Jump to content
Learn Chinese in China

The Beijing Tea Scam (and a few others)


Recommended Posts

When lining up at the airport the guards also tried to put me in a more expensive cab as they did with all the foreigners, but when saw the sticker price was 2.00 I switched to a 1.60 (which no longer exists) cab. btw, there is that 10 rmb toll added on to cab fair....anyway, I would recommend, also just taking a shuttle for 15 rmb to Bei Tai Ping Zhuang at north 3rd ring by BNU, and then taking a bus to wudaokou, or where ever you need to go if you are not weighed down by luggage...there are many shuttles in general, so if you are somewhat familiar with Beijing, then just take a shuttle back.

fyi, In general taxi prices start going up insanely past a certain number of kilometers....So after a while its better just to switch cabs instead of circling in one cab, unless you can negotiate with the cabbie to turn off the meter at a certain point.

always be cautious in bars and restaurants b/c people will pretend to work there and "settle the bill". Just keep in mind if you are obviously a foreigner most of the time no one who approaches you is truly going to help you out of the goodness of their heart. My classmate had the "manager" of a 5 star restaurant help them order and settle the bill, only to discover they had totally been scammed....but they managed to argue their way out of it without paying more. Arguing is sadly often the only way to go at times....

The same thing goes for at bus stations, if anyone approaches you and wants to bring you to the bus, etc, don't go with them, don't give them your luggage to put under the bus. Many people pretend to be employees....

Ladies, just as a general warning, now that summer is here and the laters of yurongfu are gone I would not advise walking down the street focusing on text messaging unless you want your ass grabbed. Better to be safe than sorry!!

FYI those pretty little chopstick packets with the damp napkin inside cost 1yuan (i.e. when you eat huoguo) , so that's added on to your meal cost. argue to use plastic non desposible chopsticks, maybe your cheap, maybe you want to save the environment, or maybe you just need that extra few yuan to take the bus back and still buy ice cream, just be sure you know where your money is going...

If you go to a touristy/fancy restaurant pay attention if there is a %tip added, where they seat you, and look over your bill! , i.e. at if you go to QUJUDE at wangfujing (Beijing) to eat duck, for example, Most likely if you are a foreigner they will send you to the 4th floor where they add 15%, instead of 10% or so on other floors. they said because the other floors hen luan, or not as peaceful....so they automatically send you on up to a different floor where you will pay more for service. (And not even the extra % guarantees it's any better than service elsewhere....)

I did run into art students in Wangfujing, but I just reversed it up on them and practiced my Chinese with them, when they threw me their BS line about some gallery (yes I'll allow you to lead me to my mugging and kidnapping) I said I had to meet a friend and took off. It's always good to watch your belongings when anyone strikes up a conversation with you buy the way, i was sure i saw some guy lurking around when I was chatting with them....and also be careful on the tianqiao and buses if you value your wallet, cellphone...

also i've heard that people will strike up a conversation and later ask to use your cell phone and then someone pulls up in a car and your phone is gone. When out with friends once at a bus stop some one did ask to use one of our cell phones because there battery was dead (*snf*) but oddly enough, so were all of our cell phone batteries......heheh

hope this helps....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

PS And while I'm in public service mode, use the taxi queue at the airport, fools, not the touts that collar you at arrivals!

LOL, yeah... my friend just paid 600 RMB for a 20 minute ride from Beijing Chang to the Courtyard Marriot at 2am when he arrived.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are very few 1.60's left, and according to the drivers I've quizzed that's just because they haven't had time to go into the garage and get their meters adjusted - driver I spoke to today reckoned 80% are already 2.00Y, but I'd guess it's more like 90/95%. Most worrying is that even the shabby old red cabs are now 2.00Y.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heifeng: of course it's important to be careful, but in my experience it's not as bad as you write here.

