Stickman's Weekly Column June 22nd, 2003

The Soi 4 Investment Debacle Revisited



Last week's column which started with a piece about investment issues in certain Sukumvit Soi 4 bars received a lot of feedback and some of the players involved requested a right of reply. It is only fair to let couple them have their say and therefore this week's column starts with more of the same.

The first email listed here, somewhat verbose, comes from someone purporting to be a happy investor in the bar. Now what is interesting about this email is that A) it came from the same email provider as the person who has been accused of ripping many people off B) it was written in a similar way to the emails from the person who has been accused of ripping others off, including the format of the email, similar grammatical mistakes, and signed off in a similar way and C) it was totally in favour of the said person. Mmmm, with all of that in mind I'll let you draw your own conclusions. As was requested in the email, names have been removed.

The report mentioned in your web. All is not true. There is no 10 investors nor do 20 million baht. Few investors and partners wants to leave that's fine with us we are still staying with him. You have to clear not only his name but other investors whom is with this gentlemen are trying to solve this for everybody's benefit. please do not mention any names we all respect each other.

I <name removed> Passport no. XXXXXXX from Switzerland. Known <one of the couple> for the past 9 years when he used to run Tabasco Charlie’s and renamed masquerade. Since they lost their business in Nana Plaza <one of the couple> opened the bar called Hunter’s in Soi 4 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok. <one of the couple> & the Scandinavian was running the Place. Since then I joined with <one of the couple> and the others in running Bar & Restaurants in Soi 4. I have known all the investors with <one of the couple>.

When we started to expand from one out let to a total of 4. Every investor had come forward to invest and back up <one of the couple>. I have known all of them and all plans had been discussed and been enforced to run the bar’s and Restaurants. <one of the couple> has never used any single baht for his or his family members or personal use of any kind may be.

Since the business in Pattaya (Warblers 2) was running at a loss and <one of the couple> had to pay the rent and salary for complete period and since no one was able to bare the loss it was closed and been informed to all of us the names mentioned below. <3 names edited>

I have seen <one of the couple> doing his job truly in good faith. And all of us mentioned above had some returns every now and then and all was running smooth. Any business it has ups and downs and I am happy till now how <one of the couple> had operated in good faith and was and is trying to get our investment back. We cannot blame only <one of the couple>. We all wanted to expand quickly and get the returns back. I & We all new it will take at least two to three years to break even.

<one of the couple> always informed me and the problems to all of us either when I call him or in person. Since he had asked so do the Scandinavian or <another investor> for back him whenever its slow business I was not able to help. So he had to find new investors to keep the business running since the Scandinavian & <another investor> also backed out.

By then <one of the couple> was running at a loss I tried my best to raise some cash to help him latter was not able to do so. He was left alone in no support or what so or ever. Since <2 investors> decided to invest with <one of the couple> towards our outlets and <one of the couple> had informed all of us. Again <one of the couple> paid back all business loans to bring back our business to normal.

We should again shall not forget how many hours spent by <one of the couple> to protect our business while we were living abroad or enjoying our self in Thailand. I have seen many times not mention any names since you all know well your self how we all enjoyed and took advantage of the out-lets. While <the couple> made sure all were running smooth.

<one of the couple> has not forced any body or made scam to invest I have seen it with my own eyes and so do rest of them. <one of the couple> is very kind natured person all ways helping poor people and very kind to locals and has a good reputation in Bangkok. If not for his public relation and his experience in food and beverage we all would have lost long time ago. I am proud of him

Since the Scandinavian wanted to pull out of business and deal was arranged and <one of the couple> was very Kind enough to give all his money back. I was bit surprised with his action and so do <the couple> and family looked after him with much care since he was disabled. This shows how good nature <the couple> and family is

Since last year or so there has been problems everywhere and the business is very slow we all know about this. Since I & other locals also investor’s want to help <one of the couple>

We have decided to buy the share of <3 names edited>. We need at least 8 to 12 months to clear them at the same time I request our other investors this is the cash we invested in a business not a personal loan to <the couple>. We all know that. so let the entire problems end peacefully. Meanwhile we have spoken to <one of the couple> the same and he his also trying to get their invested money back.

As Gentlemen we should support <one of the couple>. And not to be a stupid Farang. We know <one of the couple> had taken some cash and given a cheque this amount was again was taken for salary being a part of this business I am sure <one of the couple> has not done any thing wrong to us.

You all have decided to pull out he is trying his best to clear all of you you should give him time and I myself will come up to support <one of the couple>. Apart from there is one more person who is a part of all this business who would like to help <one of the couple>.

