Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thai Police

"No, you stay right here, I'm calling the police on you." he sternly instructed us, and then grabbed my arm to hold me there as Tina just shook her head in what can only be described as wonder and amazement.

Ah, the wonders that are a foreign country, their customs and their wacky antics. We think that he meant it to put some fear into us, but instead we laughed and later said "Well, I guess we know what story we lead in with on the blog." It's nice when the world can conspire to help us overcome this small bout of writers block that we felt we had run into.

This being somewhat detained and informed that the police were being called on us, that happened on Saturday night in the Patpong area of Bangkok. This is an area of streets that is packed full of street vendors selling fake merchandise, and nightclubs that cover the full range from sex shows to Irish pubs. We wandered through the stalls trying to barter with the different vendors, but they were out of their mind expensive, and were adamant that we were crazy in the prices that we were asking for.

Tina at one point was looking at a pair of Puma sneakers and we calculated that the lady was asking for almost $100 for them. That's crazy we tell her, we can get these for $80 in Chicago, and those are authentic. We offer $15 and then go up to $20, but she refuses to drop that low for us. We do this with numerous times with the vendors and finally just assume that they must get enough tourists to pay their high asking price, so we pass on the shopping and decide that we need to get something to eat.

We wander around a little more looking for a place to eat, check out a few menus and then finally decide to try this seafood restaurant. Quaint little restaurant with a nice menu, we have some trouble deciding what to eat but eventually figure on shrimp cocktail and crab cocktail appetizers and scallops and a crab salad for the main meal.

Apparently our first mistake was ordering seafood at the restaurant, as they didn't know how to prepare the appetizers. The shrimp were warm and limp, like they had been out all day and the crab meat was all dried up. We mentioned this and they took them back and microwaved them. Ok, that's unacceptable, forget the food we will finish our drinks and just leave. Oh, our food is done and you are sorry about the appetizers, ok we will try it. The scallops were alright, but Tina's crab salad is just more of the really dry crab meat.

One of the managers takes it back without a problem, but tells us "If you wanted fresh crab you need to order the live crab, this had been sitting out all day." Really? We noticed that, that's why we are sending it back.

The fun comes when we get the bill and all of our food is on there, the one manager had said "Sorry about that, no problem." which it now appears that the other manager interpreted as - yes, no problem as long as they pay for everything. We tell him to take the appetizers and Tina's meal off the bill and he leaves grumbling.

He comes back with a new bill, this time without the food we didn't eat, but now with a 40 baht charge for napkins. No, we aren't paying for napkins. You can't charge us for something that we didn't have an option of ordering. This is when he decides to state "You no pay? I call the cops, then you pay. I go call cops now."

"Yes," we tell him "call the cops, let them explain why we have to pay for napkins. Go, we will wait." That's where we were lying, as we didn't want to wait, and it became obvious that he wasn't going to call the cops as he just backed away and waited for us to pay the bill. So we decided that we would pay it, just we weren't going to add in the 10% service charge because it didn't make sense to pay for the rude service.

That's what set him off, he counted the money and just had this odd quizzical look on his face for a few seconds, then "No, this is not enough, you pay all or I call the cops." "We are not going to pay for no service, it was either service or the napkins and you want to be paid for the napkins. We have to go." That's when he grabbed my arm to hold me, but then let go when a new group came into the restaurant. No sense in letting them see an argument and then leaving, this is where I was actually surprised as it had seemed like he was angry and wanted to make a stand over this new charge for two napkins.

So, we left and laughed about it. What a nice dinner, part of me would have liked him to actually call the cops. It didn't really sink in for me that the napkins weren't on the first bill until later, that would have been a good rebuttal from us too. I think he though he was really getting us, but without his tip they actually lost more then had we paid the tip and not the 40 baht for the napkins.

Additional information tied to our Saturday night in the street markets -

When we left on Sunday, we learnt that our currency conversion numbers were wrong. I had been using 20baht/1$ when it is actually around 32baht/1$. We got the wrong conversion from the airline when you had to pay for drinks and they charged an inflated baht/yuan conversion, which we then butchered in adding it to our already slightly off yuan/$ math.

All those vendors that had insisted we were crazy were right, Tina actually talked the sneakers down to $12, and was only offering her $9 thinking that we were at $15. Our poor currency conversion skills probably saved us from spending around $40 on junk we don't really need.....

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