A reader reports: Me and my wife visited Bangkok on Dec 25th 2006 and planned to stay there till Dec 28th. As usual, we scheduled a day to visit all the temples and Buddhas. After visiting the Wot Pho and we walked toward the next destination, Grand Palace, we met a friendly Thai guy in front of the Palace entrance. He said to us they had a special ceremony inside the Palace and only Thai nationals are allowed to get in. During our conversation, there was a tourist trying to enter and was stopped by the guard. Therefore, we believed what he said. He then suggested us to visit some other temples. He suggested to take Tuk Tuk to go to Happy Buddha first and then on the way to another temple, we should visit a Thai Jewelry Export Centre where we can buy the duty-free jewelry and it's only open to the tourist for a week (as what you can guess now, "today is the last day"). We thought about it and decided to go since we did not have any idea where to go next.
He then stopped a Tuk Tuk and told the tuk tuk driver where we would like to go. He even negotiated the fare with the tuk tuk driver on our behalf. The deal is THB$40 for the whole trip. We think it's a very good deal.
After a while, we arrived the temple where (so called) Happy Buddha is. The tuk tuk driver showed us into the temple. We stayed inside the temple for a few minutes and we asked the driver where we could buy some drink. He showed me the convenience store outside the temple. I bought some drink for us and one bottle of icy cold water for the driver. After I came back to the Tuk tuk, the driver excused us to go to toilet. We then waited for him on his Tuk Tuk. While we were there, there was a gentleman sitting behind the tuk tuk. He started chatting with us. He started with some social chats and claimed that he is Thai and currently living in New York City as a commercial law solicitor. He even said the monk sitting inside the Happy Buddha temple is his brother. After a few chats, he asked us where we were going next. We told him we are going to Thai Jewelry Export Centre. He was surprised to hear that we knew such a place and he said that today is the last day they open to the tourists. He highly recommended us to go there and buy some jewelry. He said he travels a lot and every time he came back to Thailand, he would buy one or two pieces of jewelry from this centre. He even claimed that he could bring the jewelry back to US and sold it back to the retail shop, such as Fendi, etc. He said he made some money out of it and that could pay off his travel cost. We did not quite believe his story on selling jewelry back to the shop and made money out of it. We thought if we can find the jewelry we like, maybe we can buy some for ourselves (especially when they are duty free). We chatted about 20-25 mins and the tuk tuk driver only came back after we finished chatting.
Next stop, we arrived the Blue Dragon Factory Export Center. There were a few ppl wearing black uniform and some tuk tuk drivers outside the shop. We were led to the shop and starting browsing the jewelry. One the first floor of the shop, we saw some tourists and some Thai nationals as customers. We did not suspect anything wrong so far. We were taken to the 2nd floor to see some higher valued blue sapphire jewelry. After almost an hour, we decided to buy a Blue Sapphire ring and a Blue Sapphire necklace. They cost us around THB$318,000. We know the blue sapphire jewelry is expensive and they look so pretty too. The manager asked us to sign the agreement paper stating that if we returned the jewelry within 3 months, they can only offer 80% refund, etc. I said to him what if the jewelry is fake, can we ask for full refund. He said absolutely yes.
Because the necklace has to be shortened, we can pick it up at the next day. He even said as their VIP customers, he is happy to offer us his driver to take us to anywhere around Bangkok and he could take us to the airport on the next day too. On the next day, we picked up the jewelry before we headed to airport.
After arriving home, we were thinking to bring the jewelry to one of our friend who would be able to verify the authenticity of the sapphire stones. However, before we went, I decided to search the Internet for that particular shop in Bangkok. It led me to your website and all sorts of gem scam stories (more or less the same as ours) were listed on the screen. My heart dropped and we were so worried that we've lost a large amount of money on the potential fake stones. My wife did not bother to get them verified by our friend and decided to go back to the shop and ask for the refund. We were thinking the worst scenario would be getting back 80% of our money. But as you could imagine, we had to spend flight tickets and a few days accommodation as well.
Thanks again for your site on providing so much useful information regarding the refund! We gathered all the required info including Tourist Police and Embassy before we went. We went back to Bangkok two weeks later. After we arrived the hotel, we called the Tourist Police and they were kindly enough to arrange one officer to meet with us at the hotel.
We told the officer the whole story and what we wanted to do with the shop. He suggested that he would accompany us to the shop to ensure our personal safety. He also suggested that we should remain calm when we met the shop manager and not try to confront with him. This is to prevent the whole matter to be forced into law suit proceedings which wouldn't do us any better. He said we could ask for the full refund first and the worst case would be 80% refund. He then accompany us to the shop and we were directed straight to upstairs. The shop manager appeared short while after. When he saw us, he knew right away what happened and what we wanted. He did not even speak to us and took his book out and started writing the refund agreement. We tried to negotiate with higher refund, but with no success. He even said to the police officer that the reason why we wanted the refund is because we couldn't sell the jewelry back to the overseas jewelers. That was very funny. He's kind of admitting the whole (arranged) stories behind the scene.
We were very glad that the whole process could go such smoothly. We are very appreciated with the help from the Tourist police officer. Without him, our personal safety might in jeopardy while we were at that shop.
I am not sure how many ppl will do research on the destination country before going overseas. After this incident, I truly believe this is very very important. I hope that our government agencies will post such facts on their website to alert all of us before traveling to Thailand..