The Tea Scam - an interesting example

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The Tea Scam - an interesting example

Postby long_way » Fri Apr 16, 2010 12:30 pm

The Tea Scam is one of most frequently used scams played on foreign tourists in Chine (mostly in Beijing and Shanghai). The Tea Scam is described in more detail in our SCAM ARCHIVE section ( ... house_scam ).

Also you can see video recorded tea scam here: ... avel-scams

The following account is interesting because it is a bit extreme (the tea-house owner wanted to charge the victim $4500 for a pot of tea) and also well written:

It was posted on 7th April 2010, 01:32 AM by The GWoW at ... 24&page=18

Presumably the event took place in Beijing although it could have been Shanghai too...

* * *

This is just a friendly reminder that the scam is still in place and people are still getting scammed.


(lengthy so caution, copied from my blog):

..... I walked around looking at
various shops and stores. when all of a sudden....

This extremely beautiful girl calls out to me in near-
perfect English... "Hello, sir. Such a handsome suit you are
wearing! My name is Miss Feng, and I just wanted to say that
I admire a man who dresses so well. Most men dress in jeans
around here. I can see that you are a man of great taste!"

I was more than a little weary about her, so I made sure
both her hands were where I could see them. She continued
her barrage of flattery on me:

"I cannot guess where you are from, because I have never
seen such a handsome gentleman as you before. I guess you
came from heaven to bless China with all of your miracle and

Ok, that was just too corny for me. I told her I was busy
and had to leave, but she would have none of it.

"Sir, please. Perhaps I can offer you a deal that you cannot
refuse. I must confess that I am strongly attracted to you
and I would normally never make this kind of offer to any
man, let alone a foreigner. But I sense you are different.
Can I buy us a pot of tea so we can discuss this further?
There is a tea shop just across the road."

Ok, weird.

So anyways, I obviously declined her offer for a pot of tea,
but then she got on her hands and knees and begged me,
"Please, sir. Look at me. I am not a poor girl. I have a
good job." Then she opens up her purse and shows me a lot of

"I am not after anything from you. I am not after money at
all. I just want to be your friend. I would be honoured to
meet your aquaintence. I will pay you for your time. 100?
200? Name the price."

I was really embarrassed, and a few other foreigners were
like "Man, don't be an ass, take her for a pot of tea man!
Give the girl a chance!"

"Ok ok ok, let's go and have tea."

So she takes me to this tea house and we discussed different
teas, and I asked her if she liked lemon tea. "No, sorry
it's too sour for my tongue."

"Well, how about English tea? With milk and sugar?"

Again, she shook her head. "No, I don't like the tea from
India. Let's just get simple Chinese tea, ok?"

Sure, whatever. I didn't mind. Tea is tea, right?

So we had this great long talk (or rather, she did) about
life, love, money, and the differences between Beijing and

As it was getting towards my meeting time, I told her I had
to go to the washroom to get ready for my meeting.

So I washed my face, came out, and she was gone.

I asked the boss where the girl was, and he said "She got a
phone call then ran out quickly. She didn't pay for the

Ok, I'll pick it up. I was going to anyways, as the menu was
all 20-30 yuan anyways and not expensive. (3-4 dollars for a
pot of tea)

So the guy looks at what I later found out was his wife and
said in very clear English "4500 dollars."


After I stopped laughing, I said "Sorry, I thought I heard
you said 4500 dollars. Do you mean 45 yuan?"

"No, I said tea is 4500 American dollar one pot."

I then started speaking Chinese.

"Do you know who I am? Can you read this card?" (I pulled
out my old security license)

I pointed to the part where it says "Issued by the Ministry
of Public Safety and Police Commission", tapping on the word
"police" (hoping he'd fall for it)

His eyes widened then said "Oh oh oh! No 4500 dollar. 4500
yuan! Hahaha sorry I am wrong!"

Now, 4500 Chinese yuan is still like 800 dollars. So no go
on this one.

I flipped open my phone, and asked him (in Chinese) "Are the jails in
China clean?"

He didn't say a word.

"Think very carefully, and now tell me a better price. Last

In English, very slowly, he said:

"250 Yuan. Is how much I must pay girl. I lose money on tea!
Please, sorry!"

I motioned for him to sit down at a table, and I sat down
with him. "How much do you pay for this amount of tea?
(pointing at the tea pot)"

"Maybe 20 yuan."

"So that is how much I will give you. You will not pay the
girl. If I see her again on this street, she will go to

I threw him (literally) a 20 yuan-note and walked quickly to
the location of my job interview.

* * * * *

Learn more about common scams in China:

Surviving China’s Scams

As this 2008 Beijing Olympics are now less than 1 year away, its scary to think the number and types of scams perpetrated by Chinese on foreigners is only increasing. Most of the following examples have actually happened to my guests when in Beijing or other parts of China, and a few are commonly reported elsewhere around China.

