I was recently reading the comments on an old post where a reader was trying to point out how little of a difference there is between an average short-time off tip, 1,500 baht, and an average long-time off tip, 2,000 baht in Bangkok. His point being that 2,000 is way too little because of how much more you are getting for a mere 500 baht. That’s like $15. Which ain’t much. I’d normally agree with him. And often use the same calculation to show what a cheap bastard someone is being in only tipping 1,000 baht instead of 1,500 on a short-time off. Because $15 isn’t much money at all.
But that’s economics from the Westener standpoint. When it is coming out of your pocket that 500 baht is a paltry $15 and you shouldn’t be such a tight wad. 500 baht to a Thai, however, can be big bucks. And it is the Thai economy that sets the difference between tips for a short-time and long-time off at such a small amount. Small, to us. But to them it is not an insignificant amount.
Consider what an average Thai bar boy can do with 500 baht. He can eat for five days. Not well, certainly not at McDonalds, but he can fill his stomach. And with food he knows and loves. Or he can eat for three days and splurge on a few treats. Like those offered at this road-side stand in Chiang Mai.
It was the intensity of the look on this little kid’s face that drew me to this shot. He had the patience of Buddha in waiting for his treat to be cooked, though he was practically drooling the entire time. The cost was a rather pricey 14 baht. Food-wise, off hand I can’t think of anything you can still buy back in the states for forty-five cents. Certainly not freshly cooked.
I don’t know what the mark-up is, or what amount of profit off that 14 baht sale the vendor realizes. Even if he netted 10 baht, he’d have to sell 50 servings to take home 500 baht that day (not factoring in his rent and other operating costs). Regardless, I doubt if that kid tried to get his treat for a few baht less just because he might have thought he could.
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