Orchid says it is a government shop - November 11, 2002
Another vacation ruined. Since the authorities have never done anything to stop the gem scam and the local police are suspiciously unhelpful, in a way it is like tourists are being scammed by the Thai government itself. This scam shop was formerly called Phanfa (last report July 2002) and before that, Thai Mining, all in the same location.
From an email we received:
I have spent wonderful 10 days in Thailand, enjoying great Thailand history monuments, meeting very friendly and deeply religious Thai people. I really felt great respect for Thailand and its people preserving their history, way of live and Buddhist traditions. Unfortunately one episode in Bangkok, involving Orchid jewelry store (318 Krungkasem Road, Bangkhunprom Sub-District Pranakom Bangkok 10200, tel. 0-2282-4381), spoiled my impression of Thailand and left a bitter taste of visiting your wonderful country. On October 28, the last day of my trip to Thailand, when I was visiting the King's Palace, at a site a local man approached me. He said the Palace was closed till 1:30 due to the Buddhist holiday and recommended some other sites, emphasizing on visiting the government exhibition of jewelry near by. He told me that it was the last day of the exhibition and sale of blue sapphires and other stones that the government excavates and sales at the exhibition at deep discount price at least half of that in Europe and the USA. The name of the place was something like Exposition Center. When I visited the place my first question was is it a government store. The answer was positive. It was extremely important since I would never even attempt to by jewelry at any private organization. As a mater of fact I have bough a few small jewelry gifts for my relatives at the government jewelry factory in Chiang Mai of very good quality at a very reasonable price. Thats why when I was told that it was the government owned minds and store I trusted the quality and the price of the products there.
At the store I was offered a set of blue sapphires 5 stones about 11.6 carats all together at the price about $4800. When I asked about the quality and the price I was assured that the stones are of exceptional quality that are available only at two mines in the world that are located in Thailand and owned and operated by the Thailand government. The other 4 mines in Thailand were depleted and the prices for these Thailand blue sapphires were sky rocketed. The current sales price at the expo, they said, was deep discounted government promotional prices with additional 20% discount on the cash purchases. I have offered my credit card for purchase, but was told that they cannot charge the credit card. I was quite surprised that the government organization cannot use credit cards, but was told that they need at least two days to verify the credit card and I was leaving Thailand the same day. When I told that I do not have cash, the people at the expo told me that I can get cash from an ATM machine and the rest of it by paying by credit card to a local bank. Again, under these circumstances I would never ever get involved in such transaction if I did not believe that it was a government organization. Anyway, I was taken to an ATM machine and asked to get as much cash as possible. I withdrew about $1000 (the withdraw limit).
After that I was taken to a near by local bank where the accompanied me person negotiated cash transfer from my credit card to the bank with somebody from the bank stuff. This transfer did not worked out, though, since the signature in my passport and on my credit card did not match and the bank refused to use my credit card. At this point I thought that it was the end of the deal and was even glad it happened because I got more and more concerned about the way this business was conducted. I was taken back to the store where I was going to retrieve back my $1000 deposit. Instead I was told to go to their associate jewelry store who could charge and validate my credit card on their behalf. Accompanied by the same employee who previously took me to the bank I was taken to some jewelry store where I expected my credit card be charged. It was charged indeed, but to my amazement I was offered a bag of golden goods, supposedly corresponding to the amount the credit card was charged, to carry back the first store.
At this point I had no other choice as to bring this gold to the first store where they accepted it without even opening the bag or weighing it. The whole thing looked so strange and suspicious, that, again, havent I was sure that I am dealing with the Thailand government directly I would hold it right away and called the police. But since I was assured it was the Thailand government organization, I thought it might be some common way to do business in Thailand. Anyway, 5 stones were put in the envelope and promised to be shipped to my address. I have got a receipt and a business card with the company name and address. The company name on my receipt was Orchid, and address was 318 Krungkasem Road, Bangkhunprom Sub-District, Pranakom Bangkok 10200, tel. 0-2282-4381.
At the same store I was offered a car to get to other associated stores with big discounts but declined it. The more I thought about the transaction the more suspicious it looked to me. When I asked the company car driver about the company he said that the company was not a government company, but government controlled company owned by a private person. At that time I had to leave the country for home and had no time for any action. But as soon as I have arrived in New York I went to a jewelry store to find out about Thailand blue sapphires. I was told that this is a known Thailand scam and was given the WEB site address that describes it. The scam description on the WEB site fitted my situation up to a word.
As soon as the stones arrived on November 2, I evaluated them at the jewelry store. The certified jewelry appraisal evaluated the stones as low quality stones, too dark with massive inclusions. The real market selling price in New York today is about $500 for all of them. I am not sure whether they switched the stone at Orchid before shipping or were cheating me from the beginning, but with such impurities and inclusions these stones according to the evaluator worth virtually nothing. I have tried to contact the store to request a return and refund by dialing the phone number on my receipt and the business card (66-2282-4381) from 9PM to 12 PM and at 7AM Eastern Time (it is 12 hours difference between New York and Bangkok) for several days, but nobody picks up the phone. It is absolutely clear to me now that I have got involved in the classical Thailand tourist scam. This is a shame that a corrupted company like Orchid impersonate Thailand government and ruins Thailand reputation among American tourists and business people. I do not understand how such Orchid behavior, that frames Thailand government at the international level, in particular in the United Stares, could be tolerated. I have tried to contact Thailand police by email, but I do not quite understand their answer. It sounds like they are not going to do anything because I am out of Thailand. [That's right, they won't help at all...]
I would appreciate your help in disclosing this fraud to the public. I have enclosed the copy of my receipt and their business card as attachments.