19 November 2008

Vietnam con man

The guide books and internet often contain lots of information about scams, cons and tricks that some of the more crafty people may try to use to get their hands on your hard earned money. In light of this we are always on our guard and have to treat people we meet with caution.

The unfortunate thing about this is that there are a lot of genuine people out there and not everyone is there trying to scam money out of you. The place where this is usually most prevalent is when you first arrive in a new town or country as it often takes a day or so to get your bearings and work out what's what. Take the following story from when we first landed in Vietnam on Monday as a good example of how devious and coniving some unscrupulous little toe-rags can be.

We landed at the airport at about half eight in the evening and made our way out to the official marshalled taxi rank as we thought this would be a safer option than a taxi from the kerb.

Due to the amount of times people have tried to scam us on the drive from the airport we are particularly cautious. We always try and follow our way in on a map in the guide book. One of the reasons for this is once a business becomes popular and gains a good reputation often a copy or host of copy cat places with the same name will appear with the hope of catching out unsuspecting people.

On this occasion once we entered town we pulled up outside a guest house that had the same name as ours but we knew we weren't at the right place as we had followed the route on the map. Outside was a smartly suited individual who claimed to be the owner of the guest house we were looking for. He told us that it was full but he had another guest house around the corner which had room. He even had a business card for the guest house that we had been looking for and this made him look even more convincing.

When we explained that we knew we weren't at the right place he tried to convince us that we had missread our map. We told him that we new exactly where we were because every building has it's full address written on it! He then tried to expain that there had been some kind of language mix up and he was going to take us to the right place.

During all of this palaver the taxi driver tried to drive off with our change which was equivalent to about a third of the cost of the 35km journey.

The suited man tried all sorts of tricks and hard sell tactics to convince us that he was the owner of our guest house, that it was full and we need to check into the one around the corner. In the end, after retrieving our change from the taxi driver we had to just walk away. We knew the guy was blatantly lying and even if his guest house was like the Ritz but cost 10p a night we would never stay there. How could you trust the him not to try and cheat you again.

When we eventually found the actual guest house we had been looking for it was full! However; the neighbouring guest house (which was also full) couldn't do enough to help us find some suitable accommodation nearby. No hard sell, just genuinely helpful. We were so impressed with them that we went back the following day and booked our visas for Myanmar, trip to Halong Bay through them and reserved a room for when we come back to Hanoi.

I find it a real shame that there are a few people out there who are making a bad name for the rest. Conning and tricking visitors to your country sends them back home with not only bad reports of you and your business but of your country and your people, discouraging others from coming. If these people put half as much effort into properly running their businesses as they did in trying to con people they would probably be twice as successful.

This is not an issue that is specific to Vietnam, it's just a little unfortunate that we were tried to be conned twice before we had even got out of the taxi from the airport. Rant over . . . let's get on with this trip.

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