I appeal all to sit down together solve the problem and find an easy way to get their respected money back. Once again we all should remember we came forward to invest we and the business run by <one of the couple> to protect our investment towards the out-let has its ups and downs and we have to be together the same way when we had our good times.

So I decided to help and co-ordinate <one of the couple> I guarantee with <one of the couple> that your investment shall be returned at time frame given or at the earliest. Option from your side also can sell your share to some one too. Once again I want all this to end in peaceful manner. I once again support <one of the couple> in his operation and he is working hard and loyal to all of us if the business is slow and no income <one of the couple> is not to be blamed solely

So lets all sit down and solve this matter.

Yours Truly

<name edited>

Note: We The Local investors Support <one of the couple> and we know and for sure all cash was spent for the daily and monthly expenditure to operate the bars & restaurant. We have not found any amount used for his or his family personal use. Since we are there everyday where are they?

To say there are inconsistencies in this story with what has been said by others is something of an understatement. As already stated, the English is remarkably similar to that of one of the couple who has emailed me previously. That this investor purports to know so much about other investors would appear a little unusual too. The claims made that there are no more than X investors is ridiculous because quite simply, the author of the email could not possibly know. So much of what is purported here is also contradictory to what has been reported to me, in person, by at least one of the investors, someone who was able to show a great deal of proof about what has been going on.

Remember the fellow whose words were largely positive which I included last week…well, here is the latest from him. An investor in it all, this guy is one of the lucky ones who appears to have got his money back. Having said that, he is not as positive as we may have thought.

I hope balance doesn’t mean you think I am defending <one of the couple> in any way. I feel the whole thing is rather like a pyramid scheme where by those that invested early got payments based on the money that came in from later suckers. For instance, in my case the interest payout was 8% per month. That comes to $400 / month based on a $5000 investment. There was also an agreement that either party could end the whole thing with all money repaid with 6 weeks notice. I have no idea how many investors there were, but I don’t think even in the best of times Titty Twister could support that kink of pay out plus salaries and profit for <one of the couple>. So, I got my initial investment back in just over a year, not counting free food, drink, and bar fines. However, shortly after one year, <one of the couple> started complaining that business was bad and that he needed to stop payments for a while. The short story is, that they never occurred again at a constant rate. Payments were supposed to start again in May, but now I can’t get any reply by phone or email.
And then this email came from someone who had not emailed me previously.
I am also a lender of monies to the aforementioned couple however I have a bit of a different perspective. I personally know most of the people who have problems including the wheelchair guy. I am not aware of the exact percentages or what they invested but the numbers sound on the high side but not too far off.

I have known the him for almost as long as he has been in Thailand when he opened Masquerade the third floor disco where Carousel is now with farang partners. He was a victim of the same thing these people are talking about and lost many millions of baht. When the days of of Nana Disco was open to 4 – 5 AM the thoughts of another success was what this night club was suppose to be but unfortunately the police thought different and failed. Also Paradise 2000 falls in the same category.

I have seen Hunters open, then Titty, then Warblers and then Warblers Pattaya. All investors were dreaming of monthly profits, free booze, food and women which they all got in the beginning. After a few months of Warblers Pattaya opening the 911 and down turn in tourism. It never recovered and had to close thus loosing millions of baht. Partners even ran that operation so if it failed they all are to blame and thus the pitfalls of investing in Thailand and relying on the tourism business.

Then Afghanistan war…business down… then IRAQ war … business down…. then SARS and business down. This is not a case of cheating this is a case of a bad investment and the money is gone. If he sells then the partners are entitled to their percentages which I am confident they and I will get. If this does not happen then you can start the name calling and legal action.

A case in point. I know of one investor that invested 150K baht and received free food and drink for a few years as an investor. Over the term of the investment he eat and drank 300K worth and has then abused the privilege and was repaid the investment.

Many people dream of success the easy way but few rarely find it. I suggest the people that lost their life savings should go back home and rebuild it. Don't feel too sorry for the wheelchair guys life for he is talented C programmer and can easily make $150K USD per year in any country in the world.

Analysing this email is interesting. It is inferred that as one of the couple was himself the victim of such a scam, then so too have the others become victims. Whether or not the Scandinavian can make huge money is immaterial. The other points about the downturn in business have some validity although once again we get into some questions about just how the money was spent.

I'll let you make your mind up on what has happened. As said in last week column, some imprudent decisions have been made. I'll be interested to see how this all works out and will let you know as soon as I hear, although that may well be some time from now. I have no plans to feature this story again.

