If you go to Bangla Road in Patong Beach—and everyone does at least once—and you’re with a partner and between the ages of about 35 and 64, there is one scam that you are extremely likely to come across. It goes like this:
- An ex-pat (not the lady-boy in the photo) approaches you and asks if you speak English.
- Automatically, you say yes.
- They pull out a wad of coloured tickets with scratchies on them, and explain that if you rub off the covering, you may win one of the prizes—cash, an ipad, an iphone, an island cruise or a free holiday.
- If you scratch off the coverings, you’ll discover that one of you gets a T-Shirt, and the other gets the big prize. The ex-pat gets really excited and makes a big fuss, saying something like: Wow, you got the big prize, that’s awesome, hardly anyone gets that. (There’s an English couple who is particularly good at this charade. They sucked us right in.) But the truth is that one in a couple always gets the big prize; they make sure that you do by giving you different cards.
- The ex-pat explains that to get the prize, you need only go to a resort and listen to a 90 minute presentation, then one of you gets a T-shirt and the other gets their big prize. They’ll tell you that if you don’t stay at least an hour, you won’t get your prize. They may not tell you that they won’t get their commission either.
- They may mention that you don’t get to choose the prize (after the presentation, you scratch off another area to reveal what you’ve won), and they’re unlikely to tell you that everyone gets the free holiday. They’re guaranteed not to tell you that it isn’t actually free.
- If you go to the presentation, you’ll discover—after what appears to be a long and leisurely chat with a nice salesperson—that they’re selling some version of a holiday time share package—a holiday club.
- When it gets to the crunch, they’ll be asking for between AUD$7,000 and AUD$13,000 plus a yearly fee of between $124 and $295 to get holiday accommodation at between $250 and $450 per week. Prices vary depending on the club and in some clubs it varies depending on where you go.
- They say there is no pressure, but they’re such nice people and they’ve brought you a drink and they clearly believe in what they’re selling and you won’t want to disappoint them and you’d love to travel enough to make it worthwhile, so there’s a subtle pressure there.
- They’re good sales people. They make it sound like you’ll be saving money, but holiday clubs only start to save you money AFTER around 8 weeks of holiday accommodation in Europe or 20 weeks in Asia—that’s 10 years of 2 weeks of holidays a year if you only go to Asia—and even then, you’re restricted to what accommodation happens to be available. It’s like buying a car to get the leather seats at half price. The focus is on the leather seats, but you have to buy the car to get them, and without the car, they’re useless.
- My web research shows two reasons why people feel ripped off by holiday clubs: They either felt pressured into buying, then got home and realised that they’d bought something they weren’t going to use, then can’t get their money back, or they haven’t been able to get the accommodation they wanted when they wanted it. Presumably some are happy with their deals. If you holiday enough—we estimate more than 4 weeks a year—book far enough in advance and are happy with the accommodation options, then I see no reason why it shouldn’t work. But will you actually be holidaying that much?
- Regardless of the product, the scam here is in the dishonest marketing. The ex-pat needs you to go the presentation and stay for at least an hour to get their 5,000 bhart $172 AUD commission, and some will lie to get you there. It looks like you will get something out of it, but all you’ll get is a tourist T shirt or cap and a week’s free accommodation (not a free holiday) that you have to pay $70 in order to book it, can’t choose the destination for, have to pay the air fare to get there, then will be stuck in a resort with expensive food set outside of towns so you have no choice but to eat there. And you’ll have to listen to another 90 minute presentation. We got two free accommodation vouchers and we won’t be using either of them. If you want the vouchers, let me know.
How to scam the scammers
Say you’ll go if they give you half their commission. That way you get 2500 bhart (aprox $86) They may take you up on it, but get your money first and don’t tell anyone.
A variation on this scam.
A local approaches you at a tourist spot and says they’re doing a survey. You could win a prize if you fill it in. You fill in the form and later get a phone call offering you the same list of prizes, all you have to do is come in and listen to a 90 minute presentation. Here we go again. This is Absolute’s new on the ground marketing strategy.
Another scam you’re likely to come across.
If you’re on Bangla Road late in the evening, the lady-boys from Simon Cabaret will be there posing for photographs. What they don’t tell you is that if you have your photo taken with them, they want 100 bhart, and if you don’t give it to them, they get shitty.
Anywhere you go where someone comes up to you with a pet, understand that if you pet it and take a photo, they expect 100-200 bhart (approx. $3.30-$6.60 AUS) and they don’t tell you first. Charging money for the photo is their right—in fact it is their only income—but they should tell you upfront. Now you know, you can knowingly be happy to support them and their family.
It’s the ex-pats that lie that are the real scammers. Watch out for the British Couple.
Do you know of any other Scams running in Phuket?
Yes we just had an interesting in counter with two expats who tried to scam us with the t shirt and holiday scratches went to the presentation but my dad was too street wise and it was exactly like your story
Tahlia Newland says
Sounds like the same guys. i don’t mind the ones that are honest about it, but the little performance they put on was a complete lie.
