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The Beijing Tea Scam (and a few others)


roddy
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was in Beijing for a business trip and fell for the tea house scam. I arrived at Tienanmen square around 14:30. While outside the forbidden city, I was looking for a way to get in. I heard a woman behind me say "it is closing". At first I ignored her and then she asked if I was trying to get into the city. I replied and since she spoke English, I started asking about other sites. She explained that she had a college friend visiting from another town in China and that she was showing her the city. She then proposed that I come with them to the ancient city since I wasn't able to get into the forbidden city. I accepted since I didn't have much time to see any of the sites. While walking to the ancient city, we came across a small tea house. Since it was very cold, they suggested that we stop in to warm up and get a drink. I accepted and we were taken to a small private room. Another Chinese women entered and asked what we would like to drink. They told me that I could order whatever I want, but the tea was exceptional in this place and we should do a tea ceremony which consisted of trying 10 different teas. I agreed to the tea ceremony which was very interesting. They explained everything to me (how to hold the thimble size glass, sip it three times, etc). After trying all the teas, they asked if I wanted to buy 2 of my favorites. I selected two, which they told me would be 40 USD (a little expensive but what the hell) and we asked for the bill. The bill came and I said to the girls that this would be my treat (big mistake) since they brought me here and were nice enough to explain everything. I looked at the bill and it was for 475 USD! I immediately protested and people came in and out, a few more bills were presented to me, and then they brought one for 47.50, which was reasonable. The two girls that brought me in kept apologizing and saying that this never happens and they appeared to be fighting with me. We left and they brought me to a place for dinner. We had a nice meal, and during, I happened to take a picture of one of the girls. After I took that picture, they started speaking in Chinese a lot and they ended up paying for my bill. Since they did that(they told me they felt bad for what happened at the tea house), my guard went down and I believed that they were not scamming me at the teahouse. After the restaurant, they took me to a shopping center to look around and then asked if I wanted to go to a CTV place. I didn't know what it was, so they explained that it was a karaoke place. I hesitantly agreed and we went to a small place above one of the tourist places on Wangfujing Street. They again put us in a small room and I ordered 1 drink. The girls each had a drink and they also brought in a bunch of snacks. We stayed in that place for about an hour. I was ready to leave so we asked for the bill. During this time, one of the girls was constantly leaving the room. They brought the bill and it was for 260USD! I was now sure that I was involved in a scam (I am little to trusting and naive:(). Now when I started arguing, they brought in a bunch of bouncer like people. I said I wasn't paying and they brought different receipts. Once I got the value down to where I was comfortable (around 60USD), I signed the bill. As I was leaving, they asked me to sign another saying it was to revert the charges they entered already. I signed just because I wanted to get out of there and promptly went back to my hotel. The first thing I did was type "Beijing Scams" into Google, and of course, then the realization set in.

I submitted a partial dispute for the amount, leaving some amount for what I consumed. However, the credit card company said that as long as I signed for any bill, there is nothing they can do. I think in the shuffle of bills, I ended up signing for the one they wanted.

I hope people be careful while traveling and just have your guard up all the time. I also want to post their pictures to eternally have they faces known.

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At Least Do This: Don't talk to anyone! If someone is talking to you, they are trying to scam you. Listen to what your mother told you as a kid, "Don't talk to strangers"

Don't sign the bill. If you sign the bill, you are liable for the charges.

If you get scammed, ask your hotel if you can get the local police to visit the place with you.

Get a receipt!

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At Least Do This: Don't talk to anyone! If someone is talking to you, they are trying to scam you. Listen to what your mother told you as a kid, "Don't talk to strangers"
No no no, that's the wrongest lesson you could take out of this. There are plenty of genuinely nice people in China, don't let one negative experience close the door on experiencing another country's culture forever!

What you will have to learn is how to distinguish the genuinely friendly from those out for your money. The easiest way to do that happens to move to China - I also was pretty naive 5 years ago, can't say I am anymore...

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hht shows us all how to do it right. Be friendly, be sensible, leave with a good story.

I think my dad got the art gallery scam when he came to visit me, and he also detected/evaded it by asking a whole lot of questions. "Why did you paint this picture? Is this a real place? Who is the lady, is there a story about her? Do you sell online?" etc. He likes buying art and has a much bigger budget for it than most of us, but he wants everything to come with a story out of the artist's mouth. If you can't convince him your story is worth the asking price, he's not giving you a dime.

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In Shanghai, I also got similar experience with a good looking Chinese girl.

she said she was Korean - Chinese, then she invited me to go to nice coffee shop.

I was so lucky that my Chinese friend warned me about this before.

I don't know what will happen if I go along with her ^^"

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  • 7 months later...

Haha, yea, this actually happened on my first visit to Wangfujing. Friends were working in the day so I went off exploring. Was walking past the Nike when I was approached by a trio of Chinese girls, "tourists" from other parts of China. They suggested we go somewhere nice they knew of (suspicious!) and I followed them to the teashop. They did the ordering, and we had a round of tea ceremony stuff. After it was all said and done, the waitress brought the bill and it was something like 1300 rmb. There were 4 of us, so the other three paid some money, and looked at me expectedly. Just my 3rd day in Beijing or something, but luckily, i had bought a phone the day before. I was pretty pissed, and basically had figured it out at this point, but just to be sure, i texted my friend and asked him if 400 rmb for a tea was reasonable (it wasn't). i bough some time, yelling that this tea was as much as my phone and it tasted like crap, and then said i have no cash, and i wont use a credit card. said i needed to use an atm, walked out, with 2 of the "tourists" as escort, went to the subway station, where at BOC atm was, hopped the turnstile jumped on the subway, smiled, and waved goodbye.

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Well, this is pretty weird. Has this happened to anyone else before?

When I was in Beijing last fall, I was randomly asked to go "have coffee" a few times, but only at Wangfujing. I went to the bookstore there one day to pick up a few things, and then went back a few days later to make a return.

On both occasions, whether I was entering or exiting the bookstore, I was abruptly approached by two women (a different pair each time) asking me, in English, to go "have coffee" with them. I politely declined in Chinese, and after a few more failed attempts to get me to go, they would scurry off.

I was very confused by these abrupt and seemingly random confrontations, which happened every time I went to Wangfujing. I asked a friend about this, and she laughed saying that they did not want to "have coffee," per se.

Has this happened to anyone else? The next time I go to the bookstore, should I wear a disguise?

Signed,

Curious George

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