Beware the beach scammers

Friday, 14 February 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 7 By  Veechan Souksi

As the political drama rages on in Bangkok, Pattaya continues to bustle with tourists drawn for both the safer streets and loaded calendar of festivals and sports events. But lurking among the masses on areas beaches are scams that can turn a holiday into a nightmare.

Many tourists will encounter beach vendors who offer tours, marine activities, massages and more. Some find them convenient and don’t care about the quality of the services on offer. But others realize many of the items marketed are rip-offs.

A young Russian tries to negotiate the price for alleged damage to the jet ski while his girlfriend takes photos.A young Russian tries to negotiate the price for alleged damage to the jet ski while his girlfriend takes photos.

Victims are not hard to find and on Jomtien Beach Feb. 5, there were a few disgruntled visitors. And, of course, a jet ski was involved.

Pattaya has been plagued by scam artists and extortionists masquerading as jet ski vendors for years. Despite umpteen promises from city officials to rid the city of the scourge, they continue to rip off tourists on a daily basis by claiming customers damaged their watercraft and then threatening physical harm to those who don’t pay extortionist repair charges.

One trick is for a vendor to repair a damaged jet ski with water-soluble putty, which dissolves when the jet ski returns to the water. When the unsuspecting renter returns the jet ski, the owner pretends to find the new damage and attempts to charge the customer tens of thousands of baht to have the alleged damages repaired.

One young male Russian visitor was offered an hour on a jet ski for just 1,000 baht. “I couldn’t refuse because you couldn’t find such a deal in my hometown,” he said. The low price was just the hook to catch the unsuspecting tourist on a much-more-expensive line.

“I am sure that I did not hit anything, there were no rocks and I wasn’t in the shallow parts at all. My time was over and I found a hole underneath the jet ski, which I was held responsible for. They wanted 5,000 to patch the hole, which I refused at first because I only have a small budget for this trip,” the tourist said. “But the vendors became aggressive and threatened me and my girlfriend so I had no other choice but to pay.”

Rule No. 1 in Pattaya: NEVER rent a jet ski. Rule No. 2: If you ignore Rule No. 1, always check the jet ski thoroughly before taking it out.

Another service that can be a scam is the unqualified beach massage. Not only do they charge more, but they may leave you feeling more sore than when you started.

Thomas Jones, a visitor from Wales, complained that he agreed to have a massage on the beach hoping that it would relax him. However, it had the opposite effect: The obviously unqualified masseuse left him nearly unable to walk properly and Jones had to be taken to the hospital.

Jones warned his friends and colleagues not to take the services without being careful.

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