Whenever you go to a new country for a holiday, you always need to have your wits around you or you might fall for a scam. In places like Thailand this is very difficult as Thais are naturally very hospitable. Numerous times I’ve had complete strangers go out of their way to help me or buy me meals. I always feel bad about turning them down, but really you should heed your parents advice to you when you were a toddler: “DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS!” The scam I will tell you about today is called the “Bird Food Scam” and takes place in front of the Grand Palace and right in front of the Tourist Police. It comes under the category of being forced to pay for something that you didn’t order or ask for.
The way this scam works is that someone will come up to the tourist with a bag of bird food. In this case it is bird seed. He scatters some on the ground and then gives the tourist the already opened bag. He does this quite forcefully by grabbing their hand.
Of course, the tourist is quite perplexed as he doesn’t really understand what is going on. So, the man scatters some more bird seed on the ground to demonstrate. He then puts the bag back in the hand of the unsuspecting tourist. By this time he is a bit bemused and decides to play along with this somewhat crazy man.
He is then given another bag of bird seed and told to throw it to the birds. And then again with a third bag. The tourist is clearly confused but does as he is told. Once all the seed has gone he then walks away. The man then chases after him and demands that he pays 300 Baht. That is 100 Baht per bag! Not bad for 3 minutes work.
Only a few minutes later this man had his sights on another unsuspecting tourist. The scam starts the same way of throwing bird seed onto the ground. He then puts the bag in the tourist’s hand and tells him to do the same.
Like the previous tourist, he is confused and so the man has to demonstrate again.
The man puts the bag of bird seed back in the tourist’s hand and tells him to throw it on the ground. Confused, the tourist does as he is told. Two more bags are passed to him and he is told again to throw the bird seed on the ground.
Then comes the punchline. The man demands that the tourist now pays him 300 Baht. The tourist at first refuses as he didn’t understand what was going on. But the man starts to get aggressive and demands that he pays him straight away. Finally the tourist capitulates and gives him the money.
Some people may say that this is the tourist’s fault for being so naive. But it is really extortion and this should be reported to the police. Unfortunately, I tried this but the Tourist Police were not interested. They knew it was going on but they chose to turn a blind eye. I will write more about my frustrations with the Tourist Police over on my blog RichardBarrow.com soon.