Jewelery & Gem Scams, Bangkok
When it comes to precious stones, there is no such thing as a discount. In this industry, what you pay is what you will get. These scam artists will try to convince you otherwise.
They commonly operate at these places:
1. The Grand Palace entrance
2. Wat Pho
3. Wat Saket
4. Lately, Wat Paknam
What they will tell you:
1. The Grand Palace is closed for a festival.
2. There is a gemstone DISCOUNT only for FOREIGNERS at the Gemstone Export Centre (a non-existent entity) and it's the last day for discounts.
3. The Grand Palace will be opened later, but because we're palace officials, "Take this tuktuk for a day tour at "other tourist attractions and the Export Centre" and the tuk tuk bring you back when the palace opens in 3 hours."
4. The gemstones could be sold to a jeweller in your country of origin for a tidy profit.
You will then be met by a so called expatriate Thai (another scam artist buddy) at another location where the tuk tuk has taken you and you'll be told exactly the above. He'll then show you a receipt from a dodgy thai jeweller (where you are to go soon) for a large carat blue sapphire at a reasonable price. He'll often quote big name jewellers from your home country eg. Mappin & Webb, Aspreys, Tiffany's, Soo Kee etc. where he's "sold" his sapphire which paid for his European / American / Singapore holiday.
The scam is indeed a very elaborate and well planned endeavor to fleece alot of money off you. Many who've bought from these scam jewellery shops will find out back home that instead of buying something they were told to be undervalued, are after all genuine but low grade corundrum (the scientific name of sapphire and ruby) that have been treated with beryllium (a technique developed by the Thais themselves) to ARTIFICIALLY enhance or change its original colour, rending them undesirable and unsaleable to a jeweller. Refunds are often hard to arrange and even if successful, you will only get 80% of what you've paid plus sleepless nights and days off from work.
The take home message here are:
1. Never trust anyone that tries to befriend you in the streets. Thais are friendly, but they won't go all the way to such extremes of friendliness unless there's something to gain from you.
2. The Grand Palace is NEVER closed. If it is, then thousands of other visitng locals are wrong too.
3. The official looking friendly guy claiming to be a "palace official" isn't what you think he is (an official). He's one of the scammers operating at the palace gates. Expect him to give you the whole spiel mentioned above.
4. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Exercise utmost caution.
5. And lastly, read the 2bangkok gem scam website before going to Thailand. Its database has an extensive record of anecdotes and quests for money back by the victims of these incorrigible gem shops. It is regularly updated with the names of questionable shops (with photos) and the methods used to lure unwitting buyers.
Never go with anyone, who says they have a friend, who has a good deal on some jewerly. Never go with a cab driver or tuk tuk driver, who says this.
A lot of tourists have beens scamed by this. The government is trying to educate tourists about these scams. On city maps(which are free at the airport) you may see an ad about this. Just be careful and if it seems like a too good deal-it probably is. Use jewerly stores that are listed in reputable guide books.
Even though I wrote this tip years ago, I still see it happening on the streets in 2004, so please read the following:
Bangkok's infamous gem scam has ruined the holidays of many, many visitors to Thailand and it is an important thing to be aware of beforehand if you want to avoid becoming yet another victim.
The scam is no secret - there's warnings about it in every guidebook and in posters put up around Bangkok by the Tourist Authority, yet many people are still caught unaware of it.
Though it does happen occasionally in other parts of Thailand, the vast majority of incidences take place in Bangkok.
Touts will use all kinds of stories to trick you into visiting this place called the Lucky Buddha Temple. They will spin tall tales of people striking rich after visiting the temple. At the temple, you might be made to donate some money to the temple as an offering. What happens after is that you will 'bump' into a person who will offer you a tip on how to earn a quick buck (it's as if the lucky buddha has indeed brought good luck!). Basically, the story that the person will tell you is that the gems in bangkok are really cheap..and one can make a quick buck just by buying gems from bkk and bringing it back to one's home country to resell. To make the story more convincing, the person will take out receipts of purchase and resale as proof. To trick singaporeans, the person will also lie about how this well-known jewellery shop in singapore will readily buy such gems. After all these have been said, if you appear interested..the person (or he'll signal to his accomplice - usually a tuktuk driver) will offer to bring you to this shop that's offering very special discounts on that particular day.
We just returned from a package tour to Bangkok and pattaya, and though we enjoyed the trip, my impression of thailand has gone so bad that I will never return to this country, simply because the police or thai tourist authorities just donot care (or worse are hand in glove with day light scamsters).We were travelling to Bangkok from Pattaya when our guide announced that we would be taken to a 'govt. owned' Gem factory where we would be shown how gems are 'cut and polished' and then they would show us there the world's biggest jewelry store, which by the size of it may be true(big as a football stadium). They showed us a short film very impressively made about how Thailand was the biggest source of precious colored gems and this factory was the biggest. We were then taken down to the store where there are rows and rows of gems displayed immaculately and the smmoth talking sales girls 'talked' 6 of the families to make various purchases all amounting to about 75,000 Bahts. Even those of us who did not have cash were brainwashed smoothly to use our credit cards. We returned to our home country yesterday and when we appraised these 'precious gems' and gold jewelry the overall cost is not more than 1,000 bahts at the very most ( we cross checked with atleast 4 leading gemologists). After we realised how badly we were scammed we saw that the receipts and certificate have been given in the name of 'KK jewelers" and there is no mention of VSK any where(I couldnot also Google there website). I tried the phone numbers to no avail and we are couriering back the 'junk jewelry' back to this scamster and am trying to complain to he Thai tourist authorities about these crooks. PLEASE BE AWARE AND DONOT BUY ANY JEWELRY ORGEMS ANY WHERE IN BANGKOK. I wish some body had educated us about this fraud before.
