As a westerner who’s lived for years in Thailand, I’m used to the dual pricing. Thais are charged a much cheaper rate to go to national monuments, national parks and a whole slew of other places and, to some extent, we foreigners expect it. But when a non-Thai international company like Madame Tussauds, run by Merlin Entertainments, decides it’ll join the “let’s rip off foreigners bandwagon but hide the fact we’re doing it”, that’s when I get upset.
After my first trip to Madame Tussauds (with a friend and a coupon as I’d never pay their full 800 baht ($27.50) price.), I realized Madame Tussauds had decided to go the dual pricing route even though, before they opened, in an interview their general manager, Paul Williams had said they wouldn’t. Where foreigners have to pay 800 baht ($27.50), just to trot around a wax museum, Thais get in for only 350 baht ($12). They also get an additional 25% off (70 baht or $2.30) if they pay with their Bangkok Bank credit card. Price gouging the foreigners? Er….yep.
But, where some places price gouge foreigners and are upfront about it, Madame Tussauds doesn’t even have the guts to admit they’re doing it. Nope, they go the ‘sneaky Thai numerals’ way. Prices for foreigners are in Roman numerals. Prices for Thais are in Thai numerals. Of course there’s no reason to do this, as all Thais can read Roman numerals, except to hide the much cheaper Thai price from unsuspecting foreigners who, if they knew, might not be happy about the almost $30 ticket price they’re paying.
For foreigners in Bangkok, it’s bad enough when an international company decides to price gouge other foreigners simply because “everyone else does”. But, when they don’t even have the balls to say they’re doing it, but instead hide the lower Thai price in Thai numerals so foreigners don’t know they’re the target of price gouging, that’s when many of us start to speak out.
I sent an email to Madame Tussauds complaining about the higher price gouging for foreigners and received a reply from Madame Tussauds’ general manager, Paul Williams. What’s funny about the email though is, not only does Mr. Williams have absolutely no apologies for charging foreigners more money than Thais (he even says he’s not apologizing for it), he freely admits Madame Tussauds does it BECAUSE EVERYBODY ELSE DOES.
Way to go Madame Tussauds. Now there’s nice morals for you.
Meanwhile, every time I go by Madame Tussauds there’s never a line. In fact, I’ve never seen anyone actually buy a ticket. At one point Madame Tussauds was saying they expected “500,000 visitors” every year. Many foreigners now, who by the way are telling all their friends not to spend the money at Madame Tussauds, think it’s more like “500 visitors”, as that girl behind the ticket desk sure looks lonely.
Here’s Mr. Williams lovely email, where the only thing he’s right about is my math (800 baht isn’t three times the Thai prices it’s about 2 1/3 times more (although it’s three times more if you take into account the additional 25% Bangkok Bank credit card rate, which many Thais can now get) –
Now tell me, as a tourist, do you want to visit Madame Tussauds after reading this because you’re the ones getting ripped off here – I can get ‘resident foreigner’ price? You get charged 400 baht ($15.50) more than a Thai but hey, you get a nice ‘brochure’ and a ‘photograph’. (Don’t know about you, but my digital camera takes photographs for free).
Dear (Tasty Thailand)
Thank you for your email regarding our admissions pricing and for your interest in Madame Tussauds Bangkok.