I think the preface to any ‘rip off ‘ worker story must be that normally the workers are pretty good and honest – but times they are a changin’ in good ole Pattaya, Thailand. There are some sleazy folks out there waiting to pounce at the first opportunity. I do consider myself lucky to still be able to count the times I’ve been ripped off on a single hand.
The prerequisite to getting a shifty contractor is 1.) being in a real hurry to find someone. 2.) finding someone you haven’t worked with before. In this case the work at hand was pretty easy no skilled required stuff. Move some blocks, rocks, and coconut stalks.
The Ms. went to ask our friend the taxi man if he could recommend anyone. He thought for a second and then introduced her to someone who was supposedly up to the task. Another motorcycle taxi driver who also doubled as a contractor.
The first time I met him I really didn’t like what I saw. He was the type who couldn’t do anything by himself, he had some workers he brought with him. He said something about hoping I was Jai Dee, OK just friendly banter, but not the type you would get if I was Thai Chinese or something.
Then a little bit into the work, the non-working foreman was already hitting the wife up for some booze. Another obvious bad sign. But then again, the work was pretty easy and didn’t require much skill. How bad could things really go?
One job was loading cinderblocks on a 6 wheel truck and then unloading them at a second location. So we get to the second location and instead of unloading them by hand he wants to dump the load. After some discussion and me explaining why it wasn’t good just to dump them, I noticed the truck was going ahead and raising up the bed and then proceeded to dump them. It was becoming apparent that this guy wasn’t going to be doing a very good job here.
The next part of this story is a confrontation between the shifty contractor and Ms. Dozer. I was out running errands at the end of the first day. The contractor hit Ms. Dozer up for the entire bid amount of the work done. Of course she refused, since the work was only about 20% done. But he insisted, stating that he had to pay the two workers, they weren’t from there and needed the money. Also, he said she could trust him (famous last words), blah, blah, blah. The normally pretty sharp Ms. Dozer in a moment of temporary insanity disgustingly paid the guy.
Now it would be easy enough if he just simply said, OK I got you! and didn’t show up anymore. But the next day he does show up around noon and says he will come back after lunch. Then about 2PM he shows up and moves a few blocks and then claims he can’t do it by himself and goes off to find some workers.
Then he comes back with a couple of workers about 4PM and the start commenting on how far the blocks need to be moved. Was that part of the agreement? And could Ms. Dozer skinny up another 300 baht anyway?
We both saw red and explained that the job was already bid and he would need to honor the agreement. He muttered something and stormed off.
At this point I was really pissed off and Ms. Dozer wasn’t too happy either. I was in the car driving and she said ‘Where are you going’. ‘To the police station’. ‘What in heavens for?’. ‘To report that as**ole’.
It did at the time seem to me that the police would be interested in a conman scammer. After all, they do get after these guys who pull the straightforward scams (ie. ‘I found a gold chain in front of the bank, let me hold your money while I go to find out how much it is worth’). Surely they could at least go hassle this guy.
So when we got to the police station and Ms. Dozer refused to get out of the truck, I realized I would be going this one alone. I got to the police station and started explaining the entire episode to a friendly and receptive police officer.
I asked him if I put in a complaint, exactly what would happen. The answer wasn’t exactly clear, but I deduced that we could pursue this thing which would involve the police man going over and talking with the guy. He did mention that if it was for under a large sum it probably wasn’t worth it, but he was willing to help.
It suddenly dawned on me that sitting in the car was actually a better idea. I mean what was I actually expecting to happen? That 1600 baht was gone and there was no scenario under which I would be getting it back. Go hassle the guy a bit, yes a possibility. Would the police want some show of gratitude? Possibly.
It was dawning on me that ‘it’s the principle of the thing’ doesn’t apply here. I thanked the officer for his time and closed the book on this minor but rather irritating rip off.
Lessons learned. It is best to explain to everyone at the beginning of the project that funds won’t be forthcoming until completion. That way it isn’t left up to the spouse to argue it out with the contractor later.
Asking a Thai person for a recommendation often comes across as ‘Do you know anyone that can do this work?’ — as opposed to ‘Do you know someone good and honest who can do this work?’.
Another point. You won’t find scammers like this outside of expat areas (such as Pattaya), so if you are living upcountry you have this in your favor.