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How to recongnize a Scam

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Vagabond Kids: How to recongnize a Scam

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to recongnize a Scam

The best 24 dollars ever spent, hands down. The "comfort kits" from Air Asia.

Blogging live from Jogja today. So far my trip has been typical for Asia, a bit of this a bit of that and a hustle or two. The only difference is now now we know better and know what we are doing. Last night we wanted to go out for dinner to a local place. Having read a guide book we pick a random restaurant that we feel will fit the kids needs and be located downtown for a bit of touristy stuff. So we popped into a taxi from the hotel with a plan in mind. On the way into town our driver got on the phone to a buddy of his. While my Bahasa is pretty non-existent, I hear the taxi driver call his buddy and while I was not really paying much attention, I hear him say "tutup", which I know means closed in Bahasa. After a bit of a drive we get to the spot and is in deed closed. But no fear, the driver tells us there is another spot, just down the road with good food.

This second place-located in the heart of "Backpackastan" on the Maliboro strip was fine. The food was good, the beers sinfully cheap, and the atmosphere one of a familiar backpacker grotto. While we are eating some guy starts chatting us up and discussing where we are from, you know that old noodle. At this point it has gotten late (at least for the kids who are on Singapore time one hour later) and there after, Jeff asks the guy if he is the owner. He responds that the bar is his friend's joint and we continue to eat and he just kind of hangs out. So far, no red flags right? But at this point we get stuck with a downpour and when the rains come Jeff starts to ask our friend if there is a way to call for a taxi. While the rains are a pouring, our new buddy tells us there is no way can we get to the taxi stand, we just need to wait out the rain. After the rains stop- now the kids are super tired- he tells us he would be happy to walk us to the stand, you know the stand is a bit hard to find he says. At this point I start to think to myself, why will he walk with us... seems weird and a small red flag raises up but not so much to stay put. When we start to walk down the street, take a turn down an alley filled with lots of backpacker hotels and bars I start to wonder where the taxi stand is because it is clearly not on this side street, but 100 meters down the alley our buddy says.."oh let's just stop at this Batik shop, this guy is a friend of mine and he can call you a taxi." At this point I know the drill, a scam in the making and I am having none of this, but Jeff is insistent on going on in and calling a taxi.

Dinner at the FM Cafe

The shop owners ask if we want a drink or a spot of tea, to which Jeff responds again with a polite but firm, no please just call us a taxi. I beg off I am sure acting a bit non-interested and at this point the big pitch hits. The artist tell us that all the all sales from this art store benefit a "charity". We are free to walk around and take our time, the taxi would be here soon and we can shop while we wait. I am not a very happy camper at this time, but I did see the guy call a taxi so we waited a few more minutes as the rain had started. I figure I would give this taxi a few minutes and then I would walk on out to the main road, rain be damned. You know with kids you have to look out for them. Well, we waited about 10 minutes and the taxi did come pick us up, and wouldn't you know it was the same driver that took us to the restaurant in the first place.

Today, while wandering around the Kraton, Jeff and the kids got taken to a one guy's mother's "batik" store. No shock to find all of the same batiks at this one of a kind store.

While we love travel in SE Asia these types of traps are pretty typical. Some are blatant and in your face (the tuk-tuk driver in Thailand taking you to a Gem store for example) while others like this are pretty innocent. If we would have purchased a batik I am sure we would have paid more than market price and the batik would have probably be printed rather than true batik. Even if not, the price was probably low and the risk again low, but some scams can be more dangerous.
A few tips: If someone wants to take you to show you a Aunt's/Mother's/cousin's/brother's store think twice before you purchase. If you do like something and feel like it is the only place you can possibly find said item and really want to purchase be aware. Do not use credit cards, don't flash lots of cash, be aware of your surroundings and make sure you know where you are and how to get to where you are going. Be polite but if you are not interested don't hang around politely leave. Of course general safety rules apply when you travel by yourself and or with kids and so long as you are aware of the touts and take it all in stride and with good common sense all is well.
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