South East Asia Silk RouteTrace historic trade routes from the Tibet plateau to ancient Pagan and beyond to Chiang Rai.
In spite of all the variables travellers seem to have one thing in common. No one likes to see hard earned holiday savings wasted on rip offs and profiteering. Everyone likes to see value for money and I’m as much into saving pennies as the next person. I used to prowl the currency exchange booths looking for the ‘best’ rate and often did it in the company of others keen to save a cent here or a small % there. I initially thought that this was good fun but now I realise that it was pointless. There are just too many folk out there in tourist land poised to gouge us for every cent saved at the currency exchange and more. Besides my efforts to save a bit on exchange were just too small to warrant the effort and there is a sobering truth behind all this. The moment you set foot in some else’s economy your hard earned cash becomes a target for some unscrupulous rat bag. I’m not suggesting that this is ‘par for the course’ it isnt. Every travel destination worthy of the name has plenty of good value places to eat and drink, shop and browse. Just don’t expect to find them in the places where lots of travellers congregate and ocialise.
Overpricing is just one of the more visible things that get my goat. It’s easy to spot but not so easy to avoid. You know the story about short seasons and high overheads. I say cut your cloth to suit. If you can’t make an honest buck without loading the price then be prepared to go hungry. Pity is that I’m the one who caves in , eventually , but that doesnt mean that I have to like getting fleeced. I reckon that people who price gouge travellers fall into four categories –
1. Commission Spivs 2. Blatent Profiteers 3. Enterprising Gougers 4. Honest Opportunists I reserve my greatest disdain for the ‘Spivs’ who knowingly and deliberately rip off unsuspecting travellers. These folk hang about at bus stations, airports, nightspots and tourist markets looking for ‘marks’ to shoehorn into purchases they otherwise wouldn’t make and couldn’t afford anyway. Into this category go the ‘English speaking conversationalists’ the ‘curators of blind woman’s art collectives’ the ‘charity for the rehabilitation of war wounded’, and the battalion of seemingly kind and well intentioned people who just happen to be passing and couldn’t help but notice that you looked lost, bewildered, in need of a friend and so on. These folk prey on the good nature of travellers in a foreign place so they deserve to be in the sludge at the bottom of the barrel.
Blatant Profiteers are one level above the nasty mass of Commission Spivs. They provide poor service and mediocre food because they can. This is often because there is no competition to keep them honest. Once upon a yesteryear ‘blatant profiteers’ used to be thinly disguised as state owned enterprises. I don’t dare to suggest that this is still the case but I have to say that healthy competition is the one thing that profiteers have nightmares about.
Enterprising Gougers are everywhere where travellers gather to sleep, eat, drink and party. I’m excluding shopping because it’s almost impossible for anyone to get a monopoly on the things that travellers might buy. Anyone who expects a premium on a basic product or service without adding any value to it is a gouger. These are the folk who plead short seasons and high overheads but are quick to shut up shop and go off on extended holiday when the cash flow starts to falter.
I have most sympathy with Honest Opportunists. These folk struggle to make a living in the shadow of the gougers. You can spot them trading from premises rented from landlords who have already bailed for the season. I don’t begrudge an extra % on coffee or food at a welcoming village or wayside cafe, still trading when all others have closed and fled. These folk are in business for the thick and thin ends of the season and I prefer to spend my money with them.
In the end it all comes down to what travellers are prepared to tolerate. A friend suggested that travellers had the power, either go with the flow or go without. The ‘contact’ to buy and sell principal doesnt hold much appeal when you know that profiteers are out to gouge you and choice is limited or non existant. I’m going with the little guy holed up in the corner cafe where the service is genuine and the intent is honourable, even if the price carries a wee premium.