Finally, please do not worry that this column is going to turn into a collection of reader's emails flooding the opening piece, as has happened to other columns. In this instance, I felt that it was fair to include these emails, providing people involved with a right of reply and a place to respond.

Where is this pic?

Last week's pic

It was the overpriced fruit
market behind Mike's in Pattaya.

This week's pic


Picture kindly provided by a reader.

Last week's pic was wasn't taken in Bangkok, but a little down the road, in Pattaya. It was yet another overpriced place, the fruit market behind Mike's, where busloads of Asian tourists stop to buy overpriced Thai fruit. Now, where is this week's pic? It's in Bangkok this time. There are two prizes offered for the where is this pic prize each week. The first Bangkok based person to answer the pic correctly wins a 500 baht credit to use at the Classics Movie Lounge. The second person to get it right wins a tube of MyCreme, the cream that will send your teeruk to heaven! I'm sorry that for now, prizes are only available to guys who are Bangkok based. However, for guys outside the Big Mango, still do feel free to email me your guess.

FROM STICKMAN'S BAG OF EMAIL:
(If someone sends me something positive, I'll include it here, but it seems that all most people ever do is moan and groan… So come on, how about something brighter?)

Relax the naughty nightlife laws to lure back tourists?
The SARS nonsense and its effect on Thailand's tourist industry has brought home to me two sad realizations. The first is that there is still a large number of crassly ignorant people in Europe and North America who cannot distinguish between China and the rest of SE Asia. SARS has been up to now a predominantly Chinese problem, yet I have actually met people who will not travel to this part of the world because they believe countries like Thailand and Japan to be part of China (honestly!). The other realization is the importance of sex tourists to Thailand's economy. True, the bars are quieter than usual at the moment, but there is still a steady trickle of punters who are keeping things ticking over. The go-go aficionados are amongst the most resilient travellers on the planet and it will take more than bombs and bubonic plague to keep them away from the Kingdom. I wonder if it is too much to hope that, if things get any worse, something drastic might happen like an extension of drinking hours and a reduction in tourist prices?
Probably not.
This had definitely crossed my mind.
Why have not the couple in question (AKA the scam artists) simply been killed? Is not the going rate for a Thonburi motto hitman something like 10k TB for a Thai and 2-3 x for a Farang (assume a slight discount for an Indian). I would suppose that if one can afford to lose 8 mm TB in a scam then they should be able to scrap up enough money to make 2 persons disappear in Bangkok. Perhaps all of the scammers could pitch in, sell the bars and split the proceeds. Biblical justice. Buddha help them if it were my money.
Where do katoeys take a leak?
I remember the first time I saw a woman walk into the men's room in Thailand. I was standing at a urinal, and the sight of her gave me a sudden shock: had I wandered into the ladies room by mistake? Then, just as suddenly it occurred to me that urinals are not found in ladies' rooms. What was she doing there? Ah, she's holding a mop! Where I come from, only male janitors clean the men's room during operating hours. I don't believe there is any such thing as a male janitor in Thailand. Cleaning toilets is women's' work! Well, if it's acceptable for a woman to enter the men's room in Thailand, how about a man using the ladies' facilities? No way, you say? Hold on a minute – have you ever seen a katoey in the men's room? Neither have I. Do you see what I'm getting at? This is every perverts dream! Forget about hidden toilet cams- just put on a little make-up and a skirt and walk right in (don't forget to shave your legs, guys).
How to keep a Thai girl happy!
I cannot stand all the screeching and caterwauling that characterizes Thai TV programs. I unplug my set too. But sometimes I want to hear something. I've found that a small, portable boom box / ghetto blaster / stereo device is nice to have. I play the CDs that I want to hear, and occasionally a little "mor lam" music when I want to indulge the girl. (I can listen to "mor lam" or "luk thung," but I cannot stand most other styles of Thai pop music.). Another way to keep the girl entertained without driving yourself nuts is to provide her with some reading material. You can purchase Thai magazines and comic books very cheaply and the girls love them. When you want them to put the books down, though, it's not the same problem as turning off the TV. As much as they like to read this tripe, they apparently don't find it as captivating as television. The comics generally fall into three genres: comedy, horror ("pee" or ghost stories), and romance. You can easily identify the genre from the picture on the cover. Comic books cost between 5 and 12 baht each. Get at least one of each type. Magazines cost a bit more, say 20 to 50 baht for all the latest fascinating news about Thai soap opera stars, fashions, etc. For 100 to 200 baht you can have enough reading material on-hand to keep any Thai girl occupied for days. It gives them something to do while you're in the shower or reading a book of your own
Thailand cheaper now?
I wonder if you and your readers realise just how cheap Bangkok shagging is compared with 30 years ago? In 1973 LT was B300 – $US 15 – £6 – or about the price of 30 pints in a London pub. Today those 30 pints would cost you about £85 or B6000. Today B1000 only buys 5 pints. If only I could have bought a night of quality bareback shagging in the 60's for 10 bob!
More on prices.
The price differential of the Big Mac index is often branded about as a world wide cost of living guide. But what I would like to introduce, which I feel is more relevant to the East, is the Cow Pat Moo guide. A friend of mine who recently dined at a Thai Snell Ibis in Munich ordered three cow pat moos. In Thailand he would be charged a 100 Baht, but there in Germany he was asked for the equivalent of a 1,000 Baht, a ratio of 10 for 1. Some could also even argue that the quality of the dish here would be ten times better as well.
Is Thai syndrome a medical condition?
The excitement of getting to the airport, checking in, getting on that first plane from Manchester to London, checking in again and then waiting for the green light that says the flight to Thailand is now boarding. Sitting on that plane, the slight thrill going through your body as the plane starts to move, the engines roar into life and suddenly you are in the air, flying over towns and cities that look like miniature models. Landing in BKK, going through customs and stepping out in this strange new world. The heat and the humidity hitting you like a bolt of lightning. That weird smell you knew was there, but you can never remember what it's like until you smell it again. You try to imagine when you are at home what it was like, but you can never put your finger on it. That thick, humid air, all around you like a crowd of people at a concert. I am there, I am finally in Thailand once again. It feels like home, the place welcomes me, greets me like an old friend. It asks me where have I been, why has it taken me so long to get back there. I am there, finally I am there.
A friend was down on Samui recently and made a very interesting comment, one which seems to have been made by many others too. He claims that the operators and promoters of Samui do everything that they can to get you there, but once you are there, they do little to make your holiday fun. A good friend in Thailand made such a comment recently, a good friend from home made the comment this time and several others have also made such or similar comments. Interestingly enough, they all agree that the actions of the Thais working on Samui result in many dis-satisfied visitors. Note: at least one of the people in question said that this was in total contrast with Pattaya where the Thais are generally very friendly and go out of their way to help.

