Tea party scam

Shanghai-tea-party-scamThere are many variations to this rip-off, played in different parts of the world (also read our Bangkok overpriced drinks scam, our Budapest bar scam or our Istanbul bar scam), but the Chinese version includes a tea party and a couple of innocent looking Chinese girls. These girls, often pretending to be Chinese students traveling their own country, happen to speak English very well, which is one of the first warnings to be suspicious, as there are not many Chinese who speak English, and they usually don’t start up conversations on the streets with unknown foreigners.

These girls make contact with tourists traveling solo or a group of two, and after some small talk the girls invite them to a tea party or demonstration at a traditional Chinese tea house, either “because it’s Chinese tradition to drink tea with someone you’ve met” or “because we’re tourists ourselves and we want to experience this ceremony as well, please join us”. At the tea house, a host will show a menu of different types of tea, but the menu is only in Chinese, so the tourist won’t know what’s ordered and how much it all costs.

Also read: Friendly girls take us to tea ceremony then order expensive goodies

Shanghai-tea-ceremony-scamThe girls will then order drinks for everyone, but there’s no need to pay for every round, as the host will run a tab, which will run up quickly but unnoticed thanks to extravagant prices. By the time the bill needs to be settled, the girls will somehow have magically disappeared and the tourist will be stuck with an outrageous bill for a few cups of tea and sometimes even a couple of intimidating Chinese gangsters encouraging to settle the debt immediately.

Of course, the commission for the “innocent” girls is included in the prices. If you’re lucky, you’ll find them trying to run the same scam later that day on another tourist, but they’re careful enough not to work the same park or square twice the same day.

If you’re invited to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony or something similar, be aware that this is most likely a scam, so kindly decline and walk away, no matter how friendly or innocent the girls pretend to be. Falling for this scam could cost you hundreds of Dollars of your holiday cash.

Find experiences from real victims or post your own story in our Shanghai and China Tourist Scams Forum.

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