridiculous the concept is. Had it not been brought in, I will bet my life the situation would have been sorted out hours ago, even if the end result was the same
This is not about face at all but about a misunderstanding. When the bill came you discovered that the promotion price was no longer valid and what followed was simply a dispute between the customer and staff of the venue. This sort of thing happens all the time. Bars and restaurants run specials one day and may cancel / change them the next. Or they might only be valid for a time period or under certain conditions which makes it no scam.
In parts you are contemptuous towards Thais unnecessarily, such as when you talk of police beatings. This happens in probably every country and while the Thai police might not be angels, do you really think police beat up foreign suspects? I bet in the few cases when it does happen that the suspect deserves it. You and I come from the same country and I can tell you that the New Zealand police are no angels either. I have three old friends who are cops, all of whom I know from school and they have told me how if you give the cops enough shit you'll get a pounding in the cells.
Whether you were ripped off or not, I do not know, but what I do know is that you showed even worse conflict resolution skills than the Thais. Escalating a situation and ending up in a cop shop is not the way to go. You could have ended up paying much more. Count yourself lucky. One of the first rules that expats and regular visitors learn is to avoid the authorities. Don't make the devil look at you!