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The Beijing Tea Scam (and a few others)


roddy
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First time I ever came to China for a short visit (a few years ago now), I went over the Hong Kong/Shenzhen border and someone came straight over to me and asked if I wanted a taxi (in broken English). I didn't have a clue where to get a taxi and spoke zero Chinese, so went along and told him where I wanted to go. He tried to get me to pay up front and said it cost 400RMB. I converted this in my head and compared it to HK taxi prices and it seemed very expensive, so knew something wasn't right and walked away (with him following me, lowering the price with almost every step) until he realised I wasn't going with him. I ended up getting a legit taxi once I found a taxi rank and it cost 30RMB.

 

I feel very stupid now, looking back, but at the time, it was a fairly daunting experience being in mainland China for the first time all alone, so understand how some people do get ripped off.

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Was walking down Wangfujing the other day (yay I'm in China!) when a girl came up to me, cheerful and friendly and with good English. There we go, I thought. She asked where I was from and I avoided answering that question, but we made a little conversation. She asked if she could chat with me a bit but I didn't feel like wasting time on this and asked her where the bookstore was (yay I'm buying piles of books!). She pointed me in the right direction. So you don't have time for a cup of coffee? she asked. Nope, don't have time for that. Need to buy piles of books.

 

I also shook off a pair of polite guys with excellent English at Beida who wanted to talk about, that is, we're meeting people on campus to, well, talk about Jesus.

They must have seen my face fall.

I politely (I hope) told them I have all the church I need in my life and I wasn't interested. They walked off and I regretted it immediately. WTF Chinese missionaries?? What's going on here? Were they perhaps Korean? They seemed Chinese. I should have talked to them to find out, nevermind Jesus.

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Maybe? Although one can usually spot a Mormon missionary from a mile away and I don't recall noticing the typical Mormon missionary attire. And their English was good but not native. Also, isn't converting people illegal? Are there Mormon missionaries in China illegally?

 

I really should have stopped to talk with them :-(

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Maybe converting foreigners is not considered a crime?

 

By the way, I was in the forbidden city two weeks ago, and in one of the many small gift shops, I heard the sales staff telling western tourists that the art for sale was from an art school, and all the proceeds were going to help the students study.

 

I'm sure they lie through their teeth all day long trying to sell their trash.

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Was walking down Wangfujing the other day (yay I'm in China!)

[...]

(yay I'm buying piles of books!).

I demand proof. In the shelfies thread perhaps. This is a necessary 赔偿 for all the envy you're causing, you braggart. And also you need to weigh them and explain how you intend to bring them back.
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I demand proof. In the shelfies thread perhaps. This is a necessary 赔偿 for all the envy you're causing, you braggart. And also you need to weigh them and explain how you intend to bring them back.
They're already packed, so the picture of the pile will have to wait, unless you consider a picture of the fapiao adequate proof. I came here with 17 kilos and have good hopes that I can just bring them back in my suitcase. I took out the five or six heaviest (already some 2 kg by themselves) and will put these in my hand luggage, or stuff them under my shirt if necessary.

 

I'm here with a group of sinologists and am not even close to the biggest book buyer. Someone has spent 1500 yuan on books and another woman's pile rivals mine. It's an awesome group :-)

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eh a fapiao is indeed proof but rather unsatisfactory ... waiting for the pic of the actual books.

Lol I imagine you will look like a walking library.

1500 yuan is about 150 euros, compared to the 800-1000 euro plane ticket, 2x11h plane torture and nightly hard bed torture, that's quite reasonable IMHO ;)

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • New Members

If you really want to go with a seemingly nice Chinese person, ask to see the prices ahead of time.

***Most of my Chinese friends, at that point, would protest and be like "don't worry, I'll pay!" because of course they wont let the foreigner pay. Any other reaction should make you suspicious.***

Once I followed a teahouse scammer behind the Apple Store on Nanjing St in Shanghai out of curiousity and they provided a menu with prices when I asked. It was around 50 per small cup of the cheapest. Snacks, beer, etc all was a lot more.When I said that was too expensive, they said I could sample the tea. When asked, they said that would cost 200rmb.

At that point, I left. They verbally protested but since we hadn't had any tea, it was fine. Not even 15 minutes later another group of women tried to invite me to another teahouse...

Another way to protect yourself if you accidentally fall for this is to carry most of your money and bank card deep in a backpack or hidden in a secret purse pocket so that you can honestly protest that you only have ~200rmb in your wallet rather than the 1000+ they often ask for.

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sorry, slightly off topic, but this is a misconception I hear and see a lot:

 

***Most of my Chinese friends, at that point, would protest and be like "don't worry, I'll pay!" because of course they wont let the foreigner pay. Any other reaction should make you suspicious.***

 

I disagree with this and a lot of foreigners come to China for the first time do get this wrong (back then, including me). People in China will invite foreigners, like they would invite any visitors, because this is a polite thing to do. They will very rarely ask for the other party to invite them back and would usually refuse if they tried to.

