The Great Chang Mai Suit Scam

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Chang Mai city wall
We had laughed to ourselves at stories we had read or heard of people falling for numerous scams in Southeast Asia, and never thought we would fall for one hook, line and sinker ourselves. It wasn't as bad as the title suggests, but one to write home about, nonetheless.

Our journey from Chang Rai went smoothly, and this time we weren't going to make the same mistake as Battambang and miss the country's second biggest city completely. This time, though, it was fairly obvious.

After dropping our bags at a total result of a hostel, we went on one of our trademark explores around town to get our bearings and see a few recommended wats (temples), of which Chang Mai is rammed.
Outside wat
While we were studying our map, a Thai guy accosted us, asking us if we needed help. Suspecting he was trying to sell us something, I was blunt with him in the hope he would leave us. But he was persistant. He started a bit of small talk. We spoke of our travels about our travels and England, English footy - and even how fat Paul Robinson is. We were joined at this point by his girlfriend, who he told us he would soon marry, and it was in Chang Mai that he was to buy his suit. He told us that he had got his suit from this tailors which had a sale on. He circled a wat he said we should visit and added this tailor. I noticed that the wat was neither recommended by our hostel or our Lonely Planet and was quite near this tailor the guy was banging on about - but didn't suspect a thing. In fact, I was more pleased that he had managed flag down a tuk-tuk driver and got us a lift to the other side of town for 10B each (under 20p).
Outside wat
I thought it was weird he got onto his phone as soon as we left as I went to wave goodbye, but didn't suspect anything of it.

Then after visiting this wat - which was very nice - we were accosted by a second person as we sat by the riverside - a Japanese tourist waiting for his wife and kids to return by boat, apparently. We asked him what he was doing and he told us he was in Chang Mai on business. His wife was a fashion designer and they had bought 600 suits from a local tailors to have shipped back to Japan. Again, it had taken a while to get on the subject of suits, but it wasn't long before he was telling us that Chang Mai is the place to buy one and that in Bangkok it was more expensive for an inferior product.
Wat Phra Kaew Don
Kyle had looked forward to buying a suit in Thailand for her new job, so two people recommending buying a suit in Chang Mai, not surprisingly, made her ears prick up. I wasn't too bothered, but knowing that the inevitable job interviews waited for me once home, also thought it might be a sensible purchase if the price was right. Anyway, the Japanese guy told us that this tailor he had brought from had won an award for being the best tailor in Thailand and had a sale on as a result. He said we should go check it out, and that it was the only tailor on the road he pointed us to - we now know that is complete rubbish; there's loads! I joked at this point that it sounded like he worked for them. And how stupid that sounds in retrospect!

So seen as Kyle wanted to go check it out, I went with her. One of the salesman seemed to be waiting for us at the door. But, again, I didn't suspect a thing. We looked at some nice suits in catalogues and he said, if we both ordered, we would get a good deal. I was sold once I had weaseled a suit with two pairs of trousers and two shirts and ties. We left feeling rather smug, to be honest.

Then, later, we went out for dinner with a few people from our hostel. We told them about our suits. We speculated as to how peculiar it was that two people had recommended this place, to which one girl added she had someone recommend it, too. Then the penny dropped. I went from suspecting just the Japanese guy - who was near the shop when we spoke to him - was definitely involved to convincing myself there was an intricate network where even the tuk-tuk driver took a slice of the commision. I felt really angry, as you would imagine, having misjudged three people's sincerity, only to later realise it was false. Especially the couple, who we had congratulated on getting married.

That night we had a fitting, which we attended almost dispondently, having convinced ourselves we had actually been fooled into paying money (I hear you groan as we say, yes, we paid upfront!). On the way I had the scariest tuk-tuk drive of my life. The driver was obviously disabled - his jaw was locked and he had a constant stream of dribble running down his chin; his arms were locked, too, and he couldn't speak, either. Obviously, it would be an ideal world if every person with a disability could find work, but this was just too scary! We made it, though. At the shop, I confronted the salesman, and as his answer was stumbled and unconvincing, and delivered to only Kyle, without giving me eye contact once, my suspicions were confirmed. He said the award was only for tailors in Chang Mai and what he said the Japanese guy ordered didn't align with what he told us. But, as it happens, the suits actually seemed spot on - not that we are experts. I will get back to you on the results once it's done.

Anyway, it left us feeling pretty down, even though it will be no great detriment to our trip. I'm sure the worst that will happen is that it might not be the suit that Kyle had really hoped it would be, and that we might have got a better-value product elsewhere. I suppose the biggest disappointment isn't with the product, but the way the three different people fooled you into believing what they said. As a plus, it may mean we keep our guards up with anyone who tries to talk to us again to prevent something more serious  happening. It's just a shame that has to be the case, though.
lddja says:
Hi
Did you ever get the finished product? What was is like?
Posted on: Sep 24, 2015
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Chang Mai city wall
Chang Mai city wall
Outside wat
Outside wat
Outside wat
Outside wat
Wat Phra Kaew Don
Wat Phra Kaew Don
Chiang Mai Hostels review
Rubbish name, brilliant hostel. Felt like living in a wealthy mate's house for a few days. Don't do what I did and keep calling Pong, the owner,… read entire review
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes