Gem scams Part 2 - Bangkok

A comparison of techniques


The techniques of Bangkok´s con men are slightly subtler than those of their Indian colleagues. Of course local taxi and tuk-tuk drivers also mastered the crude art of towing taxi passengers into gemshops but the technique described below is more popular and presumably also more effective:

The potential victim is accosted at the bus stop by a dignified gentleman in his best suit. After some preliminary small-talk he reveals himself as a high-ranking retired civil servant, army officer or the like. He has but one problem. His pension is more than decent for Thai standards but, alas, it is not enough to indulge in his hobby, extensive travels to Europe.

Thank goodness there is the benedictory establishment of the "Government Gem Shop" [which, of course, is hogwash!]. Now normally these guys are not allowed to sell to laymen but once a year, during the "Gemstone Promotion Week", that ban is lifted and tourists are allowed to buy there.

Prices might be a fraction higher than on the free market but in return genuineness and quality are warranted by the governement. So for him, the gemmologically uneducated ex-general, it´s just the right place. As a matter of fact he gladly accepts the negligibly higher prices in exchange for the state-guaranteed fraud-free environment.

And after all the gems are still a steal and virtually self-selling in Europe. For him, at least, that poses no problem whatsoever. On the contrary, his european friends every year eagerly await his arrival to pry the stones from his hands.

Then the good man bids his good-bye not without offering to take the tourists along right away. After all it´s the penultimate day of the Gemstone Promotion Week. Now comes the perfidious part: tourists nowadays are a notoriously sceptical species and by nature distrust any offer to come along. So the good man hands over a business card of the gem shop – just in case you should decide not to spurn your fortune - and alights with a friendly smile.

If the victim harboured any suspicion that the gentleman was a con artist, he starts to think again. Which con man would exert so little pressure and give up so easily? Could the story be true after all?

What the tourist does not know, is that he is being followed by a second con man, if need be, until he exhaustedly returns to his hotel in the evening. At breakfast, at the latest, the same story is re-presented by the second man, accompanied again by the offer to come right along.

Many victims at that point decide to accept the offer and have a look or they come by themselves in the course of the day. Once in the gemshop, gems of inferior quality are foisted upon them at inflated prices.

In conclusion we would like to emphatically assure all those would-be gemtraders in pursuit of a quick profit that, contrary to what the con men want to make you believe, streets are not paved with gold and that the international gem trade does not depend on tourists to act as buyers or couriers.

Alas! We know perfectly well that this warning will be of no avail whatsoever. In due time next year the game will start all over again and the gem tricksters of this world will find their victims…