If you are new to Thailand let me explain the term ‘Cheap Charlie’. It is used by Thais to describe someone, usually foreign, who is perceived as tight or cheap when it comes to spending their money. In fact the Thai term is a lot more crude ‘Kee Neo’ – which directly translates as ‘Sticky Shit’.

For many years I have just taken onboard the term with little thought to it’s implication. In fact bar girls throw the comment around freely if a customer in the bar refuses to buy them a drink – really, it beggars belief. It is actually very offensive.

I was talking with an expat friend and he first flagged to me the fact that the term ‘Cheap Charlie’ was offensive and I must say his reasons why resonated with me.

In the UK supermarkets are continuously cutting their margins as shoppers are looking for the best prices. It is beyond comprehension that these shoppers would ever be called ‘Cheap Charlies’, in fact it is smart shopping habits. After all why pay more for the very same item you can get cheaper elsewhere?

Is wanting a better price really being a ‘Cheap Charlie’?

Everyone wants the best price, don’t they?

Look at the explosion of market place apps from Lazada in Asia to Amazon globally. The reason they work is that it allows the consumer to look for the best prices.

Why then are farangs (foreigners) labeled ‘Cheap Charlie’ for looking for the best prices when in Thailand? It is not just Thais that label these foreigners but other foreigners too.

Surely looking for the best price is being smart and not a cheap charlie?

In Pattaya there has for sometime been a bit of a breakfast pricing war and the most popular breakfast is by the leading pub/restaurant group who are knocking them out for 99 baht, which also includes a tea or coffee. It is a great price, don’t get me wrong, but it is not a give-away price by any means.

99 baht is the equivalent to £2.40 in England and for sure, even in London, I can get a breakfast for that price from a good old fashioned cafe/’greasy spoon’.

It would be quite easy for someone to be tagged a ‘Cheap Charlie’ for choosing the 99 baht breakfast but I disagree. The consumer, in this case, gets a decent breakfast at a fair price.

When retired expats, especially the Brits that have been hit by falling exchange rates over the years, choose to shop around for the cheapest bottle of beer isn’t this just being frugal or savvy? A bottle of Chang does not taste any better if you pay more for it.

My point to this blog is we should consign the term ‘Cheap Charlie’ to the bin as it is an outdated, inaccurate and offensive term. What is so wrong for looking for the best price, after all everyone across the world does?


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