The great tea scam of Shanghai

Tea, oh-so expensive tea...

So, being the switched-on travelers that we are, there was no chance we were going to be scammed. We had read the warnings, which included the one on the hostel door. After a good morning in Shanghai, we headed to the Bund and wandered along. With the skyline of Shanghai glittering beyond the river we whacked out the camera and began to get snap happy. A few Chinese girls approached us, and asked us to take photos of them all on their camera. We were more than happy to help and shortly after we all got chatting. Of course, they were students and were interested in talking with us. We told them we were off to watch a typically Chinese acrobat show shortly, so they insisted we join them; they knew where the best one was. Completely oblivious to the fact they were half way through their scam we had a little think, thought they seemed nice enough and decided to let them take us to the show.

We trotted off at quite some speed and were being led through various streets until we reached our destination, which was certainly NOT where a high-energy, acrobatic performance could take place. It was a little room with a couple more Chinese girls sat in it. Dubious, we entered with them. We were then ushered into a little room and, to my slight horror, someone locked the door! This did lead to a few raised eyebrows from myself and Ed but, stupid enough, we continued to sit there as the 3 initial girls were still with us and seemed somewhat excited (now we know it was about ripping off the silly foreigners). One of the ladies from this little shop began talking about tea, we were shown a list which had figures on, little did I know these figures were the price PER CUP of tea, of which we had about 20. Not long after we had entered the room, Ed had clocked what was going on and tried to indicate to me but I was still none the wiser. After the ceremony, and many glugs of, admittedly, rather delightful tea, we were presented with the bill. They wanted a tidy sum of £90! I got a calculator, added up the cost of our tea and showed them it was not £90, the very max was £60. They knew I was right and they settled on £60. I tried to say I didn’t have cash, only cheque but they wouldn’t let up and walked us to an ATM and made us withdraw the cash! Most annoyed, upon leaving them we thanked them kindly for scamming us… Still, where there is a negative there should always be a positive; we managed to wangle the cost down by £30, and I did actually want to watch a traditional tea ceremony in China. After that, we were on high alert in China and successfully managed to avoid potential scams in Beijing… No sir, you don’t need to practice the perfectly good English you are speaking to us in.

So, the moral of the story here is, don’t go off with strange Chinese people who walk extremely fast and proceed to lock you in a room. Instead, decline any offers and scurry along quickly. Lesson learnt.


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