A scam – or at least what is said to be a scam – that has received a lot of publicity in the Phuket area recently concerns jet sky and water activity equipment rental. Basically the scams involve charging users exorbitant amounts – often over 10,000 baht - for "damages" they did to the water equipment while using it.
Obviously, if this is happening, it is preposterous as the equipment is used under the watchful eye of the equipment owners or their agents, and it should not suffer significant damage except in the event of collision with other equipment! And, if the equipment is in good working condition to begin with, it should not “break” in the course of normal operation.
Typically, what appears to happen is that after the equipment has been used, the equipment is found to be "damaged". Or, perhaps, while the equipment is being operated by the user, it "breaks down". This frequently seems to involve the cables that connect the floor pedals to the operational parts of the equipment. The renter then tells the user that he or she owes big money and then "settles" the dispute for a few thousand baht, which is very likely the amount of money the user was required to deposit!!
If a user were to take this matter to court, it is likely they would win their case but of course most tourists don't want to spend the time, money and so forth to do this, so they simply "pay up". Because of this, accurate knowledge about this scam, as with most scams, is very poor. The existence of so many stories, however, gives good reason to believe that it happens a lot.
If it happens to you, the best thing to do is to insist on calling the Tourist Police (1155).
Scams – or controversies - involving motor bike rentals are similar to those involving water equipment. They are more serious, though, because large numbers of people rent them and the amounts of money can be larger. They are, however, not as easy to clearly identify as scams because damages do occur to motorbikes and motorcycles while in the possession of users.
They are also sometimes stolen. It is often said by users, however, that they are charged for damages that were present before they rented a bike and that they are charged disproportionately high amounts for legitimate damages. It has even been claimed that some rental companies intentionally damage the bikes – or even have the bikes stolen from the users at night – in order to collect damage and replacement fees.
Unfortunately, there is no insurance for motorbike users, so they are responsible for all damages and replacement costs. If a person finds themselves in such a situation, the best they can do is to try to negotiate fees and costs that are somewhat reasonable. All who consider renting a motorbike should try, as best they can, to verify beforehand which dealers are reputable and which are not.
The drivers of motorbikes and tuk-tuk taxis on Phuket Island, when compared to those of other places in Thailand, charge obscenely high fares. This certainly qualifies as a scam although in theory prices are "mutually" agreed upon. Another scam – although it borders on petty theft – is the practice of driving away without giving change.
The justification for doing this, drivers say, is that they simply have no change to give!!! Passengers should NEVER give drivers 500 or 1000 baht notes, except perhaps on their trip to their hotel after arriving at the airport. Another scam, although not so common, is the practice of taking passengers to the wrong destination – so they can get a commission from a restaurant or hotel – and then expecting payment in full from the passenger!
Fortunately, because prices are agreed upon in advance of a trip, passenger do NOT have to worry about being driven around in circles by drivers trying to increase their fares.