At the capital airport, a guy claiming to drive a taxi says he’ll take you to town for 700RMB! And he makes you walk a long way to his taxi.
–> Go outside to the taxi queue and insist that the driver use the meter. Most rides to downtown Beijing are less than 200RMB.

Exiting the Summe Palace, a guy claiming to drive a taxi offers to take you back to downtown Beijing. You see that his car has a ‘taxi’ sign on top so you think it must me legit and you agree. However, after the taxi starts, you realize the meter is clicking over 2-2.5times as fast as it should be. When you arrive at your destination the meter reads RMB400. The meter is rigged. You protest but the driver pretends not to understand you and so you give in and pay.
–> Instead of taking a taxi whose driver seeks you out, go and find your own taxi, maybe even walk a block away from the attraction. Also, choose standard taxis–(in Beijing) red, green/yellow, blue/yellow, red/yellow. If you do find yourself in a taxi where the meter is rigged (and you don’t have any luggage), get out immediately, without paying. If you’ve reached your destination and find its too late to get yourself out of this situation, take the driver’s license (visibly located about the glove box), then report it to the police to try to get your money back. In another case, if the driver refuses to start the meter, get out immediately without paying.

You’ve just paid the driver of the previous taxi his exorbitant rate of RMB400, then he tells you 3 of your RMB100 notes are fake. You tell him that can’t possibly be because you got them at the bank in your home country. And you know he had plenty of time to switch them while you were getting out of the taxi. But he again pretends not to understand. You refuse to give him new notes, he gets angry and makes for a nearby policeman. You guess involving the police probably won’t help the situation given your inability to speak Chinese and a system know as guanxi. Again, you give in and give the driver RMB300 more just to have it done with. All-in-all, you paid RMB700 for a taxi ride which should have cost less than RMB200.
–> If paying with large bills, sit in the front of the taxi, then watch the driver as he checks the bills. Don’t give him the opportunity to switch them and don’t get out until he’s satisfied with them. If its too late, take the driver’s license (visibly located about the glove box), then report it to the police to try to get your money back.

You’re wandering through the hutong watching and learning about local life and a Chinese person starts to chat with you in excellent English. You think, wow, great. This person is so friendly and helpful and I’ll learn so much more about the local culture by having a native to talk to. He shows you around, then brings you to a teahouse. There you sample tea and the beneficial properties of each type of tea are explained to you. At the end you’re told you owe RMB2400(!!) because each tea you tried was between RMB80-500. ‘What,’ you balk, ‘I can’t pay that much. I don’t have that much money. I didn’t drink that much tea.’ ‘That’s ok,’ they explain, ‘they accept credit cards.’ (Note: Credit cards are rarely accepted in China, therefore this is also likely credit card fraud as well.) Reluctantly, you give them your credit card.
–> Before drinking tea, whether in Chengdu, Beijing, or elsewhere, always check the pricelist/menu and ascertain the price of the tea you will be drinking beforehand. There are some very expensive teas in China and for the most part, you won’t know the difference so stick with teas in the range of RMB30-40.

You’re wandering down Nanjing Road in Shanghai and someone with decent, but not great English approaches you and asks if you will practice English with them. You think, wow a great opportunity to interact with locals, learn more about local life, and do someone a favor. So you follow them and then take you to a top floor of a building and together you drink tea and chat in English. After a while you say you have to go and get up and leave but they say, ‘wait, you need to pay RMB1500 for the tea.’
–> This is also a tea scam and possibly credit card fraud as well. See above for how to deal.

You’re walking toward Forbidden City or maybe down Nanjing Road and a young person speaking exellent English approaches you and says ‘I’m an art student and we’re having an exhibition, please come look.’
–> This is a scam, usually also involving tea or an art viewing fee. Say no and continue on your way.

You’re wandering through Tiananmen marveling at its size, then a tout asks you if you want to buy a Mao watch, or other souvenir. You decide you like that Mao watch then you haggle over price. You agree on 20RMB. When you go to pay, you realize you only have a RMB100 note. You give it to the seller and he gives you a RMB50 and 3 RMB10s in change. You think wow, what a deal, until later you try to use that RMB50 to buy lunch but they tell you, ‘no, that’s fake.’ You realize you just paid RMB70 for that watch, not such a great price after all.
–> Always keep small change on you to pay for little things. Learn the security features of the RMB50 and RMB100 notes. Then check for them everytime you’re handed one of those bills.

You go to rent a coat, or a bike, or whatever and you’re required to pay a deposit of RMB100-200. When returning the item, and receiving your deposit back, the bills don’t seem to hae the right texture and feel.
–> Learn the security features of the bills and always remember to check them. If the notes seem fake, insist on different ones or smaller denominations. Consider telling the local police bureau.
These scams may change as they become more well-known to the foreigners visiting China so always be aware. Please pass this along to anyone you know visiting China to help protect them and teach China that they can’t treat foreigners this way.

Posted in Knowledge and Experiences, Tourism, Traveling | August 8th, 2007 at 12:37 am

Source: ... nas-scams/
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Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2007 8:56 am

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