Friday, 22 October 2010

tea scam

Let me start out with a disclaimer that the farther you get from high-traffic tourist places, the less likely it is that you'll run into this sort of thing. I haven't been to Shanghai, but am sure that I'd fall for this if I weren't warned.

You've just arrived in Renmin Square (People's Square) and a few very friendly Chinese people appear and start to chat you up. You're very likely exhausted from the trip, a bit unsettled by the culture shock and here are some friendly people.

So the scam allegedly goes like this: a couple or even several young adult 'students' come up and strike up a conversation. After varying lengths of time buttering you up, they convince you to go to a teahouse with them. Like I say, this is the only bait they'd need to land me. Tea with the locals? Well sure.

You sit down, have tiny cup after tiny cup of decent (but not exquisite tea) and are presented with an astronomical bill at the end of the visit. That's it. Logic tells you that these overly friendly folk are not to be trusted, but as I say, I'd be overly willing to trust them. Wouldn't want to offend them culturally at the outset. Might really think the experience was an authentic one I wouldn't otherwise have.

Having said all of that, I avoid the most heavily-travelled places that attract most tourists. Hopefully in the event of a trip to Shanghai, I'd have already done enough research to know where to go without being lured into a scam. At least I hope so.


  1. This is the first time I heard about such a scam.

  2. If I were the tourist, I would not pay by any means. Once in Italy, a few policemen wanted to charge me $50 fine that I didn't think I deserve. My response was, arrest me if you want to, but I am not going to lose my $50 :-p

  3. Who/where did you hear about this from?

    I've heard many stories about Italy from friends and family. Sometimes you just need to be assertive though, and it puts an end to it. I think it was one of my parents or a friend (I can't recall?) who told me about a train conductor who claimed their ticket had not been properly validated, and was going to charge some astronomical rate to "re-validate" it on the train. When asked for the conductor's name and ID, the conductor backed down.

  4. A client of mine read about this scam in a guide book on the way to Shanghai. The only reason he was aware of it was that he read about it before hand. He said he was astounded at how long she walked with him chatting before she ultimately suggested they go into a tea house.

    He had only one or two thimblefuls of tea before excusing himself. Even the price for that little was astronomical. Luckily because he'd been warned, he got off relatively lightly.