Wednesday, March 13, 2013

TRAVELER SCAMMED, SIX TIMES OVER…


By Mansor Puteh



I have traveled by plane quite a bit over the years, having visited thirty-five countries so far, with more to come… And being scammed while traveling may not necessarily be the norm, but such experiences can happen.

But one can still be scammed even without ever leaving the country; the small traders who are mostly the Chinese know all ways to do that on the unsuspecting customers, and the Melayu are mostly the victims.

Not a day passes by without anyone not being scammed.

I normally brush aside those minor scams as the hazards of international travel.

But the scams I had experienced which I thought were unusual now that I can see them this way, and on hindsight need to be jotted down and shared.

Below is the list of six scams I had experienced while taking a trip to Amman, Jordan some years ago with some of them connected with each other.

Scam Number One:

I wanted to go to Amman, Jordan to then go by land to Ramallah in Palestine where I was invited to show some of my films and television dramas at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center.

It was the first time the center was inviting someone from Malaysia to do this and I took it as a recognition. It was just before the Second Intifada so it was okay to get the permission from Wisma Putra to allow me to go there.

This scam involves the purchase of a return ticket on an airline which said they had run out of economy seats, so they literally forced me to buy a business class return ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Amman, which I did, since I had to take the flight to go to Ramallah as the screening program had been arranged.

However, it turned out that the economy cabin was not totally jam-packed, as I found out after I sat in the business class cabin, which had three other passengers, who are Japanese.

The airline just wanted to get more passengers sitting in the business class cabin so that the food they have booked for the flight could be better utilized.

I was literally forced to eat some of it despite my reluctance since ‘dinner’ was served at two o’clock in the morning, when I or the other passengers would have normally gone to sleep.

The female flight attendant, who forced me to eat, got me to have some of the food she served on china.

But I ended up getting stomach upset afterwards since my stomach was not used to having food at such an ungodly hour.

Scam Number Two:

Scam number two happened when my luggage was broken into. It is a large tote bag I had been using on all my trips till this one, yet, the zip was cut. But nothing was lost.

The airline offered compensation and I bought a leather bag in Karachi where I had to be on a one-day transit before catching the connecting flight to Amman.

I then gave the old bag to a hotel staff who was happy since he could still use it except for the zip which was faulty.

I used the cheap-looking tote bag because I thought it would not attract much attention. But my mistake was that since I was flying business class, the luggage tags and stickers say the luggage might have got something valuable inside of it.

Scam Number Three:

A porter at the Karachi Airport immediately carried my luggage to the waiting airport bus which was taking me and the other passengers on transit, and charged money.

We gave him a five-Malaysian ringgit note, since I did not have small notes in American dollars that I carried, or he would not be happy. And all he did to get the money was to carry my light bag for ten feet from the airport building to the airport bus.

I am surprised the airport authorities did not stop these illegal porters from cheating international passengers when it should be very easy for them to do so which is not to allow them anywhere near the airport building to crowd around passengers just arriving at the airport.

Maybe the airport management officers also get a cut from the deal.  

Scam Number Four:

The function at the cultural center happened before I arrived as I was stuck with immigration, and only arrived in Ramallah on the last day of the event.

Another scam happened at the airport outside of Amman, Jordan. I had to stand in a long queue with the other economy class passengers.

When I went to the front to enquire the airline staff immediately removed the ‘business class’ card on the desk, so I had to join the other passengers who were all flying economy.

Scam Number Five:

This scam happened after I had handed my main luggage to the airport staff, who became incensed that I had complained to him about not being treated as a business class passenger.

He then pulled the tags on my luggage that would take it to Kuala Lumpur. Instead it put a Lahore tags to it.

I didn’t know the implication of this until I landed at Kuala Lumpur.

I could not get my luggage and lodged a complain. A week later the airline staff later called to say they had located my luggage in Lahore and they would be sending it to Kuala Lumpur.

The airline staff delivered my luggage twelve days after I arrived at Kuala Lumpur, and I was relieved because I had my ten rolls of film in the luggage, which I had exposed in Pakistan, Jordan and Palestine, including my first visit to Baitulmukaddis or Jerusalem.

Scam Number Six:

Flying business class with so few passengers in the cabin turned out to be a nasty experience.

Immediately after the plane took off from the airport in Amman, many of the passengers in the economy section rushed to grab whatever seats they could get in the business class cabin.

In the end the airline treated all the business class passengers much like the economy ones.

So it does not make any sense flying business class on this airline which does not treat the passengers accordingly.

The airline staff also did not make any attempt to get the economy class passengers to return to their seats. 

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