Is It the Principle…Or Is It Being Cheap?

by brian on November 12, 2009

angkor+receipt Is It the Principle...Or Is It Being Cheap?

angkor+receipt1 Is It the Principle...Or Is It Being Cheap?

Above is my receipt from my time in Cambodia for the $7 hotel room.

The reason I posted it is what happened when I was checking out.
When I got to Cambodia after the long ride from Bangkok, they stopped at this hotel. Of course it is all a setup between the travel agent, the bus company and the hotel. They take you there and then give you a deal you can’t refuse, even if you’ve made arrangements to stay at a different place.
To get me to stay there and not look for another place, they offered $7 a night. I gladly accepted.
When checkout time came the clerk put down $8 per night for $48.
“Hey, you promised me $7!”
“No, no $8 is the usual fee.”
“Nope, you guys offered me $7. That is the rate I agreed to.”
He had this shocked look on his face, like are you REALLY going to argue with me over a dollar a day??
He sighed heavily, looked around and after consulting some other people, he scratched out 48 and put in 42 in red, but gave me a look like, “I know you can pay an extra 6 dollars.”
*To address the comments after I posted this, I do not know if the desk clerk knew of the arrangement I made when I first arrived, or if this was them trying to get a few more dollars out of me.*
Of course I could pay the extra 6 dollars. But it was the principle of the matter. You offered me $7, I will pay $7.
I thought about it after I left.
I’m not losing sleep over this. But finding this receipt recently I remember the indignation I felt when the desk clerk was trying to charge me an extra dollar per day.
Was it worth a dollar a day to raise a stink? Or is a deal a deal? Can you take the budget travel mentality too far?

468x60 Is It the Principle...Or Is It Being Cheap?

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan November 12, 2009 at 7:29 PM

I guess it's just one of those things where it's up to you, in this case I would have pointed it out but accepted it and considered it a tip.


rhonalala November 12, 2009 at 9:12 PM

Nope, you did the right thing. It is the principle of the matter. Think if you kept saying yes to an extra $1.00 a night or to eat something, you would have screwed yourself and ran out of money. Sorry, but if the price was $8 when they offered, there would be no issue.


Jeremy Jones November 12, 2009 at 9:31 PM

I think if they had quoted you $8 to begin with and you agreed to it that it would have been fine. I don't care if one person has more money than someone else, when tactics like this come into play it goes out the window. They were clearly trying to take advantage of you. First they charge one person $1, then another person $2, then they'll try and charge you an even inflated rate after hoping you'd just pay. I hate reading about people doing tactics like that overseas, if they want the money they should just charge more to begin with rather than trying to make a little on the side


Anonymous November 12, 2009 at 10:03 PM

I don't care how much someone is trying to rip a person off, it's still shady and wrong, whether it's for a few pennies, a few dollars, or more. And in Cambodia the amount they were trying to sneak in is a lot of money to them, so if you think of it that way, you may be even more glad that you said something. I am certainly glad that you did speak up. This kind of crap should not be allowed to slide by anywhere.


SleeplessInKL November 12, 2009 at 10:11 PM

Definitely the principle matters. They quoted you $7, they should charge you $7. A tip is something given willingly (at least in Asia) and if you feel their service deserves it, it's an entirely separate issue.


AdventureRob November 12, 2009 at 10:12 PM

I totally don't mind paying an extra dollar a night, I'd even leave it as a tip if I was particularly happy.

But no way am I going back on my principles on a deal, if the say it's $7 a night, then not a chance I'm paying $8 if they change it to that afterwards.


John Bardos - November 12, 2009 at 10:40 PM

I think there are two sides to the argument. First, I hate being cheated even if money is not an issue. Principle is important! I have made big issues over small amounts of money in similar circumstances. So I agree with you there.

On the other hand, I have seen many travelers spend a lot of time haggling or arguing over amounts less than a dollar. A dollar can mean a lot to someone in a lessor developed country. Some travelers are just too cheap.


Nora - The Professional Hobo November 13, 2009 at 12:54 AM

My blood boils when things like that happen, so on principle I'd make a pretty big stink. (I've been there before).