There is a new show down at Long Gun in Cowboy and in a few bars down there the girls are out in their birthday suit…

All the Playskool girls have returned to Hollywood Rock and it has reportedly been very busy the last couple of nights with all the girls… Anton as had a minor reprieve and will stay on until July 15 so that the Playskool girls cab ne kept there until they reopen on July 13. Meanwhile in Nana Plaza, Casablanca on the 2nd floor has been renamed Mercury and is open, operated by the former Australian partner.

Boss Hogg's beauty shop is coming along well, all the necessary furnishings are almost all in place from what I can see. Nicely put together with what looks like top of the range chairs, tables, mirrors and even a large TV!

Word on the street is that Megabreaks, the huge pool table company, are poised to take over Paradise Disco to turn it into a pool hall. A large company like them have the money for publicity and promotion that a location like that which is just a little bit too far down the soi needs. it seems one of the much more sensible ideas that Soi Nana bosses have come up with recently. With Swan Bar and Brunswick doing reasonable business currently, how will Megabreaks fair? Megabreaks are set to start renovating Paradise next month.

Panthip is a mess at the moment. While most stalls that sold counterfeit software closed down, there are a handful running, as if it is business as usual. Prices on CDs and DVDs have moved up, 30 to 50 baht per disk.

Clinton Plaza is not only closed, but the area is now blocked off with large, ugly sheets of corrugated iron making it impossible to see inside. Walking past what was once upon a time a lively bar area with a party atmosphere, all one sees now is a construction site.

Starbuck's have put up their prices. With lots of new coffee houses opening up all over the city, they must fancy their brand recognition, as a coffee at Starbucks can be dearer than you'd pay in a 5 star hotel. And when that is the case, you have to wonder if they have got their pricing wrong… Still, if they use the extra baht and start putting in some wi-fi laptop spots like they have in Singapore then hey, that would be nice!

I notice that David Young's excellent first up novel has been reprinted and is in its second edition. It is also twice the price, at 240 baht, as opposed to the original 120 baht. This price still represents excellent value for what is a good read from an author who really does show his superior understanding of Thais and Thailand in his books.

