Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Chinese Tea Scam

Image source.

So I'm in Shanghai, walking to the subway to go to work, like I do, and this random Chinese lady is like "HELLO!" So... yeah that happens to me a lot- seems like a lot of Chinese people have this idea that they must yell out "HELLO" (or "HELLOR") to any white person who passes by. I think it's racist; they think it's friendly. But that's another blog post another day.

So for some reason I stopped and talked to this lady, and she could speak some English. But you know, I want to speak Chinese as much as possible, so we talked in Chinese. She asked me to take a picture of her and her little daughter, so I used her cell phone camera and took their picture. Then we stood there on the sidewalk and talked in Chinese for a bit, you know, how long have you been in China, where do you work, etc. It was very nice.

And then she asks me if I want to go drink some tea with them.

And I was like OH NO.

As soon as I heard the words "喝茶 (hē chá)" ["drink tea"], everything changed, and I noped right out of there and got on the subway.

Image source.

Because let me tell you about the Chinese Tea Scam.

First, you walk around being white in China. I'm good at that part. Then a friendly Chinese person comes up and starts talking to you in English- and they can speak English pretty well. So after talking a bit, they invite you to go to a traditional tea ceremony. So you go and have tea, and then after the ceremony is done and it's time to pay, your friend has conveniently vanished and the bill is like 700 kuai or some ridiculous amount (that's about 120 or so US dollars).

It's never happened to me, but apparently it's a really common scam in China. I've been warned about it before.

So the moral of the story is, if some nice stranger invites you to go have tea, the answer is NO!

(Or, if you think they might be an actual good person and not a scammer, invite them to a restaurant of your choosing, so you can just hang out and spend a NORMAL amount of money and not get scammed by a tea place that's in on it.)

So... yeah. After I left her, I felt pretty bad, because she was so nice and friendly, but it was all fake and she was really after my money. (Well, we don't know this for sure. Maybe she legitimately wanted to have some tea and become best friends. Uh, right.)

I was really disturbed at being targeted like that. I don't even remember what I said or did when she mentioned the tea. Did I just say "不要 (bù yào)" ["I don't want to"] and then walk away super-fast? Did I at least mumble something about not having time? Did I look incredibly shocked, so it was really obvious what I was thinking?

Well, whatever. I guess I'll try to just look on the bright side: I did the right thing, didn't get scammed, and I got to have a conversation in Chinese. And it's okay, there are a lot of great people in China. Only a few scammers.

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