Hidden Dangers: the Bangkok Gem Scam

Jenny Forster is a contributor at catandnat.com, another site where my writings appear.  She recently wrote an article about gem scams, a type of deceit all too commonly propagated against tourists in Bangkok.  Every guide book warns of the scam and locals caution their visitors to be aware, and yet thousands of people each year fall for this trap.


The end result is that you get taken for a very literal and unwanted ride.  The tuk-tuk driver who was supposedly going to give you a half-day tour of the city or drive you to a special temple “because (insert name of popular tourist destination you were headed for) is closed for a national holiday,” ends up taking you to a supposedly government-owned shop offering special prices (“today only!”) on gems, or suits, or gold.

Whether out of foolishness, guilt, or a sense of intimidation, you end up buying items whose true value is a fraction of what you pay.  Your avenues of recourse are dead-ends and your pleasant Thai holiday ends up leaving a bitter taste in your mouth.

Here’s a video that Jenny included in her article.  It isn’t originally by her, but it is a very handy summation of how the scam typically works.  If you ever plan on traveling to Thailand, you should watch this video and educate yourself.

Note that 99.999% of Thais are wonderful, kind, honest, and helpful people.  But in the touristy areas, there are people who will seek to take advantage of you.  By all means, come visit Thailand.  Just say “no” to anyone who offers you a deal that sounds too good to be true.


0 thoughts on “Hidden Dangers: the Bangkok Gem Scam

  1. Mmm… I haven’t been on a tuk tuk yet since I came here because they do not have meter. Interesting. Thank you, Chris. Gotta watch out… but I love Thailand and most people are really nice as you said.

  2. I was stationed at Udorn RTAFB in 1969 with a friend that spent a large portion of his paycheck on rare gems every month. When he got back to the states, he found out he had a briefcase full of very expensive glass! Some things never change!

  3. I joined a tour group during several of my trips to Thailand, and everytime, they visited t a gem factory which was not a scheduled stopover. I guess this is another way of “politely” scamming the tourists.

  4. I think this is one of the oldest scams. One time a tuk tuk driver took his time taking me to some place. He kept asking me if I wanted to go to a store. After I kept saying no, he just pulled over and asked me to get off his tuk tuk. Grr…

  5. I tend to stick with my family/tour guides just because they always know the exact things to show and have an exciting story with historical facts that entertain.Jennfaceee brings an extremely good point though. :]

  6. @Devilzgaysianboi – I’ll tell you, though, that some of those tour guides are in on similar scams.  More than once I’ve taken folks on organized tours here and had to admonish the guides that we do not want to stop anywhere to buy gems, gold, suits, etc.  I’ve even gone so far as to explain that I will tip them and the driver extra if they don’t make any of those stops.

  7. this is true to most touristy places in big cities in ALL countries, unfortunately. the next time i’m in bangkok, i shall call on you to be my guide πŸ™‚

  8. @jennfaceee – Oh, sure, there are scams everywhere of course… this one is very pervasive here in Bangkok and literally every single time I bring visitors to the Grand Palace or – especially! – Wat Po, people try and stop us with the “oh, the temple is closed today” story.  The extent of it upsets me because it can really turn a tourist’s experience into a negative one and that affects their perception of Thailand as a whole.@ElusiveWords – That has happened a few times with taxis from the airport, too.  Halfway on the drive into the city, they ask for a higher, fixed amount.  Passenger says no, they get drumped by the side of the epxressway.@CurryPuffy – Exactly, it can happen even with the organized tours.@buddly47 – Oh, wow… that’s a shame.  Sorry that that happened to your friend.  Thanks for recommending this post.@I_love_Burma – Oh, yes… by and large the people are lovely.  Just avoid those tuk-tuks!  =D@YouToMe – @bmojsilo – You are welcome.  Thanks for the recommendations.@Fatcat723 – There are some pretty serious scams in Italy, from what I’ve seen.@murisopsis – I have to say, I’ve never had a problem in NY.  Cross fingers and knock on wood.@jandsschultz – @radio03 – Glad you found it interesting.

  9. Actually you’re right. On this ‘extremely cheap tour around China’… half the places we stopped at were sites trying to sell us ‘silks, teas, etc’ and although the goods were quality items, somebody on the tour told us that the company that led the tours actually made 50% on everything the tourists bought from these said sites. I often wonder if it’s like that just for certain countries or if it’s going on everywhere.

  10. HAH! You know Chris I was here the day you posted this, and commented on the post and rec’d it. I do not see my comment. I hope this one goes through. I think this is the third or fourth one in the last four or five days, that my comment has been swallowed by xanga.I know about the scams many countries have. It is exactly the same in India too. Unfortunately, the taxi drivers and the auto rickshaw peddlers know about the Indian people who are visiting India from abroad and take them for a ‘ride’ too.

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