Social Justice

.... what I like to call it, others may call it overcharging. I am not talking about grossly overcharging, scams, rip offs or pick pocketing.
What I'm talking about is what I would consider fair all around. Personally I wouldn't knowingly mind paying up to 25% more than the local population on smaller purchases and up to 10%
on big purchases.
Some folks give tiddings, 10% of income to their churches, a lot more of us tip 15-20% at a restaurant, even if the service was subpar you still tip some. So paying a bit more is no news to most of us, so why don't we just consider the reasonable overcharge as a tip and a way to thank the local folks for all that one gets for free especially goodwill and many times priceless information at no extra cost.
One of the best lesson I learned in life....
August 1986, Montego Bay, Jamaica
It's my fourth year in a row going to the Sunsplash Reggae Show. Ackee and salt fish is Jamaica's national dish and is also my fave Jamaican dish. Jamaicans can't afford Norwegian salt cod so they use dried carp instead, still very delicious.
That was my second stay at Mrs. Krieg guesthouse a beautiful true born Jamaican black Jewish lady. This time I had brought some Norwegian salt cod in  its own wooden box to make ackee and salt fish. While she cooked I went buy some fruit. I checked out how much a vendor charged the last customer, I though that the price was fair so I brought. He charged me at least double, I paid but I got pissed and went home to complain about the incident over dinner. I told everyone about the incident and Mrs. Krieg says " they do me that way". I was so pissed I didn't "hear" her and kept bitching, she repeats herself " they do me that way " I still wasn't ready to listen I kept on complaining, for the third time she says " they do me that way " it finally penetrated my thick skull, my preconceptions of fair and maybe a lot more. I finally understood.
That fruit seller success depends on a great deal of sizing up the potential customer, some been doing it all their lives  so if they read you as someone that can afford to pay more, they will try to charge you more.
The point that most expats seem to miss is that in its purest form the overcharges have nothing to do with him being a foreigner, but just someone that just by virtue of being able to come from where they came from to  Vietnam, means they can afford to pay a bit more.
Take two Vietnamese and two foreigners one ostentatiously rich the other a walking hunger factory, one rich and one poor in each group.
I would venture to say that the rich Vietnamese and the rich foreigner will be charged more, in the majority of cases.
So has nothing to do with being a foreigner or not, but ability to pay more in the eyes of the fruit vendor. That is what I call Social Justice, that vendor, as subjective his decision may be, is in a small way evenning up the score.BTW has anyone ever seem a rich road side fruit vendor?
In my travels I found that rich fruit vendors are scarcer than chicken with teeth.
So folks count your blessings.... not just your bitchings

.... and who knows maybe some of those overcharges may have kept some poor child in school instead of being pressed into child labor force on some sweatshop, because the family had no other option.
It is not my intention that my opinion offend anyone.
All comments welcomed

Not being flippant (I hope) but can you tell us about the Ackee and salt fish please

I get ripped off almost every day; I know all about it and have absolutely no problem with it.
I see it this way, whilst I'm not rich or even well off by foreigner standards here, I have a lot more money that small street traders who scratch a living by selling whatever they can.
I see them as hard working and generally honest so when the price goes up a small amount I just smile and accept it.

Havaianu :

.... and who knows maybe some of those overcharges may have kept some poor child in school instead of being pressed into child labor force on some sweatshop, because the family had no other option.
It is not my intention that my opinion offend anyone.
All comments welcomed

That is a bit melodramatic.  Vietnam has laws that keep children out of the big factories.  At the same time a lot of sewing labor is done in homes with maybe 6 women working together.  No fun maybe but not a sweatshop.  About 40% of Vietnam's schoolchildren leave school after Grade 6 because free education is mandated by the constitution until that level.  Grade 7 public schools have tuition.  The thing that would keep more children in school would be free schooling K-12.  A few thousand dong on the price of your fruit is not going to make a difference.

On the main topic, one thing that validates this behavior is the government having two tier pricing at most tourist attractions.  Not all but some of the the doctors I have seen in HCMC had two tier pricing.  One thing that really irritated me was when I saw a woman that I knew was a very wealthy Viet Kieu get the lower price.  However, paying the higher price at medical facilities also usually means going to the front of the waiting line.  I have noticed frequently that I have been called ahead of people who were there when I came. 

As far as the fruit vendor, what you have to do is walk away then go, not to the next stall, but to one still within their sight.  Try doing that and see how fast they change.

My Vietnamese wife does NOT like being overcharged, so she sends me off to drink beer while she shops.

