I’m hoping that just the title of this piece will land me a few clicks alone due to the fact that its on a travel blog, features the word ‘Scams’ and doesn’t feature the name ‘Asia’ or any of its interior nations.
You would be forgiven for thinking after 3 months of frolicking around Thailand and its neighbouring countries in search of cheap booze, cheap food and cheap women that Australia should be a doddle. Its First World, is part of the G8 and is run almost entirely by middle-class white people. Plus they welcomed you (and your credit card payment) into the country with open arms with the promise of sun, sea, adventure and work along the way.
Honestly all of the above is true for Australia. Its a beautiful country with some beautiful and welcoming people. The weathers great, the transport links are pretty decent and so far I’ve yet to feel unsafe but, unsurprisingly, its not all as it would seem. I’m not in the business of b*llshit, know body’s paying me to be, so I’ll cut right to the chase; living and working in Australia as a backpacker is no cake-walk and the terrain is littered with a lot more scams and under-handed tactics than you might expect. Due to this and due to the country having an incline to lean towards keeping its, even basic, amenities in the “Extortionately Expensive” region its easy as pie to go broke and fast and don’t even think that just because you’ve done New Zealand before hand that you know what your in for. You don’t have a clue Sports-Fan.
What follows are a few tricks to watch out for when your on your Working Holiday. I am in no way implying that these scams exist only in Aus or even that they were invented there but it does often appear that they’ve been invited in with open arms and given a nice car, a free ride and the kind of benefits that even a mother with as many kids in her house as years in her life could get. Coming from a man that’s only been here two and a half months and only been to two major cities, neither of which were Sydney, this list is likely incomplete but here we go. Just as a side-note; if your a backpacker who gets caught in any of the following nets don’t bother complaining to any of the relevant authorities because if they answer with their left hand chances are at least one of their genitals is in their right and they wont do a damn thing….And we aren’t even going to talk about Farm Work yet…
Bank Account; Paying for the Pleasure
So your in Aus. You’ve landed safely, its your first day in your new home and you want to get the ball rolling on the job hunt because you just spent what would be a weeks budget in Cambodia on a Chicken Wrap that looked like it had an eating disorder of its own, a small (and I mean small) Fries and a can of some kind of soft drink that tasted like p*ss that somebody farted in. First things first; bank account!
So you just head into the first branch you see, I mean they’re all the same right? Standard Debit Account, Savings Account attached, $1 fee for using card on other ATM machines; the norm. WRONG! Some dumb f*ck however many years ago thought to himself that it would be a great idea to make bank customers pay for they’re bank accounts. Unfortunately this guy didn’t keep his thoughts in his head and wasn’t actually as much of a dumb f*ck as it seemed because now most of the banks in Aus are doing just that and the customers are eating the s*it and liking the taste.
Commonwealth Bank charge standard customers $5 a month, ANZ charge $10 and so do Westpac and many of their peers. Although this isn’t technically a scam as its government approved (not that this should really make any difference) what is flaky as that the person setting it up for you will make no mention of such stipulations as they will assume you were aware all along. The fact it exists is a joke. The fact its not promoted is plain devious. Go with NAB they are the only ones that don’t charge, to my knowledge.
Job Hunting; The Kangals of Kings Kross
So now that your account is all set up and after reading the small print your safe in the knowledge that your charges wont apply as long as your earning $55,586 a month you figure its time to hit SEEK and see what’s popping on the job front.
What do you know? There’s loads here and they all sound like really good crack as well; “Are you hardworking, ambitious, driven and have the skills and tools necessary to be your own boss!?” Well I’ll bet you do, or at least that you think you do so you go right ahead and apply for these positions with no mention of salary, hourly pay or what you’ll be specifically doing.
Sure enough 2 maybe 3 hours later you get a call from an attractive sounding secretary named Daphne who invites you to an interview the next morning. Great and even better is that the office is conveniently located only 15 minutes away from your hostel! So the next day you iron that crumbled up work shirt that you’ve been keeping in the bottom of your backpack, borrow your room mates tie (probably get him to tie for you as well), spray some Diesel Bad and set off on your way.
When you arrive at the office your taken aback by how swanky it all looks. The floors are polished, the walls are covered in $2000 artwork with titles like “Inner Expression” and sure enough Daphne the secretary is a real knock-out. However, Its at this point that if you know what to watch out for that you’ll be pivoting as sharply as your flat black shoes will realistically allow you to and heading for the door.
The reason for the advertisement not mentioning money is for the same reason that leaflets for Saudi Arabia don’t mention political freedoms; their isn’t any. These “Companies” will attempt to hire you on a “Commission Basis” and whilst disguising it with wording such as “The Harder you work the more you earn”, “Limitless earning potential” and “Your only limit is yourself” the Skinny on this is that they pay you nothing. Peddling whatever s*ite it is they’re trying to push is purely a game of luck involving little to know skill and its realistically possible that you will be working for free.
These people are scammers who will attempt to counter this argument by telling you that you “Obviously don’t have a lot of faith in your talents and worth”. No mate, we do and that’s the f*cking problem. Give me a blank sheet of paper and 10 minutes in a bathroom cubicle and I’ll show you my “Inner Expressions” and I wont charge you $2000 for it, good looking women in Aus are a dime a dozen and your colleagues will be the sort of people that haven’t yet realised that The Wolf of Wall Street was a cautionary tale. Be careful.
