Cheats at motorbike pumps on Ho Chi Minh City sidewalks

May 18, 2015 | 09:51
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Stopping by motorbike pumps on the sidewalk to inflate their tire, any passer-by may fall victim to cunning repairmen in Ho Chi Minh City.

Their simple trick is to swap qualified parts and intentionally ruin the inner tubes of tires so that clients have to replace the parts at an exorbitant price, and many have been preyed upon on streets.

A wicked repairman admitted to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he has been “earning a salary equal to that of company directors thanks to the cheating.”

Tuoi Tre journalists recently disguised themselves as passers-by to access some of ‘the sorcerers’ and as the ‘learners’ of the tricks to prepare to run the service later.


You stop by a motorbike pump on the sidewalk to inflate your flat tire and then you cannot start the engine of your bike. Why?

The Tuoi Tre reporters discovered the gimmicks after spending a month in disguise to catch the cheaters and recognized many wicked repairmen, like those at motorbike pumps on the sidewalk of Dien Bien Phu Street in Binh Thanh District.

Three of the sites are ‘managed’ by four brothers named Phong, Phu, Dong and Son.

Most bikes taken there may have their electronic ignition device, commonly called an IC, swapped with a low quality one.

The device is placed right above the motorbike engine and is easy to be removed by repairmen in less than a minute.

A qualified IC which is original to brand-new motorbikes costs VND200,000 (US$9) and can be replaced with other similar devices which cost just a tenth of that.

A low quality device may be incompatible with your bike and leave the engine unable to be kick-started.

Besides replacing the device, duplicitous repairmen also target inner tubes of tires.

As usual, the most typical characteristic of a repair site is the presence of electric air pumps and a water basin to soak tubes in to find punctures.

But the sites of the brothers on Dien Bien Phu Street have no such water basin. This is because they do not actually mend tubes; instead they ruin them and replace them with new, expensive ones.

Most bikes taken to the above-mentioned sites have to get new inner tubes because they are “unable to be mended,” as said by the repairmen.

After asking their clients to sit on a low chair, the repairmen also choose a seat to begin disassembling the tires. They often turn their back toward the clients to prevent them from monitoring the ‘repair work.’

These ‘smart’ repairmen use the sharp point of an iron lever to push at the foot of the valve of the inner tube, and then pull away the plastic tube to create a puncture.

The puncture should be made at the foot of the valve so that clients think that it is the result of the flat tire rolling on streets.

They charge clients VND95,000-110,000 ($4.4-5) to replace it with a new one, while its price is just one-fourth of that, VND25,000 ($1.2).

The Tuoi Tre reporters took one bike to a site run by Phong on three consecutive days and he created punctures on all three tubes to force clients to get new ones.

The price of learning the tricks

When asked by the Tuoi Tre journalists to teach the tricks so that they can “follow the trade” in the future, Dong revealed he had paid VND5 million ($231) before to “learn the trade.”

On April 27, Dong agreed to ride to a rented room in Binh Thanh District to “teach the trade,” including swapping an IC fast and tearing inner tubes of motorbike tires.

“Before tearing the tube, you should spin the wheel to distract the clients. After making a hole in the tube, pretend to plug the valve to pump air in,” Dong said.

“The sound of air leaking out from the holes makes clients believe that their tire has a problem,” he added.

“At night after playing online games or sneaking some heroin, I am eager to ruin bikes and cheat clients to have money,” Dong said.

He said he earns from VND500,000 ($23) to VND2 million ($92) a day from the job.

“It is even better than the salary of a company’s director,” Dong boasted to his ‘learners.’


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