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Letter to the editor – Tourist Traps & Rogue Retailers

Thailand has become such a popular tourist destination for many and thrives as a nation on the revenue that tourists generate. As annual visitors to Ko Samui over the past 8 years, we have seen significant changes not only in the developing landscape but also the increase of restaurants, retailers and other providers trying to secure their share of Shipping disaster 1the tourist Baht. The question is, are these operators adequately equipped to service the tourist market effectively and are tourists vulnerable to scams and rogue retailers?

In October 2014 we purchased a wooden table and 2 benches from ‘The Line Thai Samui Wood Shop’ in Ko Samui. What was on display, was truly remarkable. The ownder was typical of most Thai people, incredibly charming and helpful in taking the order, advising us of the shipment details, possible arrival dates in the UK and outlined that DHL would be the carrier of the goods.

From the first week of December we started to phone DHL in the UK to check on the arrival of the goods. They didn’t have any shipments under our name, nor the address. We continued to phone them into late Dec and early January but to no avail. We had contacted the retailer in Thailand and they said they had emailed us the documents. They had misread the email address so we didn’t receive any correspondence. I emailed them another email address and also asked for a reply of which they didn’t send. We made several phone calls to the retailer and it shipping disaster 2was the final text message to them saying that we would contact the authorities if they didn’t respond with the shipping documentation. We received it that day (mid Jan 15). We were then told to phone a ‘Mr Boy’ who is the representative for DHL (DHL Express – Plus Express Co Ltd) in Ko Samui. He also sent the same information and then said that the shipment had not gone DHL of which we were not informed of. The documentation didn’t clearly state who the receiving agent in the UK was, so we had to chase this with the DHL representative; Mr Boy. On receiving the shipping documents, we noticed that there were 2 phone numbers that had been placed on the documentation. Neither of them were ours and had been strategically ‘added’ to the shipping documents as that was a requirement of shipping the goods. The receiving agent in the UK had emailed us, tried both phone numbers and couldn’t contact us as the phone numbers had been falsified. As the goods had been stored at the shipping dock for nearly a month by this stage, we were then hit with heavy rental fees and import duties. These cost us twice as much as the goods themselves and the shipping, nearly £1000. We explained our situation to the receiving agent in the UK and they suggested contacting both the retailer and the shipper to share the charges as they are responsible for obtaining all the correct informationshipping disaster 3n for shipping the goods. Despite 2 attempts of asking them to share only the rental charges of £133 each, they refused. The DHL representative didn’t even respond to our request and the retailer sent us an abusive email.

We finally had to release the goods as everyday they were incurring rental charges of £25. On unpacking these goods our spirits were further ‘dampened’ as the wood was wet, had become incredibly mouldy, there were visible cracks/splits and damage to the surface. Nothing like the fine examples displayed in the shop. The fixtures were also of incredibly poor quality, didn’t match and the holes drilled to affix the legs etc were too deep for the supplied screws to bite etc….totally rubbish…

What has been disappointing in this experience is the attitude of the retailer and also the shipper. Neither have taken any responsibility of any kind around their dishonest, falseshipping disaster 4 and misleading actions which resulted in a costly, unsatisfactory experience. Despite our attempts to ask them to ‘make good’ on their errors, they have refused.

These types of situations will affect tourist’s decisions around travelling to Thailand and naturally, how they will spend. Equally important is the impact that this type of negative experience will have on the Thai economy. More care is needed by local authorities to educate and ensure that all operators are due diligent in their business practices, that greater care and protection is available for consumers in the event of these types of situations and that there is consequence for operators that choose to conduct their practices in a negligent fashion.

The following may assist others in the future from falling victim to such incidents.

  • Ensure that you clearly write down your name, email address and phone numbers on any order documentation and get the retailer to read them back to you
  • Get the retailer to outline what taxes, duties will need to be paid at the country/port of entry so that you are clear on actual costs
  • Request documentation that clearly outlines who the carrier will be and get something in writing
  • Define how you need the goods to be packed, ie ‘air tight’ so they are not subjected to damage in transit
  • Determine who will be insuring the goods as there was an assumption that DHL would’ve insured them
  • If possible, photograph the goods prior to shipping

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