For several years now, we’ve been hearing allegations that patrons have been unfairly overcharged at several bars on Bangkok’s Soi Cowboy. When they’ve challenged the bill, they’ve told stories about being physically threatened. The allegations have been made in particular regarding a number of bars owned by an Iranian who is known locally as “The Arab.” These allegations have been out on the street so long that savvy locals are avoiding these bars, which include, in alphabetical order, Déjà Vu, Kiss, Midnite, Rawhide, Rio, Sahara, and Spice Girls.
A letter appeared recently in Stickman’s column on Bangkok nightlife, interesting enough that we are printing it here verbatim:
“I know better than to go into an Arab-owned bar in Soi Cowboy. I’ve been (grossly) overcharged two times and I have vowed never to set foot in one of his bars again. Against my better judgment, I went into Midnite last week with an out-of-town friend who got dragged into Midnite by one of its seductive hostesses. I warned my friend about going into this bar but he insisted on going in because of the cutie that was wrapped around his arm. Plus, he was buying so he was going to be on the hook, not me. I’ve been living in Thailand for 3 years so I know the drill. What I did was instruct my friend to pay cash for every round of drinks as they came in. That is exactly what we did. Every round was 720 baht (an outrageous 180 baht per San Miguel Light and 180 baht for each lady drink) and we paid cash for every round. We had EXACTLY four rounds and paid 720 baht X 4 = 2,880 baht. By the way, we had to fight off another 6 – 8 dancers and servers that came up and pestered us for drinks. About half of them spit out a venomous keeneow insult at me when I said “No.” We got up to leave and our server came up and presented us with a bin stuffed with chits that totaled 5,280 baht. Not only had we paid for all our drinks already, they essentially doubled the total with phony chits. I was floored by the aggressive, blatant attempt to overcharge us. I calmly told the grouchy server that we had already paid cash for every round and owed nothing. She huffed off and returned with the sour-faced mamasan who insisted we pay 5,280 more baht. My friend tried to explain to the mamasan that we had already paid but she wasn’t going to hear any of it. During the conversation, 5 Thai bouncers appeared and surrounded us. These bouncers looked very eager to beat up some farangs. My friend and I are pretty big guys and while we may have been able to fight our way out of Midnite, getting into a fight with a Thai is a no win situation, especially if you live here. The result is that I was able to negotiate the bill down to 3,000 baht. A small, small victory. Moral of the story? Don’t EVER set foot in an Arab-owned bar again.”
If such allegations are indeed true, then it hearkens back to the classic scams run in upstairs bars on Patpong Road, which local expats stopped going to years ago. And predictably, one day some innocent patron protesting his unfair bill will get beat up. Bill padding scams are legendary in Angeles City bars in the Philippines, but are now, from the reports we’re hearing, becoming more common on Soi Cowboy in Bangkok.
So if it’s your first time on Soi Cowboy, we’d suggest you walk into a friendly non-girlie bar, such as the Old Dutch, engage an expat in conversation, and ask which bars are safe. And if you do visit any of the bars mentioned in paragraph one, caveat emptor.