The Bangkok Double Pricing Debate (2.33)

2017-11-14T22:49:39+00:00


On this episode we get into one of Thailand’s most contentious topics – double pricing. But first we talk about selfies in a ball pit and a hidden hipster hangout.

Just down the road for us on our side of the river is a hidden hipster hideout in Bangkok called called The Jam Factory. And by “hidden”, we mean new to Evo. Because it’s pretty well known by everyone other than him. Also Greg visits Central Embassy and attempts to lose his child in a giant plastic bubble bath filled with selfie takers. But as interesting as both of those topics sound, neither are what we’re talking about today.

Let’s just get this out of the way: We think double pricing sucks. Thailand is notorious for pricing things like museums, national parks, landmarks, and other civic works differently depending on where a visitor was born. Foreigners — we stand out a bit — pay an inflated price, where Thai nationals pay much, much less. Sometimes Thai nationals pay nothing at all. As representatives of the foreigners overcharged, we don’t like it. But we try to understand the rationale for it on this week’s episode and present their side. We’re not sure we did a good job. But here are the excuses main arguments most often offered to justify dual pricing in Thailand:

  • Foreign workers make more money than Thais, so they can afford it.
  • Tourists don’t pay Thailand taxes to support those civic works. (Note: both of us pay taxes in Thailand)
  • It’s a nationalistic benefit reserved for Thai citizens.

All of those are valid concerns. However, we’re not buying it. Listen in to learn how we carefully (and hopefully respectfully) dismantle each of those excuses arguments.

And though we try very hard not to push our own agenda on our adopted country, here’s what we think could be the consequences if the dual pricing issue isn’t addressed (which it hasn’t been for decades, we get it.)

  • It may be seen as racist to a world becoming more and more aware and intolerant of racism.
  • It’s a deterrent to tourism as it has been to other countries that have done stupid things in the name of squeezing out a few bucks from hapless tourists.
  • It’s a constant PR black eye that will cause (and perhaps is causing) people to seek out their SE Asian vacation/expat home in other neighboring countries.

Now, hopefully we didn’t go overboard on complaining. It’s not what we set out to do. And if you have a different opinion, we invite you to leave a comment below or on our social channels. Let’s keep the conversation going. One great way is our new LINE account, just for the Bangkok Podcast. Hey, we’re in Thailand, and LINE is huge here. So of course we have a LINE account. Follow along and talk to us there, too!

Love, Loathe, or Leave

Almost half a year ago, we talked about Bangkok’s “saluting security guards” in an early LLoL segment. But Greg forgot something key to the conversation that Gregory Hines would be proud of. Listen in to find out why we’re being so mysterious, and whether or not this clicks for us. (Heh.)

Want more?

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See you next time on The Bangkok Podcast!

 

7 Comments

  1. Mark Nerczuk May 27, 2017 at 1:41 am - Reply

    Love your podcast I have been listening to your show driving to work this year. We are both teaches and starting our retirement in July. July 18 we are heading for Europe and from there to SE Asia. We have been toying with the idea of spending few years there and your podcast gives me great insides into life in Thailand. As for the double pricing, I hate the idea of concealing the price or charging people based on their appearance. That aside, we have double pricing in the states. One can mention resident and non-resident fees at most if not all state run community centers and universities. Also, many countries charge “global taxes’. For example in Poland, my homeland, if you live there more than 183 days a year, you need to pay tax on all your income all over the world. The same applies to India, according to my friend who teaches at an international school there. However, they don’t charge you based on your looks. It seems like Thailand needs to find more equitable ways to get their money from the visitors.

    • Greg May 29, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      Hi Mark, thanks for the comment. You know, the more we read about it the more we find that the practice is more common than we thought – although it does seem in Thailand there is an underlying element of deceit about it a lot of the time. If they stopped doing that and posted some legit reasons for the double-pricing for all to read, I bet the controversy would die down pretty quickly.

  2. Liam May 28, 2017 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    The whole double pricing thing could be solved if Thais weren’t so tone deaf about it. I’m from Hawaii and many tourist spots charge different prices for visitors and locals, but they do it in a manner that isn’t offensive. The sign will say:

    ADMISSION: $10
    DISCOUNTED PRICE FOR HAWAII RESIDENTS: $5
    (HAWAII STATE ID REQUIRED)

    No one is offended because unlike the Thai way the sign just says you get a discount if you have a state id card. Thais instead choose to word it in a way that comes off like this:

    ADMISSION: 10฿
    10X TIME PRICE FOR ALL NON-THAI ETHNIC GROUPS: 100฿
    (FOREIGNER WITH THAI ID? WE DON’T CARE YOU ARE NOT THAI)

    While of course that is tongue in cheek there is a kernel of truth to it. Thais are wording it in a manner that is very easy to take offense at. If they double priced like in the first example I think people would be far less offended.

    • Greg May 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

      Hey Liam, nail on the head. Context and tone matters, but – as with a lot of signs and websites in Thailand – they don’t get a native speaker to check the English first, which often leads to confusion, laughs, or – in this case – offense. A lot of expats in Asia like to complain about everything anyway, so you’d still have people bitching if your solution was used – but it’s a much clearer and neutral way to state the message. 🙂

  3. Liam May 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Here is an example of an admission sign to a state park in Hawaii that has double pricing but does it in a non-offensive way: https://goo.gl/lAuesZ

  4. Pannathorn Nakaphan May 29, 2017 at 1:41 am - Reply

    I’m Thai and I have never really thought about this topic though. It was quite interesting when you guys compared dual pricing to some forms of racism. If this had happened to me when I visited other countries, I would have had the same feeling. However, I think that if the foreigner price is applied to all Thai people, it is unfair since it is not affordable for most of them. I believe that Thai citizens should have the right to visit important places in Thailand ,especially, when such places represent Thai identities. This may be the reason why they charge Thai people such a small amount of money.

    Anyway, I have just discovered your show and I really enjoy it !

    • Greg May 29, 2017 at 3:42 pm - Reply

      Hi Pannathorn, thanks for the comment! Yes, it’s definitely a complicated issue, and a one-size-fits-all solution is hard, or impossible to find. I don’t think Thais should pay higher prices, but I do think it’s fair if expat residents were able to pay the Thai price. I believe that most foreigners would be okay with double pricing if it was standardized and explained properly (see the comment above from Liam), but it’s so random. One park gives you a local price with a Thai driver’s license, another needs a work permit, another one charges full price no matter what. And when asked why foreigners get charged more, “because you’re rich” isn’t the best way to answer.

      Thanks for listening!

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