PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2003, 12:00am

Q Is Hong Kong a rip-off city?

Unfortunately, in any metropolis, there are unscrupulous merchants and street scammers who are out to make a quick buck. Please don't forget this behaviour is not proprietary to this category. We also have them in the higher echelons of businesses, such as Enron and WorldCom.

The story of the couple from China who were scammed by a camera shop may be credible, but for them to hand over money to a stranger in the street for some profiteering on what was not theirs - one begs to ask the question: Where is this couple's integrity? Haven't we heard or taught our children, if you find something that is not yours, you should turn it over to the authorities?

Perhaps a lesson of greed should be taught first.

I hate to see any Hong Kong bashing that is not justified. Hong Kong has many good aspects and I am afraid we are all so lost and absorbed by the dull economy that it is too easy to bash Hong Kong.

Let's take some pride in the city that feeds us and be empowered by the positive facets of Hong Kong and move on!

Jean Sung Seabrook, Central

Anecdotal stories of tourists and locals being ripped off are quite frequent. In fact, fewer and fewer local residents shop at these small shops and choose larger reputable stores like Fortress.

For a city that markets itself as the most cosmopolitan city of Asia, it is a disgrace it does not have even some of the basic laws to protect consumers. Even the basic mandatory refund/return policies would help eliminate some of the worst practices used to swindle consumers. Such laws would enhance the city's credibility and the confidence of consumers to purchase even more products.

There is a saying: 'A person will tell 10 people of their bad experience, yet maybe only one person of their good experience.' If nothing is done soon, Hong Kong will lose in the long run.

Henry Cho, Central

On a trip to Tsim Sha Tsui to purchase a video recorder my husband and I saw one we liked, tried to make a purchase and were asked for a credit card, which was immediately swiped.

The storekeeper then told us the recorder we wanted was not in stock, but he did have another one. Two sales assistants then tried to sell us a far more expensive model.

We asked for our credit card slip back and took ourselves to another store. They worked pretty much the same tactics but the price of the one they were trying to sell us was a little more than the first shop.

We returned to the first shop and suddenly they would not serve us, accusing my husband of being a policeman. They became very nervous and could not wait to get us out of the shop.

Hardly the behaviour of a genuine retailer!

Name and Address supplied

While there is no excuse for retailers ripping off tourists, I don't think the street scam incident should be highlighted to exaggerate the mainland couple's bad experience in Hong Kong. If the couple was not greedy they would not have been lured into believing what turned out to be a scam was an honest deal.

I think it is not fair that they present themselves as the victims in the scam case.

Yvonne Wong, Kowloon

I have little sympathy for the couple who were conned. While I am aware there are some unscrupulous people in Hong Kong I believe people have a responsibility to protect themselves. From their occupations they are obviously educated and, one would hope, intelligent.

For many people, including this couple, $8,000 is a sizeable sum to spend on a purchase. It would be relatively easy to research the price with a quick walk along Nathan Road's many camera shops or by buying a photography magazine. They would then not have been subject to this scam.

I am sorry for the lack of empathy and sorry this happened in Hong Kong, but people must take some responsibility for their own safety in any city in the world.

Stewart Uren, Tuen Mun

Hong Kong can be a rip-off city, but no more or no less than other major cities. It pays for buyers to do a little research before committing to a purchase.

What happened to the couple from Shanxi was most unfortunate. However, in the second instance they fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book. It's hard to imagine they allowed their guard to slip just hours after being compensated for getting ripped off.

But let's not blame the victims too much. The Consumer Council's response that Hong Kong is a free market is quite lame. Even in a free market there has to be rules. Perhaps the Consumer Council should team up with the Tourism Board and put out the following tourism slogan: Hong Kong: Shop at Your Own Risk!

Choi Cho-hong, Kwun Tong

I have been in Hong Kong on a placement since November. In late December, I decided to go and buy a camera and went to Nathan Road.

I was shown a model for $3,500 and after handing over my credit card I was shown a newer model. After hearing of its wonders I decided to tear up the other transaction and shell out $6,700.

I was not given a receipt or a box and I later realised that the power recharger was Japanese and that the camera's manual was in Japanese.

I went back the next day and was assured it was a new model and the English version was not out yet. Then I found out that in other shops the camera actually cost only $2,700.

I have contacted the store in question and faxed them the copy of the receipt. I shall see if they can be bothered to admit to this wrong. I doubt it.

Name and Address supplied