The Round Eyes, Big Nose Tax: Thailand’s double-pricing system for foreignersPosted: May 17, 2011
We’ve all heard the horror stories of how Thailand has a double-pricing system for foreigners. But have you actually experienced it, and what was your reaction?
Before I came to Thailand, I read about the double-pricing system for foreigners. When I first came here, I was paranoid that I was paying double because of my “round eyes and big nose.” Over time I came to know how much things cost and found that if I spoke Thai and acted like I knew the score, I usually didn’t have any problems. Double-pricing can strike anywhere, at any time, but the uninitiated are more likely to fall victim to this unofficial tax.
Take, for example, the tuks tuks in tourist central: the drivers want 150 baht for a journey that would cost 50 in a taxi. One-time visitors don’t know any different and often pay for the novelty of riding in these freaks of automobilia. But when you’ve lived in Bangkok for a while, and you know that they should be charging you about 40 baht, it gets kind of annoying. The problem is, no matter how long you stay here, you will always have “round eyes and a big nose” and unless we wear a t-shirt that proclaims: “I’ve lived here for over two years” – we remain tourists in their eyes.
This double-pricing system shows the amazing short-sightedness of Thai people: charge me double and I’ll never do business with you again; treat me with respect and I’ll become a regular, devoted customer. The other day, I went to a new street vendor to buy food because my usual place was closed. I ordered two dishes that I know cost 30 baht from anywhere else and the woman charged me ninety. No big deal. I paid. Didn’t complain . . . and I’ll never go there again. It wasn’t so much the price, it was the principal.
Okay, but it’s easy to see everything from the farang’s point of view and forget that the humble street vendor/tuk tuk driver – who has perhaps suffered years of hardship, living life on the edge, worrying how to provide a staple meal for his/her children – may in fact be the one getting ripped-off. Thailand is their home, they’ve grown up here, paid tax since the moment they were born and given their heart and soul to the nation. Farangs turn up midway through their lives and demand equal treatment. They say the universe has a way of righting itself and perhaps the double-pricing system is Thailand’s way of making foreigners pay their way.
Ever heard embarrassing stories of farangs blowing their lid and losing all self-control in public, smashing up restaurants over 20 baht or slapping the waitress who charged for ice? Come on “hot heads.” Chill out! We have to remember that we are guests in a country that was here long before us, and will be here long after us. The customs and traditions of Thailand are deeply rooted in a long and complex history dominated by social status, age and gender. The farang, typically arrogant, turns up and tries to change all that during a month-long vacation.
And then there’s the smartass farangs, who’ve read all about bartering and have vowed to make it their duty to ask for a discount on everything. I know one farang who – in my mind – is synonymous with the phrase: “lod dai tow rai?” (How much discount can you give?). From the first moment I met this guy he was bragging about his bartering exploits. He once proudly told me how he’d bartered the motorcycle taxi down from ten, to seven baht. I mean, come on, you have to draw the line somewhere. No need to add insult to injury.
So there you have it. Love it or hate it, the double-pricing system in Thailand is going as strong as ever. It would be interesting to hear from the readers and discover what your experience of double-pricing is? Ever been charged an outrageous sum of money for some insignificant item? Ever blow your top and demand the right price? Whatever your story, it would be good to hear your thoughts on double-pricing. If you’re too busy to write a comment, why not vote in the user’s poll below? Are you for or against the double-pricing system? Let the voting begin!