Should Thailand's dodgy dealers be named and shamed?

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At what point are you supposed to stop being reasonable and make a stand against publishers who fail to pay journalists for commissioned work? This happens too often in Thailand. Every time I speak with journalists working for Thailand-based publications I hear stories about people not being paid, especially in Phuket.

Some publishers are just inexcusably slow at paying their freelancers, but you know that eventually the money will come. Others, on the other hand, will lie through their teeth to avoid paying commissions.

Part of the problem is that the English-language media in Thailand is struggling. It’s been like this for a while. Magazines come and go on an almost weekly basis it seems. Part of the problem I’ve had is with magazines ceasing publication.

It happened to me with Hype magazine. I wrote content for them and then the magazine closed down. I’d been promised payment multiple times and then one day I found out the money had apparently been spent on petty cash.

That was a little while ago. Right now, I’m chasing 7,500 baht from the former editor of a magazine that ceased publication less than a year ago. I have emails promising me the money was coming and that requests had been made to the accountant and so on.

The editor sent me an email saying that there was no doubt in his mind that I should be paid for the work I had done. Now the editor won’t return my emails. To rub salt into the wounds, there were reports in January about this man’s exciting new business venture, which is related to property.

What am I supposed to do in this situation? Should I name and shame the individual or would that show a lack of professionalism on my part? I’d be happier to just take it on the chin if I hadn’t been lied to. If someone can afford to start a new business venture then you’d think he could pay me the 7,500 I’m owed.

But this is only the tip of something. There are a number of other websites and magazines in Thailand that put freelancers in the same position. There has been talk of publishing an article about these individuals. I doubt that I’d publish such an article myself because I really don’t see any benefit in making enemies of people in the same line of work as me.

As a freelance journalist, I live off of commissions and when people don’t pay me it really screws me over. This is the main reason why I’m glad I don’t have to work for Thailand-based media outlets any more. The people I work for now chase me up if I haven’t been paid.

I’m sure other people have had similar experiences. Feel free to share them, but let’s keep names and companies out the discussion for the time being. I can only speak based on my experiences at this stage.

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5 thoughts on “Should Thailand's dodgy dealers be named and shamed?

  1. The same thing happened to me when I was a freelance writer. It was for a job in Thailand but the guy who owed me money was actually from the UK.

    After repeatedly assuring me that my pay was on its way, he then stopped replying to my emails and phone calls.

    As I knew his surname and his hometown, I asked a friend in the UK to go through the phone book and make some random calls to try and find him. Amazingly, after about the third attempt my friend got through to this guy's parents and politely explained the situation. They were none too impressed with their son's actions (he was in his 30's by the way) and miraculously a week later I received a cheque for the full amount he owed me.

    So to sum up, I think shaming people into paying up does work, but it dosn't necessarily have to be done publicly.

    Cheers :)

  2. i was many times in the same situation too. not in thailand but back in bulgaria where this was a wide-spread practice, maybe still is…

    i think nonpayers rely mainly on the fact you can't legally force them to pay like you can back in uk. so the way the market was fixing itself was exactly through publicly sharing who's a dodgy dealer and so limiting them from future work opportunities.

    i'd even say that protecting this person's name is very unprofessional as it kind-of supports his scammy work style, and helps him put more people in your situation.

    saying all this i don't want to diminish the financial problems this person is probably into. maybe he's even trying to source the money to pay you, but it's the shifty communication that makes it all wrong.

    Good luck with it anyway!

  3. What are your reasons for not naming them?

    I'm not a freelance writer, but I think at this point (when, frankly, all hope of payment is gone), your duty to warn your fellow freelance journalists of the peril is much more significant thank any duty you may have to keep your boss anonymous. If he changed jobs, then warn his other potential customers — if Google picks up on it, this could save someone else from being tricked.

    I don't see what ethical code says you must keep your former employer or supervisor anonymous. Sure, there are libel laws, but as long as you're respectful and factual, I think it's certainly not wrong.

  4. Part of the problem is that quite a number of expat freelancers do not operate with work permits or companies. Makes them vulnerable for abuse.

    You have absolutely no recourse if screwed over by a publisher when you're working illegally, and the dubious ones use that to their full advantage.

    Here in Phuket there's always a new crop of young writers to pluck…sad but true!

    I've always been paid for my work – you have to be ruthless and very persistent sometimes, but it works.

  5. I think this is a big problem, judging from the emails I've had from readers of my media-related blogs. And as the previous poster mentioned, I think some publishers believe they can get away with it because of the work permit issue.

    Matt – send me details and I will see what I can do to exert some gentle pressure. If this publisher has any intention of hiring freelancers in the future then it cannot do any harm to highlight your current problems getting paid.

    Perhaps this could be an idea for a new blog? Thailand's best and worst-paying publishers.

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