Authorities in Da Lat, the capital city of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, have warned that local businesses will be dealt a tougher hand if they continue to hire brokers to force visitors to use their overcharged services.
Individuals employed as middlemen to trick tourists into buying famous local produce at high prices has been leaving bad impressions on visitors to Da Lat in recent years.
Now, any businesses found to have hired such brokers will have their business license revoked, Pham Van Huan, deputy head of the economic crime investigation team of the municipal police department, said at a recent working session with owners of establishments selling specialties in Da Lat.
Da Lat is famous for its strawberries grown at local farms. Tourists are encouraged to visit strawberries farm and buy the freshly picked up fruit at the venue. But many tourists have turned their back on the experience after they were forced by brokers to visit dishonest farms, where they would be overcharged.
Nguyen Thanh Thuy, a frequent visitor from Ho Chi Minh City, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that she would be approached and annoyed by these ‘specialty brokers’ more than one time whenever she visits Da Lat.
“There was a time I was badly yelled at by a broker when I refused to come and pick strawberries at the local farm he ‘invited’ me to,” Thuy said.
|Strawberry stores are seen on Nguyen Cong Tru Street, the focal center of the fruit in Da Lat, Lam Dong Province, Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: Lam Thien / Tuoi Tre|
The activities of those brokers have taken a toll not only on tourists but also honest farm owners in Da Lat, as customers do not know which establishments to trust.
Even when tourists find the right places to visit, owners of the honest strawberry gardens will be troubled by the ill-mannered middlemen.
The ‘specialty brokers’ mostly hunt for victims on Mai Anh Dao, Phu Dong Thien Vuong, and Nguyen Tu Luc Streets, close to well-known attractions such as the Valley of Love and Dream Hill, according to Huan.
Da Lat authorities have appeared to fail to put these scams to an end despite continuous effort since these brokers emerged in 2013.
According to data by the city’s economic crime police, the unit has dealt with 73 ‘specialty brokers’ in 2018, seizing 65 motorbikes used by these middlemen to follow visitors, and fining them a combined VND168 million (US$7,224).
Many fraudulent establishments had lost their business license, but they would simply register to open a new business with a new license to continue their scams, according to Huan.
In its latest effort, the city’s authorities installed a system of security cameras at tourist attractions and shopping areas for quick response to ‘specialty broking’ scams, according to the city’s chairman Nguyen Van Son.