The art students do not take you to get robbed, if you go with them (I did once) you will be taken to a small art gallery with traditional Chinese art, and they will want you to buy some of this art. If you don't want to buy, you say no, and leave. There's no harm in it.

Even without yurongfu (or yulongfu, as my Korean roommate used to say) I never had my 'ass grabbed' anywhere in China. Not even on a crowded bus, although I know that does happen sometimes.

Bus drivers and other bus people rarely wear uniforms, in my experience most people who offer to help you with your luggage do indeed have that intention: help you with your luggage. Just make sure you get on the right bus.

In general, I think China is a very safe country. Foreigners hardly face any real dangers, about the worst that happens is that you're cheated or otherwise scammed out of more money than you intended, or maybe get pickpocketed. So make sure you check the prices before you order or use or buy anything, and don't make it too easy to have your wallet stolen.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pretty comprehensive list up there - some I didn't know about. Not sure if having one's ass grabbed constitutes a scam, but it is certainly rather cheeky.

Even though some of the amounts involved are pretty trivial, knowing these scams and letting people know you know them can save a lot of hassle, timewasting and arguing.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some of them aren't even really scams - the 1Y for the chopstick and cloth pack is common and I've yet to see anyone, Chinese or foreign, complain about it or ask for free chopsticks - and the idea that following 'art students' leads to mugging and kidnapping is (for now, anyway) ridiculous scaremongering.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

sorry, not trying to be scaremongering at all, more than anything just sarcastic...

of course not all of it constitutes scamming, such as the chopsticks, but the moral of the story is there are little things here and there that add up....just know what you are paying for.....

As far as the behind grabbing and other safety notes, all I can say is stuff happens so just be on guard, as you would in any country...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I reckon I must be about the greenest of greenhorns. I went to China on a week tour last year and I'm going back to teach English this year...anyway, when I was there, I went to Beijing, and to Tienanmen square, and the art students came to me, too. I ended up buying a koi scroll after dickering them down to 100RMB from 300RMB. They cried and thanked me for my generosity, so I know I was scammed, but, hey, the tea was free and they were nice folk.

Well, having not learned my lesson from that (and from the pressure sales outside the Temple of Heaven...sheesh! I think I still have the damn thing somewhere...), our tour went to Shanghai. I was wandering down Nanjing when I was approached by a well dressed little weasel. Even four days in China, when you have a little horse sense, is enough to give you a nose for the local trouble...but I followed him, wondering where he'd lead me and keeping my hands 'alive' in case of trouble, just like sensei taught me. I kept him chattering as he led me to a dark little section of Yun'an street (I made sure to keep tabs about me so as to find my way back) and into a dank "ladyclub" that stank of stale smoke.

He sat me down, and gossiped about the Taiwanese starlet on the television. They brought out four women, and the fellow asked me to choose one ("or two, if please you!")...by this point I was building an exit strategy. I picked one, just to get the weasel away from me, and she brought some tea and some fruit on a little square plate, sort of like a sushi plate. She hinted that I should buy something exprensive for her as my 'date.' I took two bites of fruit and then 'noticed the time' and how I had to meet a friend. They brought me the bill...700RMB! I paid up without quibbling and made my way back to Nanjing, considering it a cheap price for some horse sense.

Hey, I had fun, learned a little, no harm done, and have a good story or two to tell later. That's a good day no matter how you slice it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had fun, learned a little, no harm done, and have a good story or two to tell later. That's a good day no matter how you slice it.

I'm sure they feel the same way, only they ended the day in profit :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have been taken in by the art people before, on my first time walking around Wangfujing. I was recently walking around Tiananmen with my American friend that was visiting and was suprised by the number of art students that approached us, it must've been over 7 different people within a short period of time. Once they know you speak Chinese or are generally not a tourist they go away pretty quickly though.