I note that quite a few of these new mobile phones keep copies of outgoing SMS messages as the default setting. A friend of mine got in some strife when his Thai girlfriend turned on his phone and found some outgoing messages to another Thai female… A nasty situation this and one has to wonder quite who is in the wrong, him for SMSing another girl, her for looking into his phone without his permission, or them both? This does remain quite an issue for foreign guys with technology literate Thai women. Often they won't just stop at your mobile but will be into your computer and your email as well.

Quote of the week from the staff room at work. "I take precautions with these working
girls. I wash it both before and afterwards".

I heard an hilarious story of the police trying to shake someone down recently, another of my colourful colleagues. The fellow in question was pulled over by the police who maintained that the registration plates on his car were counterfeit, and he would have to pay a fine accordingly! Counterfeit plates? What will be next! They insisted on 1,000 baht and threatened to take him to the police station if he didn't pay there and then. After a while, he negotiated it down, but still, his inability to speak Thai resulted in him being forced to pay a fine for something quite outrageous.

The Pussy Connection Bar in Patpong has been closed now for a couple weeks for renovation but the strange thing is that it was renovated about 3 months ago. Can't get anyone to comment on the possibility that it was closed for the slightly young age of some of it's girls. The girls and staff are now over at Super Star and the old mamasan Jimmy from Super Star is gone to another bar and long time waiter "New" now is a greeter with The Pen. SS doing pretty good as lots of girls dancing due to girls from both bars there. "Izzy" from Crown Royal is in the states for another two weeks, on one of his annual visits to the states. Thigh Bar doing good lots of dancers on stage at this time with a couple of girls from Super Star making the move over. Very slow all over the Pong and there aren't even that many tourists walking the market area. Drink prices at most bars remaining at 90 baht for beers and drinks and SOME discounting by the ladies later in the night if not taken early. There is no lack of consternation by the ladies as it is getting more than a little difficult to make the required number of offs and lady drinks, no doubt due to the lack of customers. It is really getting bad going home from Patpong. The two small streets connecting the two main halves of the Pong are flooded by the dreaded katoeys at closing time and they are getting very aggressive – even if you are with a girl. Must be 50 of them between the narrow streets and it is hard to get around them.

A little over a week ago, there were more than the normal contingent of cops down at the Pong and they were talking with bar owners and / or doormen, making them physically open and close outer bar doors. Sliding the curtains alone was not good enough and the cops insisted that the outer door had to be able to be closed, I guess to provide some sort of physical block. The curtains had to be pushed to one side of the doorway or the other and they were checking how fast doors could be closed. Last time any one could remember, door closing checks were followed by cops and politicians coming around with media! So the thinking is that in the near future some politician will be coming around for checks.

From time to time, I am asked by people what would be a good present to bring a Westerner who has been living in Thailand for a while. I always reply that favourite food items, particularly favourite brands which may not be available here, will always go down well. It can be anything from favourite cheese to chocolates to biscuits to whatever,. Oh, and wine. Wine is so damned expensive here compared to virtually everywhere.

Cheap overseas calls just got cheaper! Yesterday the Cheap Charlie Overseas Calling Card reduced their call prices to just 11 baht a minute to over 50 countries from Bangkok and 13 baht from elsewhere in Thailand. Check out the site for the latest offers. If you have any questions related to making calls, to from or within Thailand visit www.calls.in.th.

Staying on in Thailand is not guaranteed, even if you have a job. There can be all sorts of problems and barriers that rear their ugly heads along the way. Many falsely believe that by working for a company, the work permit and visa will be handled by the employer and little will have to be done on the part of the employee, apart from the obligatory completion of forms and endless requests for more passport sized photographs. Sadly, more than a few folks find that their company's knowledge of the work permit and visa process is limited. As crazy as it may sound, I therefore recommend that anyone who plans on, or even is working, in Thailand, does all that they can to familiarize themselves with just what is required. Thais are really hopeless with this sort of stuff. At my workplace, we have had no end of trouble with this sort of thing and a few of us just taken it into our own hands, and do it all ourselves – and are only dependent on our employer for the documentation that they are required to provide such as the employment contract in Thai. Stories of farangs getting inadvertently mucked around by their ignorant employers, resulting in fines and even being forced to leave the country to get a whole new visa, seem to be more and more common.

Madam Claude's in Soi 33 has just changed hands, though I'm not sure what the new owner has planned for it, be it something new or more of the same.

Mrs. Stick remains on holiday and thus her part of the column is absent again…sorry!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

Special thanks go out to Claymore and Dave The Rave