INDONESIA – Batik Scam in Yogyakarta: How to Avoid Being a Victim

Travel scams are common nearly everywhere around the world, and gullible tourists are more inclined to fall for these despicable schemes. My friends and I just came across a clever and well-rehearsed scam in Yogyakarta, Indonesia where we were persuaded to go to a specific place because the attractions we wanted to visit were “closed” as claimed by the scammer. Avoid being a victim by having a thorough research about your destination and being careful of overfriendly locals.

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Ori’s assistant was demonstrating how batik is made.

Setting: on a rainy summer afternoon at Ori Gallery in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Characters:

  • Main Actor: Ori, a famous batik artist who owns a gallery and sells original (?) batik art
  • Supporting Actor 1: Mr. Congeniality of Indonesia, a friendly local who is knowledgeable of every attraction’s opening hours
  • Supporting Actor 2: Delivery Man, a stalker who delivers the victims to the big boss

Scene 1: Everything else is closed except Ori Gallery.

Our first day in Yogyakarta was supposedly meant for museums and historical sites. We were walking around Jalan Malioboro when the friendliest local you could ever meet approached us and asked us where we were going. Let’s call him “Mr. Congeniality of Indonesia”. We then asked him for directions to the places we wanted to visit. He regrettably informed us that they were already closed and we were foolish enough to believe him because he’s a local so he must know, right? He convinced us instead to check out Ori Gallery by stating that its batik exhibition was happening on that particular day only. He instructed us how to get there on a 5-minute walk so we decided to take a look in the long run since it was nearby.

Scene 2: Follow me instead of your instincts.

During our whole conversation, there was another suspicious local on the sidelines whom I thought was just intrigued by Mr. Congeniality of Indonesia’s hyper mood. Let’s call him “Delivery Man”. En route to Ori Gallery, I saw that Delivery Man was either following us or going somewhere in the same direction. He must’ve noticed that we were getting lost so he proposed to accompany us because it was along his way. The walk was taking much longer than expected so I began to feel uneasy. My skepticism heightened as we took a left turn into a shady alley where Ori Gallery is situated. It doesn’t look like a gallery from the outside because it is only a small bungalow with no signage whatsoever.

Scene 3: Where the f is letter A?

Upon entering, my doubt was replaced with admiration as we were greeted by a wide range of colorful batik art collection. The protagonist of this scam welcomed us and introduced himself as “Ori” (as in Ori-ginal? *rolls eyes*) who is a renowned batik artist and teacher. He and his assistant gave a presentation right away and handed us a price list that contains the alphabet priced from lowest (letter A) to highest (letter Z). He wasn’t being pushy but for souvenir purposes, we bought the cheapest batik we could find which is marked with the letter F worth approximately IDR 80,000. We couldn’t find those under the letter A and were too shy to inquire because he kept showing his best pieces which are, of course, the expensive ones.

Scene 4: It doesn’t end in the gallery.

As we were about to leave, Ori suddenly asked us about our plans in Yogyakarta. We informed him that we were joining a group tour arranged by our hostel’s travel agency. When we mentioned the name of the agency, he sneered and told us that its tour packages are notorious for being overpriced. As an alternative, he offered to tour us wherever we want at a cheaper price. He said that the timing was right because he didn’t have work the following day. We couldn’t be more grateful so we exchanged contact details and agreed to meet the next morning.

Scene 5: We’ve lost faith in humanity.

Because of Ori’s exaggerated self-praise, my friend got so curious that she researched about him when we came back to our hostel. That’s when we discovered the numerous blogs that describes our experience as a scam. Realization of our idiocy kicked in and everything made sense in a flash. We contacted him immediately to cancel our agreement. We could’ve been further ripped off if we didn’t find out!

You may have already distinguished a number of peculiarities in their scam. One of them is the opening hours of Ori Gallery. Mr. Congeniality of Indonesia said that the gallery was opened exclusively on that day. However, the signage indicates that it is in fact open daily. How come Ori was willing to tour us the next day because he didn’t have work? Get it together, scammers! SMH.

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Are Ori Gallery’s batiks indeed original? Both sides of the ones we bought look the same and according to Ori, both sides of a genuine batik should be identical. The thing is, I don’t care anymore. Just give us back our wasted time.

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Conclusion: This is why I have trust issues.

It is best to trust your intuition in times like this. If something feels wrong, it probably is. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If ever you also encounter a scam, don’t let it ruin your day or your trip. After this experience, we couldn’t get over our trust issues and everyone seemed suspiciously nice all of a sudden. I admit that our actions became restricted and we felt like we couldn’t travel freely for the rest of our trip in Indonesia.

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