However, this does not mean that they do not expect that other party to invite them back (or find some other kind of way of returning the favor). It is polite behavior to offer invitations and refuse to accept them. It is in fact very impolite to keep accepting invitations and not returning them, even though nobody ever asked for this or might even actively discourage it. You are still obliged to find a way to do it anyways.

Foreigners are just as much obliged to pay for dinners as Chinese, just sometimes they do not understand the unwritten rules how they should go about it.

 

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Foreigners are just as much obliged to pay for dinners as Chinese, just sometimes they do not understand the unwritten rules how they should go about it.

 

This may be true, but it confirms what is said. If Chinese people are genuine they wil protest and insist to pay. In the tea scam they're very unlikely to do so.  

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Yes, the way I see it, most Chinese people will insist on paying the first time around where a guest (or foreign visitor) is involved. And 服务员 will assist.

 

Subsequent times -- well, that's not relevant here. (But if, say, you were eating with the same group of three Chinese people, and the first time person A paid and the second time person B paid, if you're dead set on paying the third time then you have to take into account that you might be making person C look stupid in front of his friends).

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I think on such occasions you need to come up with some kind of plan, like bring them to a place explicitly picked by you, perhaps with some kind of 'you'd really do me a favour if you'd accompany me' story. Or find some kind of great excuse why person C should be 请'd today (it's his birthday, she got a promotion, his goldfish died, whatever).

 

That said I have a friend who pays for me every time I see him. He lives in China so it's not that often, and even when I lived there I didn't see him more than twice a year, but I realise that I really should 请 him next time. Or at least really do my best to pay.

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yes, my comment was off topic, obviously for someone who is trying to scam you, inviting them back later is not applicable - and indeed in China usually the host does the first invitation (which most likely will be a local Chinese person), so the previous comment was relevant to the tea scam. It just bugs me that sometimes some foreigners seem to believe Chinese people are just happy to invite them the whole time and they never have to return any of that, which is obviously not related to Tea Scams. Wrong thread, sorry :wall

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  • 5 months later...

Seeing the long running nature of this thread, I'll just add that when I was in Beijing last March I went to Wangfujing and had two women speak English to me.  I used to live in New York City, so didn't stop and just walked straight into the bank and they ignored me when I came out.  A little while later a Chinese couple came up to me, still on Wangfujing, and we had a pleasant conversation for about a half an hour in mostly Chinese.  They wanted to practice their English but I wanted to practice my Chinese, so we compromised and no tea was mentioned.

 

Another scam that I encountered a couple of years ago was on the old side street off of Wangfujing where they sell the cooked scorpions.  I went up to a booth and they sold fried bananas and ice cream.  I could barely speak Chinese, and asked for two and pointed at the bananas.  I couldn't see a sign for a price, even though I was looking for it.  I figured it would be about 10 kuai.  The guys gave me 3 fried banana chunks and a couple of fried ice cream things that I hadn't ordered but they said I'd like, and then said it would be 140 kuai, as I was handing over 20 kuai.  I heard the 40, and thought it was very steep, but paid it anyway, when the guy repeated 140.  So, I handed back the plate and told him I didn't want any, wasn't paying anymore, and he could keep it.  He started to yell at me, and fortunately, my Chinese friend came up and started yelling at him in Cantonese, and pulled me away.  It was pretty crowded and he was behind the cooking area, so couldn't chase us.  After that, if I don't see the price, I won't order.   I don't mind paying a little extra as a tourist, but I hate the blatant rip off.

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  • 1 year later...

To organise a Taiwan trip, I’ve reluctantly created a Facebook account and joined a few language exchange groups. Two of them require an introductory wall post. I’ve had around 20 responses, many just wanting to chat, one inviting me to speak English for three days (!!!), and a few offering to go hiking or sightseeing with ‘me and my friend’.

 

I’ve not accepted any hiking/sightseeing offers because a) I know Taipei backwards at this point, b) I won’t risk more than 10 minutes with someone who’ll speak English 100% of the time, let alone a whole day, and c) I would never cede control to a pair of strangers off the internet.

 

They could simply be authentic offers by good people (all the Taiwanese people I know are super-nice, and old friends who live in Taipei have also offered to show me around), but these ones smell like sophisticated scams. Solving them will be easy: I’ll propose a neutral place to chat, like Starbucks. If they’re for real, they’ll accept. If they resist, I’ll just ignore them.

 

Has anyone else come across something like this in Taipei? Do scams like this happen there? I’ve never been approached by scammers there the way I have been in places like Beijing and Shanghai.

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I can't say for certain whether scams like this exist in Taiwan (I've never heard of them, but that doesn't say that much), but to me, it seems much more likely that most of these people want nothing more nefarious than English practice and the glamour of hanging out with an actual foreigner. Of course, these are perfectly valid reasons to turn down their offers, but I think the biggest risk is that you have a boring time.

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8 hours ago, Lu said:

the glamour of hanging out with an actual foreigner.

 

I hadn’t considered this factor at all. So a bit like when a complete stranger wants their photo taken with a foreigner?

 

Perhaps it’s worth taking someone up on an offer, maybe limited to a couple of hours, just to see if this is what happens. (Edit: Nope. Nope nope nope.)

Edited by AdamD
Nope
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