I had another interesting art gallery related experience recently though. While in Henan me and some Chinese friends visited 少林寺,Shaolin Temple. It was really hot and we saw a monk washing out his brush under a spout so we asked if we could use the water to cool off. He gave us the key that controls the tap and went into his room. When returning the key he motioned for us to come in. We sat in his place and he showed us Calligraphy Magazines that featured his calligraphy alongside his very distinct face (he had a very long beard). After bowing at his alter he gave us each a folded-up paper with calligraphy inside, telling us not to open it until we got home. He then afterwards mentioned that we could donate some money, which was kind of awkward seeing as though he was a monk and he had given the calligraphy to us and we had just been talking about sort of esoteric Buddhist monk stuff. After getting 8 kuai together we left it with him and left.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


I think this should also be posted here, since many people purchase their stuff from China anyways. And I would like all to know, so they don't be scammed like me.

I thought I found a good supplier of APPLE NANO IPODS... and XBOX 360s... heck, they had many high end electronics at "wholesale prices".

I ordered 3 ipods nano 4gb and 1 xbox 360 premium all for $690. And yes, I got suckered in by paying their only payment method ==> Western Union...

What did I get shipped to me? I got 3 no name mp4 players that are worthless. I feel like an idiot, but now I don't want anyone to be scammed like I did. I"m from Canada.


The won't reply to my emails or communicate with me in anyways. This is how they do business... The person I was talking to was Samira Yang. Most likely a fake name anyways.

Here is their website: www.ExportsTrade.com

Here is the Western Union Info:

First name: Zhao

Last name: Wang

Address: 0756Room HuangShan building ,ChangJiang Road Anhui China


Company name: Exports Trade International Cor.

I've learned an expensive lesson. And will not let this happen to me again. But they are still operating, so those that read this and is thinking of buying anything from them, becareful!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi all, my pal 'self-taught' keeps buggin me to post on these forums and toss in my 2fen about some stuff. I'm free to procrastinate this evening so here goes-

I was gonna post a little bit about my experience getting settled here in Beijing over in the Universities and Schools topic, ''PRC Study Academy - Beijing - Query" thread, but this one is a lot more fun to read, and my comments are probably just as relevant here.

First off, the original poster and others have me enjoyably reminiscing about my first time in China, back in '98 or '99, when some fool tried the tea house scam on me, not realizing that I'm pathologically paranoid and cheap. I only had $25 on me anyway.

I had a great time talking to the guy pulling the scam about all kinds of stuff. He did the typical racist idiot thing that prevails in many cultures and tried to guess my geneological ancestry by staring at my nose. After a few wrong guesses and a few sips of whiskey, (which I offered to split the cost for provided that it was reasonable- I told him I was near broke!) I mentioned that much of my heritage stems from Slavic Jewry. Man did he have a lot of odd preconceptions about Jews! (but not as many as rural religious Turks, Pakistani, Egyptians, or folks from any Middle-Eastern Muslim country do!)

He ordered some nice hors d'oeuvres- fruit, cocktail shrimp, nuts, and good whiskey too. I got pretty sloshed. Then when the 800+ kuai check came, I honestly felt bad that I couldn't pay even half of it.

So I asked for a phone to call my tour leaders to see if they would come spot the money. (if it wasn't a scam, I wanted to give em the benefit of the doubt at first) And what do you know, there's not a phone in the place! Until it rings and they have to pick it up. I gave them my $5 and got up to leave and then the scammer really went nuts! He was crying and screaming and carrying on about his poor family and how shitty his life was. (He'd had a bit of whiskey too.) Then he started in on how- "Hitler was right to kill all the Jews! They're too smart! They get rich and Chinese stay poor! Nooooooooo!!!"

I couldn't keep a straight face. I almost wanted to stay to laugh at the guy's weak scammin technique and awful contortions. But the manager came over and said in previously unrevealed English- 'I think it's time for you to go.'

Good times those days in Shanghai. I had the 'art-students' lead me to galleries plenty of times, but until reading this thread, I never knew it was a scam. I guess that's because I don't like and would never consider buying their product. Even most of the real museum pieces fail to get my attention. I'm more of a metalwork and sculpture fan. I thought it was just my opinion that the calligraphy and paintings in so many galleries looked the same, but maybe they are the same???

