Public Warning: Alert Do Not Stay At Downtown Hostel
33 Hang Buom, Hanoi Vietnam / Boycott Public Shame
(note: not to be confused with Backpackers)
Myself and a team of us have had one of the WORST experiences as graphic design/photography supplier and staff of Downtown Hostel (Old Quarter) 33 Hang Buom. We started working early December to design graphics for a bare wall hostel and as operations manager to organize all of the operations, everything from check-ins processes, house-keeping, bookings management, financial reports, travel advice etc… In a very short time I organized everything to open before a deadline of Christmas Eve December 24, 2017. I have extensive experience in hotel/restaurant management.
We did the launch open and started marketing a free beer event and offer to get a free one night stay. This campaign really got things kicking. So much so, that I had to work over Christmas and ended up doing the same for New Years. The hostel reached 80% occupancy during that time. A real feel good moment of success.
Photo from the marketing kick-off DAY 1: (Yeah the fliers are upside-down)
Customer reviews during our management time:
While juggling the management, customers, and operations, I was also contracted to complete their website design and other posters/websites/graphics. But right after New Years Jan 3rd, we saw a shift in their attitude. Despite our success, progress and positive guest reviews they decided that me and my team would no longer be on salary management, but they just want us to do the marketing. They gave us high praises for the work that we did. They said that the housekeeper/pt receptionist will now be the manager. She speaks NO English at all, she’s 20 years old, and this is her first job. Strange to make her the manager with zero experience, but okay, it ain’t my business. I read the writing on the wall and figured okay now that we have built everything, they want to start the process of kicking us out. This ain’t my first rodeo. Frankly that was okay with me, we just need to finish the website design, a few graphics to finalize our deal and receive the final payment and we’re out. After we left the occupancy went well below 20% and I started hearing about the complaints about the staff not being able to understand basic requests for towels, sheets, and other small things. I learned she asked guest to post positives reviews out of sympathy.
On Monday morning, February 5, everything was finalized. Before payment, they provided a list of 4 changes to make. Those were made, final tests on the website was done. All of their logins and passwords were transferred and the final high resolution designs and graphics were uploaded to google drive so that they can send to their printer.
So now payment was due.
We received this text message from the owner Viet:
Photo of owner Le Son:
Photo of owner Bay “Seven” Hoang (Possibly brother of Viet Hoang) Runs 7 Bike Tours in Ho Chi Minh City:
Photo of owner Đào Hợp Thịnh (Richard):
These are the 4 partners and 2 of them speak English very well. There’s Viet, +84902168001 that runs a push marketing firm, (no English), Richard – Thinh, +84936361121 who’s a local Hanoi real estate guy (that’s already sketchy) speaks English well, Le Son +84963333026 (Dude was the nicest lil teddy bear, but probably the ring leader) and Bay (meaning 7) who’s runs Seven Bike Tours in Saigon +84937775401.
Phone numbers added so you can make sure you are not doing business with them.
So I called Richard as he’s in Hanoi and speaks English. “Hey I just got a message, Viet says he will not be paying us…” He says “No, no, we just didn’t like…” “Can you take more photos and another video, I will email you an example…” “Sure thing” We end the talk there. It’s part of every design process to get feedback and certainly we can make changes based on the client’s request.
Well that night I didn’t receive anything. The next morning I called and he promised to send that night, I said great because we can start this weekend and finish everything before Tet. Right. Of course, nothing came. So Friday I called him again and now, owner #2, Richard – Thinh tells me he wont pay.
So now obviously I’m a bit pissed and we have an argument, with me explaining to him how we finalized the project, completed all of the agreed projects including their final list of 4 things. Plus we were willing to do the additional work, so this is unacceptable.
So as of now Viet and Thinh has threaten to kill me and deport me, because I’m pushing them to pay me and my team what’s rightfully due. They owe a final balance of 15.235.000vnd which isn’t that great of an amount but these type of situations have to come to an end.