David Matheson says
About time people should start naming and shaming these hotels which are clearly in on this shit. We went to one and didn’t fall for it, got a few drinks and got out of the heat. The hotel that we went to was Patong Bay Gardens (on the beach) they have a number of other accomodation places around I RECOMMEND NOT STAYING AT THIS RESOURT AS YOU ARE SUPPORTING THE SCAMMERS THAT ARE RIPPING OFF US TOURISTS!!!!!!!
Tahlia Newland says
I think their Holiday Clubs probably work for the right kind of people, but their sales methods actually take away their credibilty. When you get picked off the street like that and then discover that the people lied to you, you feel scammed, whether their product is a scam or not.
Yep ! got sucked in too, two guys on a scooter pull up ask if you speak english, as soon as u say yes then the bullshit starts. One Pommie ,&one Aussie belive it or not ! out of Melbourne if u can believe a word that comes out of their mouth. Same routine as other contributors only our 90 minute presentation turned out to be nearly 4 hours, every time we would go to leave the lady would get the boss to throw another deal at us . The Thai authorities should deport this lot as they only detract away from an already slow tourist trade.
Tahlia Newland says
Wow, 4 hours. That is tough. When they do that, they make it hard to leave politely. Such a waste of time.
Yes unfortunately this happened to my fiancé and myself today exactly same story however once we arrived i was spooked as they had a sheet that wanted to know your earnings hotel and room number and one thing in particular “did we have any other appointments”. …..? Which led me to believe something more sinister could be in play. I told these dodgy guys that we needed to go i grabbed missus and got out of there! The slimy pom pulled up same scam different location i laughed and said no thanks! So this happens it must happen be aware 🙂
Tahlia Newland says
Sounds like the same couple. And sounds like they got a little burned by us having several appointments with different versions of the same thing so their bosses are making them ask.
yep we got approached too this afternoon too – exactly the same. Fortunately he wasn’t a good actor and we smelled a rat and decided to leave them on the street. Despite us being polite the guy who approached us got quite stroppy and followed us down the road asking why we didn’t trust him.. with good reason it would seem!
Tahlia Newland says
Apparently, they haven’t realised that word will eventually get around. After all, there is internet in Patong Beach.
Happy Traveller says
We recently returned from Patong. The slimy bastards are still at it tagetting middle aged couples. They know every trick in the sleazy salesman’s guide to ripping off innocent, unsuspecting couples. There’s an hour of greasing up to you. They show how genuine they are and how they are so interested in demonstrating to you the holiday deal of a lifetime. But it’s not timeshare they insist. They are right! It’s just a rip off.
It all begins when you approached on the street and given a scratch ticket. After the excitement of scratching your way to a free ride to the venue and promises of a free iphone6, 20,000 Baht or a week’s accommodation, you arrive at venue on Patong beach. You are introduced to a well spoken English gentleman who gives you a freed drink. He methodically and excruciatingly extracts information from you on your past holiday destinations and spending. After an hour sitting by the water listing to the “desperate used car salesman” you are ushered into a room where you are shown a model of their impressive resort. After the previous hour’s crap, you begin to wonder whether a real resort exists.
The slim then creates a scenario of figures and savings that you are supposed to be so impressed by, you are expected to make a decision to buy without understanding exactly what they are selling and what it costs. But there’s more. The VIP package only available on the day will save you the annual fee. WOW what a deal! When you ask a question about what it actually costs, your new friend has to consult the “big kahuna”. If you thought the guy you’d been talking to was sleazy, he pales into insignificance when you meet the boss. You get no answer, and the show continues.
After at least an hour and half of wasting your time you are asked to commit. It has to be a yes. A maybe is considered a no, because they are smart enough to realise the putridness of what they are selling will be smelt if you have time to smell.
At this point there is nothing that could be tangibly analysed other than the manufactured figures your host has created on a piece of paper. That’s what they want you to commit to.
Say no, and you are politely shown the door. You are taken to collect the promised, guaranteed gift. The male gets either a towel or a Tshirt (revealed on the scratch ticket) and the lady who won the grand prize with the three stars (very rare apparently), gets either the iphone6, 20,000 BAHT or a week’s luxury accommodation absolutely free.
But there’s a catch. The prize is determined by another scratch. Guess what the scratch reveals? A week’s accommodation, with conditions: a $99US booking fee and a $200 US cancellation fee. And, if you take it up, you must agree to attend a 90 min information session. You can’t get out of the sales loop.
If you are approached by someone offering you something for nothing, don’t waste your time and your holiday. .
By the way, you have to find your own way back if you say no. There’s no offer of a taxi from the sales pitch.
Tahlia Newland says
Yep, and watch out for people doing a ‘survey’ in the tourist hotspots. It’s also a cover for the same thing. Win a prize, they say, but there’s a catch, the old 90 min presentation.