If we were to tell you that upon almost every purchase made in a Hoi An tailor shop, 40 percent of the price you pay goes straight out the door into a third party’s pocket, would you be a little bit shocked? Or that the average price on cutting and sewing a man’s suit is just $8?
With tailor shops outnumbering other businesses in Hoi An by two to one, it’s not surprising that it’s a brutally competitive industry. Gone are the days when it was necessary to have at least some knowledge in the industry to be able to set up a shop; why bother when everything is outsourced? And what does it matter if the workmanship is so poor that after one wash whatever they sell is likely to fall to pieces? That rich Westerner will be long gone by then.
One of the worst scams actually happens before you even get to Hoi An, in the form of Westerners trolling internet forums. These people are frequent visitors or in some cases live here. Every time an unsuspecting visitor posts the question “Tailor advice – Hoi An”, ker-ching! Copy and paste, “We had a great experience with xxx, tell them the Smiths recommended you, and they will give you the best prices/quality.” This translates as a 40 percent price increase for you that goes straight into a lucky envelope for their return. Tailors are very honest with commissions.
The worst and sometimes frightening on the ground scam is taxi territory. This is where your driver will pick up a friend to help find your hotel; for the inexperienced, picking up a strange man in the dark along the deserted Da Nang road can be quite scary. But this friend will happen to speak wonderful English, and his sister will just so happen to have the best tailor shop in Hoi An. Or there’ll be a phone call that conjures up his brother outside your hotel upon your arrival… it all means you’ll pay 40 percent extra.
The same goes for restaurant staff, receptionists and tour guide recommendations. Sit opposite a tailor shop when a helpful guide drops in his 50-person cruise ship tour group and just see how broad his smile is when they all come spilling out having spent $100 each. Last but not least, if you are handed or even just pick up a tailor shop business card, check that it does not have a hotel name or initials scribbled on it. You’ve guessed it — 40 percent.
While it’s quite possible a few good guys and gals don’t engage in this practice, it’s hard to tell who they are. So to ensure you avoid any add-on charge, once you have settled upon a tailor, don’t tell them your hotel and give a false name for your order — hotels and tour guides give their recommended shops a list of their customers names, saving them the effort of walking you through the door to get their cut. The price you are quoted will most likely not include the extra, then barter!
If you plan to get clothes made here, these tips on tailoring in Hoi An might help.
By Caroline Mills
Last updated on 13th November, 2014.