Market regulators in the northern province of Thanh Hoa have fined a restaurant VND20 million (US$917) for adding items to a bill to charge a group of tourists extra money.
The punishment was meted out following the tourists’ complaint against a restaurant in Sam Son beach town, whose service industry is notorious for overcharging tourists.
Officials said the restaurant asked their diners to pay for two bowls of rice that they did not even see.
Many other tourists have reported similar problems with restaurants across Sam Son.
In a new controversial case, a tourist has accused a restaurant of taking advantage of customers, forcing him to pay VND600,000 (US$27.5) for a boiled chicken.
The man said he did not check prices when ordering because he heard that local officials had successfully controlled prices in the tourist town.
While many, after seeing a picture of the dish on his Facebook, shared his sentiment, others think the price was not high enough to warrant a complaint.
Would you pay VND600,000 for this chicken dish? A man did and he was not very happy.
Even Trinh Huy Trieu, chairman of Sam Son, said the restaurant did not do anything wrong.
Trieu said, according to the restaurant, the chicken weighed 2.4 kilograms. Given the average market price of VND150,000 per kilo, the restaurant did not overcharge.
“Maybe the customer was unable to estimate the size of the chicken and its market price,” he told Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper.
Hoang Tuan Anh, the tourism minister, said at a conference in Hanoi on Friday that the high number of overcharging cases "will sully Vietnam’s image among foreign tourists.”
Foreign arrivals to Vietnam have been falling every month and by 11.3 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2015.
Anh said he read a recent story about a Viet kieu couple who were forced to shell out VND800,000 for two bowls of pho in Hanoi, several times more than what locals have to pay for the popular noodle soup.
When the couple questioned the price, the owner told them to “shut up” while slamming a knife on their table, Anh said, citing the news report.
“Ripping off tourists is not different than robbery. The authorities have to take actions to stop this.”
“Ripping off tourists is not different than robbery. The authorities have to take actions to stop this.” -- Hoang Tuan Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Truong Minh Tien, deputy director of Hanoi tourism, said at the meeting that he would stop the problem, adding that the capital city was running a hotline to receive tourists’ complaints.
But he could not elaborate when asked about the hotline and why nobody knew about it, or even whether it really existed.
Market watchdog officers in the central province of Khanh Hoa are also “puzzled” about a tourist’s complaint against a Nha Trang restaurant early last month.
An Chi said she ordered a crab of 1.2 kilograms. But the restaurant eventually brought her a tiny boiled crab of around 420 grams.
She complained and the restaurant said it was the same crab and that the strings used to tie the crab were heavy.
The restaurant charged VND350,000 a kilo of crab, with the strings on. Chi said that means she had paid VND280,000 for the strings.
The restaurant argued that Chi saw how they weighed the tied crab. “We did not force her to buy,” a manager said, she told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Khanh Hoa’s market management department said most restaurants in Nha Trang sell crabs tied in heavy strings. As long as the customer and the seller have agreed on a price before hand, there is no case.
And there’s no evidence to prove that Chi’s restaurant changed the crab for a smaller one either, it said.
'Just a calculation mistake'
In another story that is making headlines in Vietnam, a seafood restaurant in the central city of Da Nang has been accused of charging a group of diners more than twice the actual amount.
The owner simply shrugged it off, saying "it was just a calculation mistake."
The restaurant's owner says he might have pressed the wrong keys on his calculator. Photo courtesy of the tourist
A group of seven local tourists received the bill of VND4.4 million (US$202) after having a small dinner.
“I was about to pay while a woman in my group did the sum herself and said it was just more than VND1.9 million,” a man in the group told Tuoi Tre.
“We were very angry," he said.
Tran Van Van, the owner, said he did the math using a calculator.
“I must have pressed the wrong keys. We’re a business, we don’t do fraud,” Van said.
But the tourist refused to believe that it was a mistake.
“Da Nang is a famous city, wonderful for its tourism. I’ve been here many times but this time I'm disappointed.”