As the majority of visitors to Thailand are going to take at least one organised trip be aware that the tour guides on the trip are all trying to make a decent living and many work on commission only so will do their best to get you to a jewelery factory and hope you buy something. After our Palace tour our guide asked if we wanted to go on a longboat trip on the Khlongs which we agreed to, but when we came back and got back into our minibus she said we were now going onto the gems factory. We said we didnt want to go but she said "you must. It is part of my job to take you there" .We said, very firmly, that if we had wanted to go there we would have booked it and NO WE DID NOT WANT TO GO! She became flustered and rang someone on her mobile and the driver seemed to be harrassing her. Finally we said we would get a taxi back to our hotel as we didnt like the idea of being taken somewhere against our will. It spoilt a really good day.
This is a true experience that I encountered on our trip in Bangkok. Con artists with very "well written" script !
We were on our way to Chinatown on day. While waiting for traffic to turn red, a man standing beside us smile to us so we ask him for direction to a temple (we nv thought he was a con artists). He appear to be very friendly, and told us that he is an art teacher. He ask where we were from and said he hv been to our country...After which, he told us that the temple we wanted to go is closed and we should go to another temple first, then move on to a big factory that sells many products at wholesale price which only opens to public this week. (I hv came across these stories in VT, so I was very aware of Tuk Tuk drivers. never did we expect that con artists in bangkok is so "skilled") .After talking for a while, he flagged down a tuk tuk for us.. we were reluctant to board but after he tried to bargain for us and told us the other temple is v near and only open in this week... we boarded ( think we must hv been hypnotise).
Upon reaching the "so called open once a year" temple. we saw a man praying inside (another con artist -his partner)..after he finished with his prayers, he walk towards us n tried to be friendly again...he told us he also hv relatives staying in our country. He began to tell us that gems are very good and that we can get good price in bangkok. He explain to us for abt 30mins... He was so detailed and made you believed that gems are extremely cheap there. (lucky I am not into jewellery/ gems)...Most imptly, he will tell you the shop is only open this week and today is the last day. He said the place is very big and sells many other items. Do take note these shops are known as "Home products, Local Products etc" . Its lucky that we managed to escape without buying any fake products from them. We walked out of the shop the moment we know smthg is wrong and told the tuk tuk driver that we are meeting someone else...or else we might not know what other places we will end up in...
Unless you're an expert don't buy anything. But go to a gem shop because you read about all the people that got tricked into going and because you're curious about what it's all about. It's actually kinda interesting and I bet if you went to Bangkok and never went to a gem shop the curiousity of what they were about would irk you! Plus it's funny to mess around with all the sales ladies.
BEWARE OF TOUTS & GEM SCAMS: Don't fall for "friendly" guides, who speak preety good English. They may drive a taxi ot tuk-tuk.They hang out near major tourist sites, hotels and shopping areas and they'll tell you the temples are closed (holiday, cleaning, the king relatives passed away, whatever). They will try to take you along on a "get rich quick" scheme sold as a cheap day-long tour of the city. Trust me, you'll end up going to a fake gem store or a crappy tailor or a massage parlour, or worse. The tuk-tuk driver will tell you that he will get a coupon of petrol when he bring you to the shop and this will make a pitty on him and you will agreed to go to the shop in order for the driver to get free coupons, this all were lies from them. This syndicate were well perform and trained and very proffesional and to tell you some of this gang members were foreigners (Not Thai) which will try to convince you on buying the fake gems. For the Thai people of this gang, don't make shame on your country and your Beloved King. You are just making bad image on your own county and your own people, as a result we do not trust any taxi driver or tuk-tuk driver that are hanging around the tourist attraction or the hotel. Avoid hangling with tuk-tuk drivers and take a taxi (flag fall B35, with an average fare or less than B100). Always flag a moving taxi, not one waiting by the hotel or tourist site. (they just want to rip you off) For the autorities of Thailand action must be taken by their govermenton this group of syndicate to prevent them from insulting the image of Thailand. What a SHAME!
Phew! I am making another trip to Bangkok in Mar'08,Lucky Budda Temple is one of the location that I planned 2visit again! As, back in 2002, I made a wish there! I been wanted 2 go back to"thank" the wish. Well~~~Haha!
I feel so so so so so so blessed to read this here now!!! \(^_^)/
Sharing few other sites that commented about the scam as well~
Beware of scams by people inticing you into believing that your lucky to be in thailand at the time and you are fortunate because the government is allowing tourist to buy jewells tax free at the very time you are there for one week only , your led to believe you very lucky and you can double your money back in westernised countrys , sounds great huh yeh well i got ripped for about 4000$ u.s. call me a sucker but there very smooth ..its not isolated to one company its very common ..
Do not purchase from this business.
All cheats and deception.
Vorsicht vor dieser Firma. Steine meistens unecht und nicht einmal die Hälfte des bezahlten Preises wert.
Es besteht eine sinceposted Warnung im Internet.
If I am in Sydney, waiting out the front of David Jones department store or Sydney Opera House waiting for the doors to open and some chap comes up to me and tells me the shop/Opera House won't open and I should go off with him, or some other nonsense, I am, at the very least, going to tell him to nick off. So what is the difference between Thailand and your own country when it comes to common sense? Especially when every guidebook/website/forum on Thailand, without exception warns you to ignore such people.
By the way, I am not having a bar of the airport scam tales and I don't know of one person (and I know hundreds of people who use Bangkok airport regularly) that has been caught by this alleged scam. So, in my opinion it is either total nonsense, or very, very rare.
Even in the so called "Factory", there are fakes gems as they may not be authentic. You have to have the experience and knowledge to discern. Check for certificates from the government but it is not fool-proof too.