Going with the ‘never a dull day in my life’ theme, we got duped out of money in a food court at a TESCOs. Yes, of course it would happen to us in a place where people would bet their lives that you will never get duped. The last time I was here, the cab guy charged me twice as much for a ride and happily gave me a receipt for it. Luckily, this money was refunded to me by work and so I thought nothing of it. And you hear a lot of stories about being duped by cab drivers and so it’s a little less embarrassing.
How it works in Bangkok, and it seems the case in a lot of the super malls, is that you get card for the food court and you put money on it. I quite like the idea of a cashless transaction – no more fumbling for change, translation problems etc. You go with your card to any counter your stomach fancies and you pay by card. You get a bill in Thai so you have no idea what it says on there. But it gives you details on how much your meal costs and how much balance your card has.
I got my meal in 2 seconds. The boy went to get his meal and the lady swiped the card and then looked utterly confused and said something in Thai. We just stared at her trying to figure out what she was trying to say. Often, you can get the gist of the conversation through gestures and body language. She pointed at the card and said no and did the thumb and index finger rub to mean money. So I went back to the cash counter and put more money on the card.
I returned to find the boy really flustered. Having worked at the bookies, he’s more astute than I am with money. I just thought he was throwing one of his tantrums because he’s a bit
stingy careful with money. She swiped the card, it worked. She kept the card with her afterwards, which I found strange. So I asked her for the card – she kept saying there’s no money so there’s no point. I insisted she gave it to me and we went to try and find a table.
At this point, the boy was huffing and puffing. He pointed out that even if there was no money on the card when she swiped it, there should have been a balance of 25 because of the amount we had put in that day. Luckily they give us bills at every counter and so he was able to show me that we were duped out of an entire meal. She basically charged us twice for one meal. It wasn’t a big amount but the fact that we were cheated at all made me really angry.
I am the kind of woman who rode a bike in Bangalore because I couldn’t be arsed to put up with auto drivers who always charged above the metre level. Ignoring the fact that the boy would probably be embarrassed by how confrontational I can be, I walked to the cash counter and proceeded to tell the lady our story, showing her the bills for proof.
She didn’t understand a word I was saying.
She kept responding in Thai and I started to despair. It is frustrating when you can’t communicate, yes. I get more agitated by it because I thrive on communication. I pick up languages because of it. Being new here, it seemed an impossible situation. After a few back and forths (in which she absolutely denied doing any such thing), she gave us our money back. So the opening sentence of this blog is sort of misleading. Still, it left me with a headache.
To be fair, this is the only instance this trip where we were taken for a ride. I have never had the experience of being charged more than what I’ve purchased, cabs included. We decided to go to the food market instead, because of this experience. We sat down and waited for a good 10 minutes, during which time the chef and the people at the other tables ignored us. Faux pas #1. Potentially the most embarrasing moment of our time here. I bet they still giggle at those two silly farangs who sat at a table doing nothing.
What I’ve learnt about Food Market Etiquette so far-
1. Point at what you want (don’t expect them to know English)
2. Find a seat and wait