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“Gangster” Saigon Street Vendors Preying On Unsuspecting Tourists: Report

A recent investigation by Tuoi Tre uncovered a large ring of Saigon street vendors who are exploiting tourists by charging up to VND200,000 for a coconut, sometimes even grabbing money directly out of their wallets.

The newspaper found that there are at least 30 vendors who camp outside of the city’s tourist hotspots, charging them up to 20 times local prices.

One such vendor, Thanh, said that if other vendors attempt to charge fair prices, they are met with threats and even beatings.

“Each area already has a vendor. No one will let you take over their place. And if you try to do so or sell at lower prices, they’ll beat you dead,” he said. 

The scamming relies on “confused” looking tourists that make for easy prey as seasoned travelers are harder to take advantage of.

“Many really know how things work around here. They can take your photo and bring you to the police.”

A driver for a local tour operator said that the swindling is often preceded by an invitation to pose for a photo with their shoulder poles (đòn gánh). After taking vendors up on their offer, coconuts are cut open and forced on the tourists.

“Most foreign tourists did not want trouble and they were also afraid that no one would protect them if they made a fuss, so they just paid the money, bitterly.”

Police said that they have fined the con artists on a number of occasions to little effect.

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