I've been living in Beijing now since November 2005, with only a month back in the USA for the qun jie holiday. Whenever I go out, I see a lot of "诈骗行为" scammin behaviour, but I'm getting so inured to it that many times I sort of justify the scammers' actions in my mind, figuring it doesn't affect me or anyone barely aware enough to know better. If I pay a little more for stuff now and then so be it, I'm still learning. Sometimes it's worth a few extra kuai to avoid a hassle. And other times sellers don't even know the price they're offering is overinflated, because they got scammed when they bought their stock by people either smarter or more down with the local scene than them.

What really gets my goat though, is when I let myself be scammed by people who project a professional Western atmosphere, and really should know better. Yep, I'm talking about good ol' PRC Study, or PRC Study Academy, or whatever they bill themselves as.

First off, they like to do the bait and switch. You want classes at Tsinghua? "Sorry, we can't offer those, not enough students." I've met at least 5 other people besides me who got that line and were exhorted to take their private little office space classes for the same price. The classes aren't bad, but it's not the same as studying at a real university if that's what you want. The only difference is the incredible profit PRC Study rakes in by not having to pay Tsinghua.

Next there's accommodations. Decidedly lacking. I don't mind, of course, because I lived in a hovel hours outside of Hangzhou for a year back in 2001, but 'self-taught' can set students up in pretty nice hotels for the same price or cheaper. Want a hotel room from PRC study? I did, but I think they may have lost their connections to set those up. Probably the best they can do is the Xi Jiao hotel by BCLU and that's hella expensive; nothing special.

Where I really wanna rip on them though, is their outings. After I was finished with PRC Study, having gotten all set up here in Beijing and no longer requiring their English-speaking safety net, I went along on an outing with some friends who were still stuck in their clutches. I thought we were participating in a sponsored cultural exhibition in a local hutong where we'd meet locals with stories to tell. Instead we got tourist bullshit. About 50kuai worth of tourist bullshit at most. The van they rented was cheap, the hutong wasn't a real hutong, just that ripoff place in Houhai with the mynah bird, the scheduled part of the trip to some temple or another in some park didn't happen, and all-in-all, I could've given an actual tour for a quarter of their price per person. They wanted 200kuai, which I'd foolishly given them before getting in the van. Now the other students all prepaid, so they weren't in as secure a position to demand their money back. But as I argued with PRC Study's idiot representative later, it slowly dawned on me that their attempts at legitimacy must help them believe in their tiny money-grubbing minds that hideously overcharging for something that costs them almost nothing is a-ok.

Basically, I caught them scamming red-handed, and still didn't get my money back. They tried to pay me off with a dinner invitation, but it's just not the same. What worries me is the possibility that the Chinese employees there don't think of what they're doing as wrong. If an institution backs them up, then it's just run of the mill business. However, their business can be shaken up by poor feedback, which by now they should have plenty of! I don't hate them personally, but I know people who do.

The mail-fraud scammers Lucky536 mentioned have got to be all over, it must just be normal for people here and down south to pull scams if they know they'll never face retribution. I've heard so many similar stories to Lucky's from businesspeople who've ordered goods from China and got bricks, or poo, or anything but what they ordered.

However, scamming people who know where you do business and can come and find you. That's just stupid. I have no idea why PRC Study does it, when they could've just apologized for the lack of a proper outing, and given me even half my money back. That's their thing though, they don't care about the student, only the bottom-line. I hear Worldlink is even worse.

Is taking advantage of people in China really so ubiquitous? Is it as much a part of the culture as I think it is? I really hope not. Maybe scammers are part of the reason I've got to do so much advertising for my http://yingdui.com proofreading website just to get a little business.