At a sportswear shop, the owner gloated how she had just charged a Russian woman 1.3 million dong for a 400,000 dong track suit. My wife was not impressed, but haggled the price down to 300,000 dong. I guess you could call that 'cross subsidy'.

Agree with everyone

..except Mikey, mate,  sorry but not interested in salted fish.   Even the flippers...

As for the pricing, it falls back to personal choice.   Walk away with a smile and listen to them calling you back.    Go back next time and smile at the half-price.      Works for me.

I make a point of paying extra and refusing change at (my chosen) street vendors.    Experience fast, friendly service (+ all the trimmings) next time.               Works for me.

Attitude is everything.   Try changing your own mind before expecting theirs to.    Goodwill?
                                                                                               Works for me.

Ackee,Aki is originally from Ghana, Blighia Sapida,i hope I am allowed to post links … ecipe.html
I'm with Fred and Bazza that bit extra can pay pay dividends, repeat business doesn't hurt either

Ackee is a poisonous fruit while unripe, looks like a pomegranate, about same size and color. Upon rippening the skin/shell splits in three to reveal usually 3 big black seeds attacked to a yellow " meaty" part. You separate the seed from the yellow part which looks like a small brain throw the seed away, and boil the yellow part and then sauté with the boiled salt fish, whatever salt fish you have in your area should work, bell peppers, scallions, black pepper, etc Recipe link above
Ackee is available canned but so much better fresh. Ackee is a fruit that you cook like a vegetable same idea as to green banana boiled

The finished recipe will look like scrambled eggs, in texture and a bit similar flavor. Never through of it before but green banana maybe an acceptable substitute for ackee

What irks me is exactly what Ralph just reported, the gloating about overcharging. Spoke to a girl from the UK, raised in Norway and speaks Norwegian,English and Vietnamese fluently. When she arrived at Saigon airport she spoke English when asked any questions, she then heard one officials ask his colleague how can we get some money out of this girl. She waited for the others to reply, then calmly told them in Vietnamese what she thought about them. She was waved through very quickly.

I totally agree with you Colin, but if I may, if a seller has that little respect/conscience for another human being, could we expect any else from that seller? If any regrets that seller will have is to not have fleeced that pasty even harder.

I don't have the vast experience of other cultures some here have, but the ten I have been exposed to showed me (mostly) a higher form of integrity than my birth country. 
            ..or is it because I (try to) respect others, and treat them as I would like for myself..?

Sure, we can all point at individuals and their greedy, conniving, corrupt ways to improve their income, but in the 'general' sense, I find Vietnamese people (and Lao) far more honest in their dealings than (say) the Philipina or Thai person. 

The fact that his accurate book; "Money No.1" by Neil Hutchinson has been banned in those two for the damage it is capable of to their tourist industry speaks volumes even in silence.

Airport officials can be the underbelly of any country.   We need not mention Russia.   Witnessing an Australian customs checker deliberately (yes, my eyes are Ok)  drop an expensive laptop, badly damaging the case and breaking the screen tells me we find the odd weirdo wherever we go.   

I mention this because I (and two other people) saw what happened and reported it to the head of security.  I followed it up, and a new computer was received in compensation.

The excuse offered?  (She) was having a bad day.   PMS.   True as I type.
     Thank God for security cameras!

Be that as it may, there are always the odd rogue in any society.   But being close to the hospitality industry I can equally confirm how few cases make the news of money being found and returned, along with passports, luggage, cameras (etc)   

Why?   ..doesn't sound as exciting as the drama of being ripped off...

But then, by driving a (night) taxi during my Uni. studies taught me that the truth is far often stranger than any story we can enhance or fiction we can invent.         Trust me on this.

Bazza your input is always welcome. For all the posts I've read I'm still trying to find out something negative that is unique to Vietnam. So far I found none. I would bet my bottom dollar that countries like Brazil are more violent and harder to live in than Vietnam. I've lived there in Sao Paulo or the Zero area of Varzea Grande the most violent area of Brazil according to almost everyone.
Overcharges and pick pockets will seem like heaven.

If you buy from the Supermarket, etc,  you're paying from 5 -- 15 % more anyway, the small local shops don't charge a sales tax.

Thanks.   Yes, I've heard those stories too.   But experience is a subjective thing, and although the Latina girls are favoured, it's too far for me to travel.  So far...   Maybe Nepal?

