After our slight flight hiccup, we managed to get from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and headed on towards the train station to catch our overnight ride to the ferry that would eventually get us to Chiang Mai.
Neither of us had been on an extended train ride, and were rather optimistically expecting a Hogwarts express like experience. The Chumpon express didn’t quite measure up, but it was manageable, and the bunk beds were actually pretty comfortable.
As we settled in, a seemingly friendly Thai woman was running up and down the aisles offering out menus and communicated that she was serving dinner. Hungry, we both picked reasonably priced meals which came with a beverage. We placed our orders, and she offered us water, orange juice, or a soda to go along with our meals and we both asked for orange juice.
She came back with our meals, and after staring at our food for about 30 minutes (she forgot to give us cutlery), we had a solid meal and were generally satisfied with the overall experience.
That was, until she came back with the bill. She handed us the bill, and to our surprise it was nearly double what we had expected to pay. Confused, we inquired further, and she said that we had to pay 90 baht each for the orange juices (90 baht is good for roughly two full meals in many Thai towns, and though only the equivalent of $3 each in USD, it is a significant amount in Thailand). As our meals had included drinks, we asked to see the menu and pointed at the to where it said “Free Drink!” in bolded letters.
The seemingly sweet woman began getting upset, and this is when things began to turn ugly. She started saying she gave us the large orange juice which cost more. We asked why she didn’t give us the normal size ones like we ordered, and in broken English she said that she was out of normal size so we had to pay extra. Jason taught me this is a greasy, yet common, “business” practice that some Thai folks engage in to trick foreigners into false charges. We told her we weren’t going to pay for the juices because she told us they were included, and then her fake smile made way for full fledged anger.
She began yelling at us, repeatedly screaming “Just a moment!” for some lost in translation reason, and then started hooting and hollering about how she was going to “call the police.” As Jason spoke enough Thai to explain the situation, we were happy to have them come.
She stormed off and reappeared moments later with a train conductor. Worked up, she quickly began explaining in Thai the situation while we shared our perspective. The poor conductor, caught in the middle of this awkward moment simply shrugged his shoulders as if to say keep me out of it, and quite literally walked away from the situation.
The little woman, clearly unsatisfied with this outcome, continued to scream “I get police!” as she ventured off into a different compartment. At this point, we had been arguing for over 15 minutes, and rather exhausted, Jason and I agreed to simply pay this woman the bullshit charges just so she would leave us alone. The only problem was she didn’t come back. Finally, after 30 minutes tense moments of hoping to put this experience behind us, she reappeared. Without a word, she threw a small orange juice container (the size we should have had with our meal in the first place) onto Jason’s bed and stormed off through the compartment.
At this point, our anger turned to disbelief, and we couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation. She had the proper size OJ for our meals all along, but gave us big ones to make us pay more, and then due to our argument she put the small one on Jason’s bed so that she could show the police that we should pay for both!
Tired of arguing, we finally caught her as she bumbled through and begrudgingly paid her the “full” amount. Without even the slightest acknowledgement or thank you, she continued on her way.
As she walked away, Jason threw the small grenade shaped orange juice container on to my bed, and wanting nothing to do with it, I tossed it back to his bed. In midair, the bottle hit his railing, and as if in slow motion, the grenade exploded upon hitting the floor and splattered all over the compartment.
Choose your battles
Sometimes, it’s better not to argue. I hate getting cheated more than anything. People trying to take advantage of others, particularly in a business context pushes my buttons and I generally won’t stand for it, which is why we fought back. Apparently she had done the same thing to all the foreigners in our cabin, and scared by the thought of the Thai police, they conceded. While I hated paying extra for no reason, particularly to someone like her, I realized that fighting it was much more of a headache than it was worth, and even if we had “won” it would have meant hours of argument, and after we left, she would simply do the same thing with the next foreigners on the train. It served as a reminder to choose my battles wisely, and remember what I really want out of a situation.