Col Chaiyaphruk called the owner of the NaNork Sunset restaurant, Sitthithep Precha, 49, and the customer, Lalita Chaiyasit, to Kamala Police Station this afternoon (July 8) after a post on Facebook by Ms Lalita explaining the incident started going viral on Thai social media.
With Col Chaiyaphruk as witness, Mr Sitthithep and Ms Lalita apologised to each other, and settled their differences.
Present to oversee the talks were Yaowapha Phongkheha of the Phuket office of the Department of Commerce as well as officers from Dharongdharma Center (Ombudsman’s Office) and Tourist Police.
Ms Lilita posted on her Facebook page in Thai at 10:08pm last night, “Warning for Phuket tourists. Today my family and I are travelling. We bought four lobsters, and then we ordered a restaurant to cook and added some more dishes.
“When seeing the bill, we were shocked by the prices of #fried squid for B2,500 and #spicy curry pork for B850. We ordered a lobster as sashimi, but we did not get it. The food was inedible, it did not taste right. We can eat some, but we already invested and expected the food to make us wow. (sic.) We can pay, but not for this overprice 55555.”
Ms Lalita later explained that she did not order the food directly, but instead placed her order through a guide who had accompanied her and her family from the hotel where they were staying.
“I just stayed at my hotel and ordered my tour guild to do it. PS. We have only just learned that a hotel staffer has suggested this restaurant to our guide.”
The bill presented, which also included several other dishes, totalled B6,750.
Ms Lalita argued against the B850 charged for spicy curry pork dish, and the B2,500 for the fried squid dish, but found the B100 for steamed vegetables, B150 for a serving of nam prik and another B150 for a serving of nam prik goong sot all acceptable.
The bill also included B3,000 just for cooking the ingredients, which became the focus of the conflict.
Mr Sitthithep told officers today that yesterday evening a tour guide came to his restaurant and ordered take-away meals for 10 people.
The guide also brought four lobsters which were to be made into sashimi and fried with three different sauces, a Caranx fish to be made into sashimi and steamed with lime, and two Grouper fish to be fried with chili sauce. He also ordered a serving of tom yum and a serving of kaeng som curry.
“We only talked with the tour guide, not the customer when they came to order,” Mr Sittithep explained.
“We charged B3,000 for cooking. The amount of food cooked was for 10 people. In total 2kg of fried squid was cooked, for which we charged B250 per one-person serving, and the same for spicy curry pork,” he said.
However, when challenged over the prices, the bill presented was reduced three different times.
“When the customer called and told us that it was too expensive, we negotiated and ended the deal at the price of B4,900, but she transferred to us only B4,000,” Mr Sitthithep said.
Mr Sitthithep also explained that he has operated the restaurant for 28 years and that this was the first time that he has had a problem with a customer.
“I’m sad that this kind of incident happened in my restaurant. We never overcharged our customers and will not ruin our reputation for this money for sure, as we know well about the current economic situation.
“Before this, we always gave a 10-20% discount to Thai customers, if they asked for it,” Mr Sitthithep said.
“This customer is ruining the Phuket tourism image, but I also have to apologise to other business operators for this incident,” Mr Sutthithep added.
Phuket Commerce Chief Ms Yaowapha told the press that from inspecting the menu prices at the restaurant, “The prices that the restaurant set for the food they serve are reasonable, not too high as explained in the post.
“The prices of food are clearly shown in their menu,” she added.
Regardless, Seri Lapmak, Deputy Chief of the Kamala Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor), today urged all restaurants to not overcharge any tourists.
“I understood both sides of the disagreement. I do not want to judge anyone right now. Our office is in talks about that with the restaurant owner,” Mr Seri told The Phuket News today.
“But I am concerned about the price for fried squid with the black pepper, because that cost B2,500 on the first bill, then B1,500 on the second bill and B1,000 on the third bill,” he added.
Mr Seri noted that how damaging such an incident going viral on Thai social media could be to Phuket
“This could affect Phuket’s tourism industry a lot. Restaurant owners must understand that right now there are only domestic tourists. Right now, we need them to come to Phuket,” he said.
“We understand that this COVID-19 situation is a hard time for everyone, and certainly not the time to charge high prices. Please set prices to be suitable for Thai tourists. I do not want any tourists being overcharged,” he said.
Mr Seri invited people who believe they have been overcharged to report it to the Kamala OrBorTor.
“Please call me on 081-5371334, or the Kamala OrBorTor at 076-385640,” Mr Seri said.
He also warned that any complaints of overcharging would be investigated, and any operators found overcharging tourists would face having their businesses shut down.
Additional reporting by Tanyaluk Sakoot