Cambodia is one big scam operation. Corruption runs rampant and class differences are apparent more than anywhere else. You see lots of very poor people, and then you see those who drive around on Lexus or better yet, S Class Mercedes cars. In order to survive, locals will try to pull any scam possible to get as much money out of every tourist as possible. As if high occurence of violent crime in Cambodia wasn’t enough, as a visitor you will also have to deal with theft, purse snatching and scam of all sorts.
As a tourist, you should always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what you are doing. Never take advice from locals. Find the best place for yourself. Locals will always and only recommend a place that pays them the most commission. This time I would like to point out one of very common scam practices frequently found in Cambodia – Bain and Switch Scam.
In areas frequented by tourists you will found various establishments, including restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs, etc. Most of those will be surrounded by competition (aka many establishments on the street) so each will try their best to get a tourist in. In order to do that, they will post large signs outside offering various deals that would appeal attractive to tourists.
For example when it comes to restaurants, they would have a large sign about some specials for particular meal. This could attract you inside, where those large signs are out of your view. Once inside, you will be handed a menu which has several pages of all sorts of meal, but you won’t find any of those specials from the sign outside there. Unless you have a photographic memory, you won’t know which ones those were anyway.
All staff and management will do their darn best to avoid bringing those specials up. Staff will likely play dumb, saying they don’t know anything about it or will play language barrier trick pretending they don’t understand what you are talking about. If you get the manager and insist on the special as advertised outside, you will have to go back out to look at the sign to tell them what it is you want.
Bait and Switch scam is very common in Cambodia and everyone will try to make you pay the most they can. I myself have been eating at Khmer Family Restaurant for weeks every day, yet they continuously try to charge me regular price, even though I’m there safely within the Happy Hour when special should apply. You’d think they’d already know that I knew their establishment backwards, yet they will always try to overcharge.
Don’t fall for the Bait and Switch scam. They like playing it because once you enter the establishment and start looking at their menu with regular prices in it, you will have a waiter standing right beside you which aside from making you feel uncomfortable, has a parallel purpose of making you feel like you have wasted all this waiter’s time while you were staring at the menu looking for specials you remember from the sign outside. This will make you feel obliged to bring at least some business for the establishment, even though you know you will never come back. That’s the way Cambodians think – they don’t care whether you as a customer will be back or not. They only care about getting as much out of each individual the first time.
It’s rather easy to not fall victim to Bait and Switch scam. Just pay attention to what you see and insist on what you should be getting and what price you should be paying. Bait and Switch works on many unsavvy tourists so it’s not going away anytime soon. I chose not to be one of those unsavvy travellers. Afterall, the less money I spend on scam, the more money I’ll have left for honest businesses.