Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

This file photo taken on March 6, 2003 shows bulbs at the flower market in Amsterdam. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

  • Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring

THE HAGUE: Tourists are being ripped off at Amsterdam’s famous flower market, with just one percent of all bulbs sold at the floating bazaar ever producing a blossom, investigators said Tuesday.
A probe commissioned by the Dutch capital’s municipality and tulip growers also found that often only one flower resembled the pictures on the packaging like color, and that there were fewer bulbs than advertised.
“The probe showed that there is chronic deception of consumers,” at the sale of tulip bulbs at the flower market, the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) said.
“Millions of tourists and day-trippers are being duped,” KAVB chairman Rene le Clercq said in a statement.
Amsterdam and the KAVB have now referred the matter to the Dutch consumer watchdog.
The Amsterdam flower market is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and dates from around 1862, when flower sellers sailed their barges up the Amstel River and moored them in the “Singel” to sell their goods.
Its fame inspired the popular song “Tulips from Amsterdam,” best known for a 1958 version by British entertainer Max Bygraves.
Today the market comprises of a number of fixed barges with little greenhouses on top. Vendors not only sell tulip bulbs but also narcissus, snowdrops, carnations, violets, peonies and orchids.
But of 1,363 bulbs bought from the Singel and then planted, just 14 actually bloomed, the investigation said.
Investigators found a similar problem along the so-called “flower bulb boulevard” in Lisse, a bulb-field town south of Amsterdam where the famous Keukenhof gardens are also situated.
Since first imported from the Ottoman Empire 400 years ago, tulips “have become our national symbol and the bulb industry a main player in the Dutch economy,” said Le Clercq.
But the “deception about the tulip bulbs is a problem that has been existing for the past 20 years,” he added.

The victims are often tourists, KAVB director Andre Hoogendijk said.
“A tourist who buys a bad bulb is not likely to come back,” he told Amsterdam’s local AT5 news channel.
Vendors at the market told AT5 that complaints were known.
“There are indeed stalls here that sell rubbish. That is to everyone’s disadvantage, because it portrays the whole flower market in a bad light,” one unidentified vendor said.
But a spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam said that all vendors were being investigated “and that the results are shocking.”
“So to say that it is only a few stalls is not true,” the spokesperson told AFP in an email.
The probe took place earlier in the year during springtime, the spokesperson said.
“The issue is that you shouldn’t even sell tulip bulbs during the spring. No decent florist shop in Holland does that.”
Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring.


Singapore baggage handler jailed for swapping luggage tags

Updated 12 November 2019

Singapore baggage handler jailed for swapping luggage tags

  • Bags belonged to passengers transiting through Changi and using Singapore Airlines and its regional wing SilkAir
  • Changi handled nearly 65.6 million passengers last year

SINGAPORE: A Singaporean baggage handler has been jailed for 20 days for swapping tags on nearly 300 suitcases at the city-state’s airport, causing them to end up at wrong destinations around the world.
Tay Boon Keh, 66, had pleaded guilty to charges of swapping the tags on 286 bags at Changi Airport, one of the world’s busiest hubs.
He made the swaps between November 2016 and February 2017 out of “frustration and anger” after his request for additional staff at his work section was ignored, a district court heard.
Suitcases originally bound for various parts of the world, including Perth, Manila, Frankfurt, London and San Francisco, were affected, according to court documents.
The bags belonged to passengers transiting through Changi and using Singapore Airlines and its regional wing SilkAir.
Tay was suffering from major depressive disorder when he committed the offenses, the court heard.
But state prosecutors said evidence presented at a hearing showed his condition “did not contribute significantly to his commission of the offenses” as he continued to have control over his actions.
Prosecutor Thiam Jia Min said the swapping could have caused “potentially, even serious or fatal, consequences” as some passengers could have been left without medications.
Changi handled nearly 65.6 million passengers last year.