Anyhow, all my Chinese friends are wonderful people who don't tolerate shit like this. The next time I heinously overpay for something, I'm going back the next time and reminding the shopkeeper that they owe me stuff at a significant discount. Forever. Loudly if need be. Might be fun.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, I was reading through this thread again and thought of some other random things.

Learn how to spot counterfeit currency! In a cab, or dark places try to check your change and make sure you didn't get any fake bills (was this already mentioned?). Also since I don't want people to think I am only pointing out "bad" things in China, let me add that most cabbies I have ran into seem pretty cool, occasionally start/stop the meter earlier or later for me or give me a break on that extra kuai or 2 if the cost is 21yuan...if you chat with them a bit you can really learn alot of interesting stuff.....In fact the more you can show to people you can hold your own, I think you will be messed with less....

And also as a lesson that locals also get scammed, these were a few interesting cases I saw on tv:

1: This Chinese girl was walking around Xidan when approached for FREE 双眼皮"设计" ...she decides to try it out goes to the place sits down closes her eyes feels some extreme pain on her eyelid. Turns out the design was actually doing something apparently permanent to the eyelid, and the FREE portion was also only one eye! yikes, felt pretty bad for her...she wasn't sure to see if it would go back "naturally" or somewhere to get it fixed and done on the other eye too!

2: Someone might put a fake bank contact number on an ATM which are somehow "fixed" so that your money won't come out. (maybe a plastic piece is put into the window where the cash pops out so you can't see it, but it's there behind the plastic piece...pretty creative, huh) anyway, then you call the fake number, don't know what to do, leave, and well you can see where that's headed...

3: Senior citizens are also a target since they also like freebies. Some creative criminals hung a fake "free gas inspection" notification on a housing complex. When residents called and the "inspectors" came the residents were told many components had to be replaced and then of course these costed an arm and a leg....

And as a follow-up to my earlier post and some comments that were added to it (sorry if this isn't exactly addressing the scam issue):

I personally love walking around Beijing and usually take public transportation. Also, many times I am out by myself and not usually in "tourist" locations. I guess for me because I do not blend in at all many people are extremely curious, but in some RARE cases it can definitely take a turn for the more frightening/perverted side. So it's good to be on guard. In general in China there may be a ton of people around at all times but that doesn't necessarily mean that there are going to be a ton of volunteers to help you out if something bad happens. My impression, and some stories I have heard from locals, is that some (but not all) people don't want to or are maybe scared to get involved AND often the people up to no good aren't working alone. There are also many male migrant workers around too....so, anyway moving right along, I am not trying to frighten people, but from my personal experiences and advice and experiences from my Chinese friends who have grown up, lived, and worked here and in a broad range of professions and have encountered a variety of people they always give me the same advice to be extra careful and eventhough things seem pretty safe, never take your safety for granted and that it's always good to be on the defensive.

But to finish things off on a high note I have also definitely heard some good ole' heart warming stories out here too. For example one of my teachers had her wallet stolen once and a nice college student helped chase down the thief and managed to get back the entire contents of the wallet. Also a friend helped this girl out at a bus stop when he eyed some guys trying to jack her phone from her purse...so for every bad apple, there's definitely some very good ones....and while there are some "shady" things that can happen that doesn't stop me, and I am sure doesn't stop others from wanting to be out here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh, that reminds me, how exactly do you tell if a bill is counterfeit?

I remember a few years ago we'd compare the watermark with a real bill, and then put the suspect on top of the real bill and pull to see which one tore first.

Does that still work?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, the raised texture on the shoulder is the easiest one, although to be honest every fake I've got (or at least those I've noticed and not passed on to some other unsuspecting mug without realising) have been a) old style 50's and B) obviously fake just from the texture of the paper itself.

Not sure if that means there are very few fakes around, or that they're so good they circulate without anyone noticing.

Never heard of the 'which one tears first' thing, and am somewhat dubious - prefer non-destructive testing on my money, I think :mrgreen:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...