I'd like to think that honesty and good service ultimately prevail, but sometimes in developing countries I have to wonder. In some countries it seems to be expected behaviour – even amongst "friends" of different classes – that the poorer person will do whatever they can to get more money from the richer person.

Knowing this is an inherent characteristic, how can we as travelers arm ourselves for the inevitable rip-offs? Possibly by being prepared for a certain mark-up on everything you "agree" to purchase? I don't know.

And how do we at the same time ensure we aren't being taken for more than is fair?
(Rereading: "BEING TAKEN for more than is FAIR"…these words in the same sentence…still makes my blood boil)!


brian November 13, 2009 at 9:27 AM

I could but I tipped everyone my entire time there. Hard not to tip well when everything is so cheap to begin with.

That was my thinking at the time.

@Living the Dream
To be fair I have no idea if the clerk knew of the arrangement made when I first arrived.

I wasn't even thinking about all of that. Like a reflex kicked in – You said $7 now you're charging me $8

Definitely, I tipped the entire time there.

Totally understand. That's how I felt at the time.

@John Bardos –
I know the haggling over a few dollars seems so ridiculous. My only defense is that this was the price quoted me and agreed upon.

@Nora – The Professional Hobo
It's OK Nora :) I find that this is one of those 'relative' cases. If it was an extra $100 vs $6 for the week, would I be so calm about it now?


Pufferfish November 13, 2009 at 12:19 PM

On something like a room rate or price quoted, I say stick to your guns on the price you were quoted. I would've stayed firm on this, too b/c it's not 'just' a dollar as those dollars all add up.
Do you have the extra $6? Probably. But, that's not the price you were quoted.

On the other hand, there are waaaay too many cheap-ass travelers out there haggling over a dollar in different way.
Example: my friend was recently in a 7-11 in Hong Kong (her first trip to SEA) and got a cup of coffee. She deemed the coffee undrinkable and demanded her dollar back.
**I'd like to add here that she was one of those overnight Google millionaires and if anyone has an extra dollar it's her**
The cashier balked and was very confused and embarrassed that my friend was causing such a big stink. She refused to refund the dollar saying she'd already started drinking the coffee.
My friend stood her ground and demanded to see a manager.
In the end, there were 2 managers involved and it took 15 minutes, but the finally relented and gave her the dollar back–probably to get her the hell out of the store at that point.

Now that? Is going WAY too far over a dollar.
I told her returns are not common in SEA and why would anyone expect to find a good cup of coffee in an Asian 7-11. In the 15 minutes she spent bitching she could've found a Starbucks.

Let's just say I'll never travel with her.


AirTreks Nico November 13, 2009 at 1:33 PM

Keeping it in perspective helps. Obviously a dollar is not a big deal to the average developed-world traveler but it can be in a developing nation like Cambodia, and business is business no matter where in the world you are.

As far as this hotel-keeper is concerned he's violating the ethics of running an honest business and should be called out. If not to his face then to the local authorities. It may seem dramatic to take that kind of action over a dollar a day but authorities take scams very seriously no matter how much it is. This guy probably make a "bundle" on this very scam. Plus it effects tourism in general, the very industry upon which they are depending.

Thanks for posting this topic. I think it's an important one.


brian November 13, 2009 at 2:01 PM

You've got to leave her at home.

@AirTrek Nico
It was not the same person reneging on the deal. The person who quoted 7 and the clerk are two different people who might not have known about the arrangement.

The place was nice and they treated me extremely well. I would go back there again.

My question was more for myself and other travelers: Would it have hurt to pay the $6??


Jeremy Jones November 13, 2009 at 3:33 PM

I guess I missed the part about them being different people. I think I would still have insisted but that would be about it. If they had stuck to their guns too I would probably have caved and paid the money just because it is so low. If it was such a larger disparity in cost though then it would be more reason to stick to your beliefs.