Fund Raising; A Free Ticket to the Cells
So the interview with Jordan Belfort didn’t go as well as hoped. So you head back to the hostel feeling slightly disheartened and dreading the inevitable barrage of phone calls that you’ll be receiving from the 7 other similarly worded vacancies that you applied for.
All is not lost though as when you walk through the lobby of your hostel your vision is directed toward the notice board and you notice a certain notice almost immediately. No, not the one about “No drinking after 11pm” dummy! That’s more of a guideline than a rule anyway. The sign in question printed on plain white paper and written in bold black font reads “Want extra cash, Backpackers needed, immediate start, average earnings $130 a day, contact Tim on 042XXXXXX, no time wasters.” Well, s*it $130 sounds like a good piece of the pie and you need the money so who cares what the job involves right? So you call the number on the Sheet and it turns out that all you have to do is stand outside some supermarket and collect money for a “Charity” and that at the end of the day you get 32% of the takings.
Sounds easy enough doesn’t it and, as it goes, your actually doing something nice for those less fortunate as well. WRONG! You’ll find these b*stards have plastered their advertisements all over every hostel in the city and the reality is far from charitable. Before being driven to your supermarket your boss who operates out of a crappy bungalow in one of the rougher city areas and who looks disturbingly like Kool Moe Dee’s Albino brother will hand you 4 buckets with a badly laminated sticker for the charity in question attached and a phone number to hand out if the store gives you any hassle (warning bells anyone?).
Okay, here’s how this is going to go down; within a maximum of 60 minutes the Store Manager will approach you saying you don’t have permission to be doing what your doing, that the number you told him to call is faker than your Ray Bans and that if you don’t hustle in the next 5 minutes he’s calling the police. At which point you’ll contact the boss who conveniently wont be near his phone and his answer phone message will sound strangely like another human being. When he does eventually text you back you’ll get either picked up and driven to another spot or told to make your own way where the story will restart itself and you’ll ping-pong around locations for around 10-12 hours with a final taking of $198, meaning that you get $63.36 to be precise and three near arrests. Oh and the boss will also demand a copy of your passport.
In case you haven’t sussed it out yet; this “man” does not have permission to fund raise, sends you out to do his dirty work for chump-change, scolds you when you get moved on and, shockingly enough, when you get in contact with the relevant charity you’ll soon discover that they’ve never even heard of him. Be careful.
Bottle Shop Lucky Dip; Mystery Pricing
Well what a few days its been! Like any backpacker in this situation, or out of it quite frankly, you’ve got beer on the brain and why not? Alcohol makes you sexier, more confident, better at pool, better at dancing and makes you feel like a big man. So you and your new cronies decide to hit the local bottle shop and have yourselves a sesh.
When you get to the bottle shop and hit the fridges everything seems to be present and correct with your favourite brand, or what you assume will be your favourite brand, except one thing; the price. In fact the whole stock has no pricing on it anywhere. So naturally you ask the, hopefully, friendly old lady behind the till and she barks at you with the extortionate fee of $28 for 6 bottles of p*ss and gravy that isn’t even cold. After returning with several other brands you get similar rates until one finally comes in at around $18; deal!
If this all seems a little strange then that’s good because it is. Especially when you come in a few days later and the lady is quoting completely different prices to you for the same items. Price rigging in Australia is very much illegal and even in everywhere I’ve been in Asia its non-existent when it comes to alcohol in shops. The prices are obviously rigged based on how much a brand is selling but you can bet that even at its lowest it’ll never hit the levels of any legit liquor store likely 5 minutes away so save yourself the hassle and avoid these spots.
“Working Hostels”; Journey to the Edge of the Earth
Its not been the smoothest of first weeks for you has it? Money’s running low and legitimate work seems hard to find in this city so you and your new friends think it might be time to get out and try somewhere else.
So you start looking into nearby towns and smaller cities and you think you’ve hit the jackpot when you stumble upon a Working Hostel in a town just a train ride away from the smog then speak on the phone with the manager who tells you that not only is work in the town plentiful but that the hostel will also help you find it. Jackpot! So you book the tickets, hop on the train and head to the promise land. The promise land that comprises of a Coles, 2 pubs, a petrol station, a bottle shop and, sure enough, your new hostel that you, just the day before, booked a week long stay at and gave the manager your card details whilst you were at it. Oh s*it indeed.
I implore anyone when looking into such moves to do as much research as they can before hand. Some towns are just dead others change with the seasons but one thing that wont change is the sales pitch of whoever’s running the hostel. Truth is, whilst many aren’t, a good deal of these owners are greedy, dishonest b*llshitters with a bad attitude and a crappy establishment to boot.
Don’t even start me on the agencies; Peter Pan’s have the neck to charge you $79 just to look on their job searches and Job Shop only lets you apply for two at a time. BE CAREFUL!
In-short Aus has its share of snakes, in every sens. Its a great country that should be experienced and despite the above its actually home to people that can be as warm as the temperature but keep your wits about you as much as you can. Truth is these scams exist and they exist relatively unchallenged because either the people in charge don’t no or don’t care, either is quite embarrassing and if you do get caught you wont necessarily get a lot of help. In closing; be safe, have fun, watch your back and my God if anybody in the WA area wants to give me some legit work please pipe up now!
I’m Tha Bozz and that’s my opinion.