There is a famous scam in Beijing, its called the Tea house scam. Or Tea ceremony scam! It has been going on for a very VERY long time! Recently in Beijing they have even gotten more advanced with their scam, they have recruited foreigners who speak fluent mandarin, to appear more trustworthy!
One of the most famous tea houses that does this scam is Da Shan Qing Tea house, located at 79 Nan Chizi Dajie in Beijing. They are also in cahoots with 2 or 3 other tea houses in the area to SCAM YOUR MONEY.
First off heres how the scam works; You are walking at Tiananmen square or some other tourist area and then some people walk up to you, guys or girls-or both, and they chat with you. Then they generally quite awkwardly invite you for Tea, or invite you to a Tea ceremony.
Once you get in the Tea house, you get ushered into a private room and they do the ceremony. Sure you might have some laughs and have a bit of fun but a wet damper is put on all that fun once the bill comes!
When the bill comes it is often more than 2000 RMB.
If you do not pay, or refuse, you are threatened and you will end up feeling awful. In some cases they will block the door so you cannot leave!
Here is my case; I was walking up Bei Chizi dajie, heading towards Nan chizi. I was looking for a place to eat. I was alone and I was getting really hungry.
I wanted to eat and head back to my hotel. It was fast approaching 5 o'clock.
All of a sudden, literally out of the blue; 2 girls and a guy approached me and asked - Hi, where are you from?
The 2 girls were dressed as students, with backpacks. One of the girls also had a dog with her. The guy was A FOREIGNER and he had a face mask on, backpack and a beanie.
I did not see the guy was a foreigner immediately, I noticed when he started speaking english. It had a bit of a different flavour. He claimed his english was not very good, and he was from Russia.
BUT it was pretty strange, for being from Russia, this guys mandarin chinese was EXACTLY LIKE A LOCAL. He spoke to the 2 girls completely in mandarin chinese, never using any other language, and he spoke FAST and VERY FLUENT.
I got the impression he might have grown up in China, but theres no telling where he is actually from. For all I know, he could have just studied mandarin.
Any way, starting our chat was a little awkward, we stood on the street and walked a bit. The 2 girls told me their names. I only remember 1 of their names, the girl with the dog. She said her name was Jessica. The mandarin-speaking foreigner said his name was Mike. I honestly dont know if that is their real names. They probably were lying, but thats what they told me.
We chatted and chatted some more. Eventually, we were at the end of Nan chizi Dajie, and I decided I would ask them if they knew a place I could get something to eat. They said sure, they know a place and they would invite me to a Tea ceremony. They said there, we could also eat some snacks and noodles.
I took their offer without even thinking about it, and I felt pretty good because I was making new friends in this city that I knew very little about.
We walked to Da Shan Qing Tea house. Upon arrival, the mandarin speaking foreigner Mike said to wait, he was going to fetch some noodles. The girl with the dog tied her dog up outside and led me inside to a private tea room.
The other girl started chatting with what appeared to be the service woman, but was just one of their cohorts.
The girls asked me to sit. I sat and they started explaining some things to me. The menu, the teas and prices. They did tell me a lot about prices and said the teas were very high-end, but they said they were also affordable and would be made EVEN MORE affordable to their new friend.... the sucker.... me.
They started the Tea ceremony and some other lady brought in some snacks; small oranges and pretzels.
They presented me with my first cup of tea. I forgot the name of it, and the lady presenting the Tea ceremonies english was atrocious. I could barely understand.
After sipping away my third cup of tea, Mike the mandarin speaking foreigner came back, and came barging into the room holding 2 containers of noodles. He handed me one, and he sat down and began munching on the other. I thought it was funny, as he brought me a fork to use, while he was using chop sticks!
We chatted, drank more tea. I slowly ate my noodles, beef and onion. I made every effort to understand the presenters english, but it progressively became harder as she obviously did not have much confidence speaking it... OR it could have been she KNEW she was scamming me and didnt want to make an effort. I think it was she knew she was scamming!
I think about halfway thru, they asked if I wanted to order some wine. Big mistake on my part. I agreed. They brought in a bottle of wine. I would later learn this bottle of wine cost me a fortune!
After it was all said and done, The bill came to 4,880 Rmb!
I was scammed 3880 Rmb. They even charged me for the noodles Mike the mandarin speaking foreigner bought me. They said the 80 at the end of 4,880 was for the noodles. The noodles were 80 Rmb.
I like a fool, showed them how much I had in my travel wallet. 2200 Rmb. They said give them that and they would pay a measly 1000!
I did, like a fool, give them the 2200 and then they said I could use my credit card to pay the rest. I paid with my credit card the remaining 1,680 Rmb. That 1,680 Rmb charge was later disputed with my bank, and I ended up getting it back. But the 2200 Rmb I spent was gone for good.
So I wasn't exactly scammed 3,880 Rmb. At least I got some of it back... but I was infuriated and after I paid they suddenly weren't my friends anymore.
The girls and the foreigner left. I presume they would come back soon to collect their share from scamming me but I dont know what happened. I went back to my hotel.
A couple days later, I met a girl from Australia who was scammed by the same people!! Surprise surprise. It was the same foreigner and the same girl with the dog! Just minus 1 of their cohorts. The Australian girl had been smart and asked her friend to find them, on another day, and to take a picture of them so they could post it on social media.
The girl sent me the photos they took, which I will now post here.
You all can see for yourselves the Mandarin speaking foreigner who scammed me, and his cohort. The Australian girl said when she met this foreigner, he told her his name was Mark, instead of Mike. So, as I said before, who really knows what his name is, or where he is from.
I went back to Nan chizi at least 4 times after my scam incident and saw that same foreigner walking with the same girl 1 of those 4 times. I dont know how often he participates scamming but very strangely, that 1 time I saw them, they looked directly at me and then smiled at each other and kept walking. Then the foreigner turned around and yelled to me saying YOU LOSE!
Yes, I heard him very clearly. He said You Lose, as if to say I lost in their game or something.
Jokesters and fraudsters. Thats all they are!
This is a warning to every traveler reading this. This scam is not also limited to Beijing. It happens in many areas in China.
My advice is DO NOT talk to anyone that approaches you. No matter WHO THEY ARE. You cant trust anyone anymore.
Its sad because you really want to enjoy China and meet new people. But theres just too many bad people with bad intentions.
Its a shame.
Thats all I have to say. Do not be a sucker like me and the others I spoke with!
Reason of review: Scam.
Monetary Loss: $350.
Preferred solution: Full refund.
I didn't like:
Being scammed, Being lied to, Being deceived, Overpriced tea.