Jason Kan, an expat in Hồ Chí Minh City, sent Tuoitrenews this article about shoe shiners fleecing foreign tourists.
He said that he saw many boys overcharging their victims in front of his very eyes.
Many articles have addressed the issue of street peddlers ripping off tourists, but few have mentioned shoe shine boys on the street.
Many times I have seen a group of four to six boys hanging around in front of hotels near Bến Thành and also Đông Du Street where they hunt for victims.
When they first approach a victim, they will show their pitiful faces and persuade victims to accept their shoe shine service.
They will say that the service is cheap and also that they have not eaten for a few days.
They offer to polish shoes for VND 20,000 per pair until the victim takes pity on them.
After polishing the shoes, then they will slot in shoe pads and ask for VND 300,000 for the extras.
When foreigners ask why the price is so expensive, the boys will pretend not to know English and try to confuse the victims.
They will threaten not to return the shoes if the victims do not pay.
Sometimes, when the victims do not know the exact amount and give them VND 500,000, the boys even try to give the excuse that they do not have small change and even expect the victims to forget about their change.
I came across one incident involving a victim who had just arrived in Hồ Chí Minh City for the first time and was not used to Việt Nam’s currency, which has so many zeros.
He was trying to find the correct notes and when he opened his wallet, the boys snatched the amount they wanted and ran away.
That evening the victim lost VND 700,000.
I once saw a victim who was surrounded by six of these boys, as they were trying to confuse him and cheat him out of a big amount.
Seeing this, I could not stand by and told the boys to return the change, and if not I would report them to the police.
After arguing for some time, they finally gave the man his change and cursed me for intruding on their business.
I guess local authorities should look into this matter, as these groups are damaging the image of this country.
Elsewise, tourists will think that Việt Nam is a country full of con men and rip-offs.
I think it is time for all expats to warn their friends who come here to be on the alert for shoe shine boys, too.