by Kristie Rodgers
Thailand is well known as a country that offers great shopping. The high quality, wide variety, and low prices of many Thai goods are a major attraction. Arts and crafts are probably the most tempting buys. These range from inexpensive wicker rice steamers to valuable antiques, and include many typically Thai items such as triangular cushions, colorful hill-tribe artifacts, and finely crafted silver jewelry.
Thai silk has an international reputation and comes in a variety of designs. The country is renowned for its rich supply of gems, and towns such as Chanthaburi are major gem trading centers. With shopping malls sharing space alongside vibrant markets, Thailand offers shoppers a mix of the traditional and contemporary.
Most small stores open from about 8am to 8pm or 9pm, while department stores, shopping malls, and tourist shops open from 10:30am until 9pm or 10pm. Business days are normally Monday to Saturday, but most shops in Bangkok, tourist areas, and resorts also open on Sundays and public holidays. During the Thai New Year and the Chinese New Year, many shops shut for several days. Market hours are usually dawn to mid-afternoon for fresh produce, and late afternoon to midnight, or even later, for tourist souvenirs.
HOW TO PAY
The Thai baht, linked to the US dollar, is relatively stable. The baht will always be accepted throughout the country. Credit cards can be used in many stores in Bangkok as well as in island resorts, and increasingly so in provincial towns such as Songkhla. VISA and MasterCard are the most widely accepted credit cards followed by American Express. Upscale places usually take all major cards.
Please Note: many shops will add a surcharge of up to 5 percent on payment by credit card.
RIGHTS AND REFUNDS
Visitors should ask for a “bai set” (receipt) with the shop’s address andtax number when buying costly items. Shops usually fill out a form for visitors who wish to reclaim the 7 percent sales tax. This form must be presented to customs at the airport. If arranging to have goods shipped home, visitors must ensure that they confirm all the costs involved with the supplier in advance.
Refunds are almost unheard of, but exchange of faulty or poorly fitting non-sale goods from reputable stores should be possible.
The trend in cities, especially Bangkok, is toward chain stores with fixed prices and endless discount sales. However, the Thai love of bargaining means visitors can often negotiate at small shops, specialty retailers, and market stands. Visitors should be aware of the going rate for items so as not to offer embarrassingly low sums.
Learning the Thai for numbers may restrain the vendor’s initial bid. Faking disinterest if the seller’s bids remain high also works and is better than enthusiastically bargaining and then deciding not to buy once the vendor agrees.