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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt cornered by someone with a need?  Have you ever felt bullied and pressured to do something you really weren’t prepared to do at the time?

If you were given a little time and space, you may have changed your mind, but you didn’t have that opportunity.

Since my mom is visiting, we decided to take in some of the sights of Chiang Mai with her.  We have been here for over a year now, two and a half years in Thailand, but haven’t visited an elephant camp yet. (Sad, I know.)

So, we booked an all inclusive tour and made our way by van about a hour or so north of the city.

Once we arrived at the camp, we were greeted by the coolest elephants and their mahouts (drivers/trainers). They were motioning excitedly for us to grab the rope and get up on the elephants bare back.  I thought it would be fun and was the first to grab on.  Many other people followed and the others were having a great time snapping pics.

When we were all off the elephants, we were standing there waiting for our “already paid for” tour to begin.


Instead we were blocked in by the elephants and mahouts who were standing there with 100 baht bills in their hands staring at all of us ATMS (eh hem, I mean “tourists”).

No one said anything, but the expectation was clear.  They wanted tips, now, and the expectation was set…not 20 baht, but 100 baht.

I gave a tip and asked one of the young guys in Thai, “where do we go next?  It’s hot.”  We were all standing in the sun with no clear direction. Eventually we moved on.  After watching the mahouts let the elephants go into the river to cool off, we sat down on some bleachers for a show.

After the show, the mahouts rode the elephants up to us and again the 100 baht bills appeared.  But this time we were seated between these huge elephants and the top row of a set of bleachers.  I didn’t have anything appropriate to give them at the time.

I was thinking that I could give tips when everything was finished. I could give when I actually felt like I should give something because I felt like the service was worth it!  I just wasn’t properly prepared at that exact moment.

Yet I was being cornered. Literally.

But the craziest thing happened.  When I didn’t put cash into the elephants trunk to give to his rider, he was trained to begin to hit us with his trunk!  At this point my four year old was getting scared and my wife was getting pissed.  I told the mahout in Thai, “Stop it.  Make him stop.”  Instead of stopping he looked us right in the eye and made the elephant hit us again and again!  They finally backed away after an uncomfortable length of time.

What would you have done in that situation?  Hit the elephant back?  He had just picked up a huge log with that same trunk! With one swipe he could have taken us all out.  Screamed at the driver?  I had spoken calmly and he just glared back at me.  It was clearly a case of bullying for money.

During the tour there were other set up times to extract more “tips.”  I just hate stuff like this.

Through all of this I realized somethings that I think are common for most of us.

  • I am all about helping the needy, but I despise it when people feign poverty in order to get money from someone.  It can come from a sad look or some other form of manipulation.  Not everyone who feigns need is truly in need.
  • I don’t like it when people are expecting a certain amount, get something less than what they expected, and then catch an attitude. Don’t they realize they could have received nothing and that they are sealing their fate when it comes to any potential future “tips”.
  • If they don’t receive anything, don’t they realize that they are blessed to even be able to have a decent job and the income from the tour that I ALREADY paid for myself and the four other people with me?
  • Bullying a person, or using fear and manipulation, may squeeze a “tip” out of a person but it almost certainly guarantees a loss of future business both from that person and the people they know.
  • We may be normally generous people but when a person comes with a “sense of entitlement”, it is a complete turn off to generosity.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples and applications, right?

Don’t get me wrong.  If you work for mainly tips, I am not talking about you.  Maybe what I am talking about is mainly a problem of the “tourist traps” in this part of the world.  Maybe its not.  More than the issue of “to tip or not to tip” or “to be generous or not”, I am talking about manipulation and bullying.

I hate it and I think you do too.

My mom told me that she was approached by a woman not too long ago while she was having lunch at a McDonald’s in the States.  The woman said she was hungry and wanted my mom to buy her some food.  After some questioning about her situation, my mom agreed to buy her a hamburger.  The lady scoffed, “I mean, you can’t buy me a whole meal deal?  I need more to eat than a hamburger!”

That, my friends, is a sense of entitlement.

My mom was surely willing to buy her the whole meal, but since the lady caught an attitude, she ended up with nothing that day.

We need to be aware of this sense of entitlement and how it will hinder our goals, not help.

When it comes to elephants and entitlement; they may get some short term gain but they are sure to lose in the long run.

What do you think?  Have you ever been in a similar situation?  How did you handle it?

PS: With this exception, we had a good time at the elephant camp.  The price was good for what we got from the tour.

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