ADia November 13, 2009 at 5:06 PM

I think it's both, and being cheap is not bad. I agree with some of the other postings, that is what was agreed upon and if they could get fifty people to forgive the difference they could make fifty more dollars than agreed upon. You betta believe that if they didn't go with the originally agreed upon amount, that junk would be the entire tip. Glad to follow…


Shannon OD November 13, 2009 at 9:46 PM

Oh man, it's SO the principal of the matter. I had the EXACT same thing happen in Cambodia, and they tried to guilt trip me by telling me that I could afford the extra $2 a night. It's about sticking to the agreement and not trying to cheat Westerners out of money.

While the whole "backpackers are too cheap" debate is valid in some ways, an agreed upon amount should stay that way no matter what. Sometimes, if I really feel like I haggled a seller right down to the ground and that they're not making much of a profit, I'll add a bit back in, becuase everyone has a right to a profit. But a price is a price. I think you did right thing. :-)


Brooke vs. the World November 13, 2009 at 10:47 PM

Principle all the way. I have been in that situation so many times and even though afterwards i feel like a jerk bc it is only a few dollars to me, I just can't handle the dishonest behavior.


Frugal Expat November 14, 2009 at 1:20 AM

You did the right thing! They should honor what they offer. What they did is a blunt rip off.


mina November 15, 2009 at 12:57 AM

I would have done the exact same thing you did. If they wanted $8 – they should have just charged it.


The Nomadic Pinoy November 15, 2009 at 3:55 PM

You did the right thing. Principle is principle never mind if it's only $1. They love to play this game that foreigners can afford it but the thing is, a dollar multiplied by 8 means extra money for them.


brian November 15, 2009 at 6:53 PM

@Living the Dream
I'm going to include that. That was not clear the first time.

Yup I agree. Thanks for finally following!

@Shannon OD
As someone else said, you could charge that amount upfront and no one would blink an eye.

@Brooke vs. the World
Thanks for commenting! If you travel for any length of time, you experience it.

@Frugal Expat
I hear you. I didn't really get riled up though. My traveler's open mindedness made me think maybe someone didn't tell the clerk the original price quoted. But with others saying the same thing happened to them, who knows.

I think most people would do the same thing, but feel funny about it. I got to say I didn't.

@The Nomadic Pinoy
Happens everywhere. Again I don't know if it was an honest mix-up or something else.


The Backpack Foodie November 22, 2009 at 4:17 AM

I'm with most everyone else on this one: it's a matter of principle. The problem is not the $1 extra, it's the fact they quoted you a price and charged more. In the same vein, if the opposite happened, I'd actually point it out.

The thing to do, though, IMO, is not to throw a fit when it happens. It's perfectly acceptable to be firm and insist without yelling or getting upset, a thing which I hate to see my fellow travelers to do, especially in places where face matters. The key here is to make it clear that charging you more than agreed is unacceptable; not to make them hate you by acting like an ass.

(Not saying you did; by the sound of your post you were quite calm. But I see plenty of people act like total douchebags the second they fear they're being ripped off.)


brian November 22, 2009 at 1:34 PM

@The Backpack Foodie
Yes yes yes! No way you want to raise a voice or act belligerent with anyone in customer service. No one wants to listen to someone who is screaming at them. The mind just shuts down.

Be insistent and persistent – but calm.


Nomadic Matt November 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM

7 dollars!! overpriced. I paid 2 dollars!

Lakeside is where it is at!


brian November 23, 2009 at 4:50 PM

@Nomadic Matt
Imagine that. You can have a room somewhere in the world for $2 a day. $60 a month. $720 a year.

It is almost obscene when we think about the prices compared to the West.


T-roy October 28, 2010 at 8:54 PM

Brian: I wrote a little something about this a while back and believe me i got a LOT of flack from people about that posts. To the point where people were just commenting “You cheap wanker, go f*ck yourself you cheap Yankee!” Most that were negative seemed to be from Europe and i would just delete those comments but people got mad at me for being honest. I think like the comment above from PufferFish is wrong when someone just refuses to pay because they didn’t like something, that is something way different then when you agree on a price and the transaction doesn’t reflex that. If you don’t like a meal, then don’t go back but when someone takes a penny to $1,000 dollars from you, you should have the right to say something and not get flack for it.

Read my article on it and let me know what you think, once i compared a nickle in the US vs in Ecuador.


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