Ha Noi is not Heaven (for me) either.   But a lot closer to (my) ideal.   Like Sai Gon, it's badly polluted, noisy and the bikes tread on your toes.   (The roads are often safer than footpaths)

Did I say footpaths..?   Sorry.  Al Fresco dining areas.  With traffic.  And vendors.

Yet I think it is Viet Nam itself that is the appeal.   For me.   (My) experience is sincere and genuine, open and friendly people who seem to think I'm Ok.   Or have I (finally?) found a way to hide my paranoia..?   We shall see.

I arrived cynical, suspicious and snarky.   All (80%) gone and it gets better by the day.   Maybe the honeymoon period?   Nah.   Too many others find it the same.   Sure, the dreaded Western values are creeping under the door, but that is happening world-wide, thanks to the cheap Chinese materialism and capitalistic/hedonistic values we (all?) are guilty of loving so much.   Well, the majority..?

As I inferred, there are always the off-apple or two in every basket, but until I find somewhere better..?   This'll do me.   At least, in the (far) outer suburbs...   I'm a farm boy.

Bazza I hope I find Vietnam to be for me what it is to you. I'm more concerned with mosquitoes, too much rain or heat, than any negatives I've heard so far.

Bluenz yep if folks are concerned about being overcharged they can simply buy at more traditional stores where all prices are marked. I know that in itself is not a panacea.
I live in Hawaii, until 20 years ago when mainland big stores moved in in force, we paid exorbitant prices and still do to a lesser extent. One example I just checked the price of a 1pound bottle of propane at a store called Longs Drugs the price was $9. Walmart sells 2 bottles, same size and brand as Longs,  for  $7. Both are mainland chain stores.
The moral is buyers got to be savvy no matter where you are in the world

"The moral is buyers got to be savvy no matter where you are in the world"

Agreed.  Caveat Emptor: Let the buyer beware.

But being a chronic chocaholic, it becomes both moral and mortal necessity which induces panic to persons so afflicted.  Particularly in places like Laos where even the rarely found 7/11 store is a godsend.   So forget price.  We are talking about the food of the gods.

Trivial to those without the need for their daily fix, I know, but true negatives..?

The threat of Malaria may well linger in some areas.   Being a country boy I (often) camp out using only a tent.  Yes, I have a top-drawer Mozzie net, but it takes too much effort to set up and I'm lazy...   Yet even parking along the mighty Mekong in both Winter and Summer I haven't been bothered.    Might be my peculiar B.O.    I rarely use repellent.   Again, lazy.

It's not the heat, it's the humidity.   When you see the locals fanning themselves..?   
And yes, it can get to you.   Very oppressive sometimes, but hey, only mad dogs and Englishmen work in the midday sun...   (I'm still trying to get used to the midday siesta!)
..although again (Western values?) only (some) banks and offices still close between 11:30 and 1:30.   I hope I can get used to this...

Rain seems to follow Murphy's Law (for me?)   Maybe God hates me..?   It only seems to happen (only) when inconvenient.   But I'm getting used to that too.   Might be old age..?

As for the rest?   It's no Utopia.  But here's the challenge: find somewhere better.       :/

I'll keep wondering and wandering...

Bazza thanks for the thoughts/info.

THIGV point granted, being a bit melodramatic.
The bigger point I was trying to make was that a few dollars overpaid by tourists will help the locals far beyond any "damage" that the overpayments may cause. A point corroborated by Fred.
Child labor exploitation exists in every country in the world, not just SE Asia.
The most egregious example of human exploitation that I ever seen, I've lived in Europe, North and South America, traveled in Africa and Middle East, in happens right here in the land of Aloha, not very far from me.
To me is nothing else but modern day slavery but the slaves are happy to be just that slaves.
WHAT???? You guys are thinking.
Let me explain.
It's a "spiritual retreat", so they get people from all over the world to volunteer.
They agree to work 32 hours a week, no shift guarantee. They work when and where needed.
They have to provide proof of health insurance while volunteering.
They get food and a place to sleep, which in most cases means a wooden platform covered by a tarp. Volunteers must provide their own tent and bedding. They can take any class available at the resort, except that in most cases the classes they may want to take are during their working hours..
If that wasn't bad enough, work almost fulltime for room and board but they have to pay to volunteer, as much as 1000 USD for the previlige of being exploited.
One example I was talking to an Irish lady, owner of a Publicity company in Dublin, Ireland.
She was laughing while telling me that she had never scrubbed a pot in her life and here she was in Hawaii scrubbing pots in the restaurant's kitchen.
I thought to myself " just shoot me ".

New topic