Viet’s threat where he says in Vietnamese, don’t catch him in the streets, they will eat me (kill me) and deport me out of the country:
Richard Thinh’s Threat To Kill Me:
That’s why I’m asking if we as expats should have a legal council group? All pitch in to keep a lawyer on retainer. Especially if you are also a freelancer or small business person or even a contracted teacher.
My friend Kit Engel, and English Teacher here in Hanoi, just experienced a loss of an entire month’s salary, plus they refused to give him back his resident card. He was denied access to leave the country when he was going on his Tet holiday vacation with his girlfriend. This kind of stuff is devastating, inconvenient and down-right wrong.
I am going to speaking with a few law firms to pitch the idea. If there are any law firms that do end up reading this, please reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org. Myself and others need your help and solutions.
Let me say something here too, cause I imagine there will be some negative comments or confusion to this post that you may be reading from a website or a social media post. This is not just some other rant from an expat, or from someone who always complain about things. I love Vietnam with the bottom of my heart. This is representation of actual experiences that happen to expats all of the time, that have tangible consequences in people’s lives and the people that they care for, that you may never hear about. I personally hate publicizing matters like this. It’s just to a point where enough is enough. Because we get little help or NONE from our relative Embassies. We could go to the local police, but really? So expats in these cases are left defenseless. Which is why you see public posts of complaints, because that seems to be the only power we expats have. If we can’t see them in actual court, well let’s bring the case before the public court of their peers then is the idea. Sometimes that doesn’t work. So some of us just take our losses and keep moving forward silently or some leave the country.
My intentions are the following, 1) boycott and put pressure on this company Downtown Hostel and their owners that owe us the balance for our work and our time….clearly. 2) Create more dialogue and awareness of these issues, hopefully it helps someone to avoid these issues. I will be writing again about my experience of the warning signs, ways to better protect deals, contracts, etc. And 3) Hope that it leads to an actual solution where we can form some kind of legal representation partnership to help us during these times and/or most importantly avoid them altogether. I personally would feel so great, and so much more confident (living in Vietnam) as an expat, entrepreneur and general person that just wants to live a stable happy life, if I had a greater assurance that work contracts, salaries, payments, my lease where I live (to get my deposit back) or anything else are all backed by an Attorney. I’m just thinking of ways to keep this beautiful place that I love so much and call home, Paradise.
If you have a story you can share about a collection/salary issue click this link and write to us with subject “My Story”. Also if you would be interested in joining a group of expats that have legal counsel on retainer please click on the link and write “Expat Legal Counsel” in the subject, this will help to know how many people are interested.
How can you help us in this boycott?
Please boycott DOWNTOWN HOSTEL – 33 Hang Buom. Please share this with any friends traveling to Hanoi and to travel groups. Hashtag #DONOTSTAY #DOWNTOWNHOSTEL Feel free to send the owners a text message, telling them how ashamed you are with this behavior and that they should pay their staff and suppliers. Comments and likes to this post to help spread the reach is also amazing help.
Write Your Ashamed Feelings To The Downtown Owners – Tell Them To Pay Hexxagon Team:
Richard – Thinh, Hanoi Real Estate +84936361121 – email@example.com
Shows he’s owner/ceo of this company (another scam?) https://www.facebook.com/SerepokCorporation/
Le Son, Ice cold teddy bear +84963333026
Bay Seven Bike Tours in Saigon +84937775401 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Zalo / Whatsapp +84 901408793
Also they have black mold in the hostel hallways, which is very bad for your health. As managers we told them many times to get this problem repaired before it got worse. Well, it got worse.
In addition, they have got my personal facebook shutdown, and created an imposter account by using the same name, and downloading my profile cover and photo. Thanks to all of my friends help with reporting, this imposter account was taken down. This was the fake account, now taken down: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100024348844962 What was their intentions with that?
I hate to enter Tet Holiday on this negative foot, but I am hopeful that something positive will come from it too.
Proof of Work:
View work completed for Downtown Hostel via Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1jMNckvfRHj6uzy36hC1AvfK9uS7_QEWW?usp=sharing
Proof they are using our photos for their booking.com website: