The man in the center took out an envelop of blue 50,000 bill rupiahs ($5 USD) and began counting the money to the calculated amount, which I double checked on my phone to make sure it was correct.
** The Currency Exchange Scam **
After breakfast, we went down the street to exchange our money. I had been keeping an eye out for the rates all day, and I was shocked when I saw the highest rate yet, 132.4 rupiah for 1 yen. (Hooked!) Usually they were about 125 or 127 rupiah to 1 yen.
We followed the sign, which went down a narrow little alley (suspicious?). A man laying down near the entrance slowly watched us as we entered.
It insignficantly got darker as we went in, but I noticed. We came upon a small stand, with 3 big intimidating Indonesian men behind it, and one in front. They all watched us as we stood there. They didn’t say anything to us, just looked at us. In that instant, I whispered over to Katsu, and asked, “is this a little weird..?” kind of confused as to why my gut felt strange (call it intuition).
Since they didn’t say anything to us, Katsu told them we wanted to exchange 10,000 yen (close to 100 dollars).
The man even threw in an extra 30,000 rupiah, because he didn’t have change (as we stupidly thought!)
He then gave it to my friend, who counted it again. Then, the man took the money back and counted it again for us, as if it was a favor. Well, we counted it three times now, I guess we were satisfied enough!
He handed the money to Katsu, who put it in his wallet.
I got excited and thought, I should exchange my money here too! What a great deal! So I also pulled out my 10,000 yen. The man counted rupiah again, making the counting very obvious for me. I felt so weird with all 4 men staring at us, so I punched the numbers into my cell phone calculator again, trying to figure out how they were ripping us off, because it seemed too good. Since I wasn’t watching him count, he counted again so I paid attention. Then he handed it to me. I counted it unenthusiastically again. It was right. Then he took it back again, and counted it again for me, which I thought was a little redundant.
He finally handed it back to me. I took it and turned away from him and took two steps, and counted it there in my hands, because it didn’t feel like as much money as it looked, and I wanted to be the last person to touch the money after I counted it! While I was counting, the man in front of the stand approached me, and all of a sudden, started talking to me in Indonesian. “..huh? What?” I stammered. I was confused as to why they switched languages because they were obviously before speaking in English. The man put his hand out asking for the money, and of course I gave it to him (who knows what he would do if I hadn’t?)
He passed it back to the main man, and in that instant, I saw him pull a blue stack of bills out of his left pocket and quickly add it back to my pile!! “What!”I silently shouted, trying to get Katsu’s attention. “Did you see that!? He just put the money back in the pile! They tried to scam us! I can’t believe it! Wow! Katsu, count your money again!” I tried to say without alarming the guys. Katsu was in vacation mode and overly relaxed from the delicious breakfast we had, so he said, “It’s alright! It’s fine! I think its OK.”
So, this time, when he handed me the money back, I made sure to count it well. I counted it 2 times to make sure. This time the money was correct, and he still threw in the extra 20,000 rupiah. I walked out, kind of angry and thrilled at the same time, for catching them. “Can you believe that?! Didn’t you see that!?” I went on and on. It wasn’t until we reached our next destination, Ubud, that Katus realized he DID in fact get ripped off.
After you count the money at the stand, the man counts it AGAIN for you. In that instant, he takes a portion of the money. Since he clearly counted it again for you, there is no reason why you should technically count it a forth time, unless you don’t trust them, like I didn’t. Watch out for that scam!
10,000 yen to rupiah.
Scams presented price: 1,324,000 rupiah
(Other rates: 1,250,000)
Actual amount received: 1,000,000 rupiah
ripped off: 324,000 rupiah
->actual ripped off (minus their inflated rate): -250,000 about $20.
10,000 yen to rupiah
Actual amount received: 1,350,000 rupiah
amount gained compared to average exchange rate: +100,000 rupiah
->minus katsus lost, overall loss: -150,000 rupiah about $10 usd
Overall, not a big deal.
I’m happy that I caught them in my exchange. Moreover, I’m glad they didn’t just take all our money when I caught them. The situation could have been a lot worse. I could have had a lot of money in my wallet which they could have just been tempted enough to take. Or we could have exchanged a lot more money and not noticed the difference in the huge stack of rupiahs we received.
Be careful when you exchange your money, in any country, not just Indonesia! Trust that gut instinct of yours!
Stay safe 8)