This incident took place when I was sightseeing in Singapore with a group of fellow travelers. We were part of a Tours & Travels group and were quite thrilled to be on this trip.
We were scheduled to see the city in a special rented bus. Accompanying us were our tour guides and travel agents. When the bus journey began, we were told that we would be seeing a factory outlet where gemstones and jewelry were being made. Needless to say, I was thrilled. Since I have been in the jewelry industry for about a decade now, I was more than keen to see something regarding my profession.
Our bus trundled off towards a remote village a bit away from the main city. We entered the premises where I saw some artisans working. They showed us how the gemstones were being polished and so on. It was quite informative. Then they took us to their main showroom. This was where they sold all their gemstones. Much to our amazement, we were also greeted by a huge "50% OFF" sign!
All of us were obviously excited; some began to buy gemstones. What I was curious about was: how could they afford to sell these gemstones at such a huge discount? When I asked for an explanation, they told me that since they bought them rough and cut the stones themselves, they could afford to sell them at a reduced price.
Out of curiosity, I asked the price of one amethyst lying in the display showcase. It was a fancy cut, 9.30 carat stone. I estimated the cost to be around $50.00, max. Imagine my surprise when they quoted $250.00 (this was after the 50% discount). These people were simply ripping off innocent tourists and getting them to buy stones at high prices.
Later, I learnt that these tour guides get a commission for bringing customers into the shops.
If your tour operator wants you to buy gemstones in some factory outlet offering you an unbelievable discount, be careful. You just may be getting taken for a ride.