On a Rooftop in Saigon
“I’ve gotten scammed a few times. But it was my fault.” “How’d you get scammed?” I ask him. He looks like he’s in his mid to late 20s, kinda scruffy, neutral North American accent. “Buying weed”.
I arrived early this morning to Ho Chi Minh city and am asking around at the hostel regarding common scams and dangers to be on the lookout for. I’ve been in China and Hong Kong most of the last eight months and have gotten a little lax on scams and pickpockets. I read about the motorcycle taxi rip-offs earlier in the day: overcharging after agreeing on a price. Now it seems there’s a weed scam.
We’re hanging out on the 7th-floor rooftop of the hostel, watching the constant flow of motorcycles swarming through the streets on a warm muggy afternoon. “They look like bees” I think as I watch them from high above, glad I’m not down there frantically trying to cross the street like a real-life version of Frogger.
1st Bag of Weed
“I took a day off and decided to relax in my hotel room, just watch porn and drink beer.” He tells me. Sometime later in the day he got bored and decided to go out and look for some weed. “I was walking around for a few hours but didn’t find anything.” Just as he gave up and headed home his luck changed for the better, or so it seemed at first. “Right as I turned onto my street this guy asks me if I want weed.” 500k for the bag (about $22). But after handing the 500k note over the dealer tells him he only gave a 20k note. “The bills look almost the same, they’re both blue. The 20k is just a little smaller.” He hands the guy another 500k note, double paying.
2nd Bag of Weed
“As soon as he leaves a guy comes up to me and says “hey you just bought tea”. So I open the bag and sure enough its tea. It looks exactly the same but no smell.”
Dealer #2 pulls out his own bag of weed and hands him a bud. “I break it up and smell it and its weed” he pays for the bag with a 500k note but again the guy tells him he only gave him a 20k note so he pulls out another 500k and pays him twice.
3rd Bag of Weed
“As soon as he leaves another guy comes up to me and tells me I just bought tea. I told him no I checked it.” The problem is he didn’t check the contents of the bag, just the bud he was handed. He opens it up and sure enough, it’s another bag of tea that looks just like weed.
Determined not to be scammed again he opens up the bag dealer #3 offers him. “I check the first bud and its weed. Then I check another and its also weed.” Confident he’s now got the real thing he pays him. Dealer #3 again tells him he gave him a 20k note and not a 500k note. For the third time, he double pays. “I kept thinking I’ve been giving them the wrong bills the whole time, I wasn’t really paying attention, but when I got back home I checked my wallet and calculated how much money I withdrew from the bank and realized that I was giving them 500k each time.”
After getting back to his room he checks the 3rd bag. It’s all tea except for the first two buds he checked. $132 for three bags of tea.