Tourists who are unfortunate enough to fall victim to dishonest restaurants in Vietnam are advised not to lose the evidence of the scams, even if the exhibits are the meals they have consumed.
Local market watchdogs may refuse to handle your complaint if the evidence has gone, just as they responded to the case of An Chi, a tourist who ordered a 1.2kg crab only to be served a 420g crustacean in Nha Trang last month.
Chi, hailing from Ho Chi Minh City, recalled how she was cheatedby the Lang Chai restaurant in the resort city of the south-central province of Khanh Hoa in a complaint sent to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday, prompting reactions from local authorities.
The Khanh Hoa market surveillance agency told Tuoi Tre on Wednesday there are not enough grounds to punish the restaurant, reiterating what it told the cheated tourist late last month.
“The problem is that the evidence has gone and we have no grounds to penalize the restaurant owner,” agency head Pham Van Huu said.
It is not clear which evidence, the crab or the abnormally heavy strings used to tie its claws, Huu was referring to.
Live crabs are usually sold in Vietnam with strings tied to their claws, with traders saying they are meant to prevent finger cuts, while the twine in fact helps increase the weight of the crustaceans.
Customers normally have to agree to the crabs being weighed with strings.
The market surveillance official, however, asserted that he also “finds something unreasonable” in the case.
“It would be more logical if the crab weighed around 900g after the strings were removed, as it is impossible for a string to be that heavy,” he said.
But as the evidence is gone, the case is closed, he added.
“Had our team been at the restaurant at the moment of the incident, the case would have been handled,” Huu said.
“Otherwise, we can only remind [the restaurant] to follow the regulations on price quotation.”
Lang Chai quoted a kilogram of crab at VND350,000 (US$16), but Chi had to pay VND420,000 ($20) for a 420g crab.
The vacationer took a photo of the crab, which she described as being much smaller than the one she had chosen, and the meal bill. But this does not seem to be adequate evidence for the local market watchdog.
She also called the province’s tourism promotion center three times, only to be told they could not do anything as it was not working hours then, and the center did not want to begin a row with those at the restaurant.
Chi said her crab must have been replaced, but both the restaurant owner and the market surveillance agency insisted that the strings were to blame for the weight loss.
‘One rotten apple’
Nguyen Van Thanh, standing deputy chairman of the Khanh Hoa tourism association, said it is impossible for a string to be twice as heavy as the crab.
“The market watchdog officers should have put other strings on the scale to see if they are as heavy as the twine used on Chi’s crab,” he told Tuoi Tre.
Thanh said that there are signs of dishonest trading and scams targeting tourists in the crab case, which should be condemned and strictly sanctioned.
“On behalf of the Khanh Hoa tourism association, I apologize to An Chi for this inconvenience,” he said. “We are also grateful that Chi reported the case to Tuoi Tre so that other tourists will know which scam eateries to stay away from.”
Truong Dang Tuyen, director of the province’s tourism department, also said he went angry after reading the complaint by Chi.
Tuyen said he had asked relevant agencies to review the case to “prevent any rotten apple from spoiling the entire barrel.”
He also promised to improve the hotline service so that those who call to complain will not receive unhelpful replies as Chi did.