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Seeking the Chinese Woman of your Dreams in China - Part 2: The Teahouse Scam by John Abbot
One of the most common scams that many newcomers to China encounter, and almost invariably fall for, is the teahouse scam.  This usually involves one or two young Chinese locals (almost always beautiful Chinese girls) who will approach you and chat you up, explaining in their broken English that they want to practice the language by spending some time talking to you.

They will invite you to a teahouse (or a pub or even a coffee shop) where, at the end of their supposed English language session, you will be handed an exorbitant bill.  In some instances, the young Chinese who invited you will have already snuck out; in other instances, they will have paid part of the bill, which the waitress or owner will return to them at a later time because one or both of them are in on the con.  You can try to ask for the menu to check the prices, but this will be pointless because you will simply be handed a different menu with much higher rates.  Arguing will just be as pointless, especially when they pretend they can’t understand you at all.   

The teahouse scam is very popular across China.I personally got sucked in once on this scam during my relatively early days, while on a business trip to Shanghai. I was down on the Bund just whiling away an evening when a very beautiful Chinese woman stopped me to ask if she could practice her English with me. Her English was actually very good, and I was looking for a little company, so I was happy to agree. I suggested she find us a good Pub because I felt like a cold beer.

I’d been in China long enough to know to keep my eyes open all the time, but I had not yet encountered this scam. When we passed pub after pub, all of which looked fine to me, to eventually take an elevator up to what was an okay bar, but not as nice as the ones on the street below, I tuned into the fact that she had this very specific bar in mind, and so had to be connected to it in some manner. We sat down to order and before my beer had arrived she’d gotten on the phone and another girl showed up. And then another, and then another. All of them laughing and chatting and ordering drinks like crazy. Of course only my new found friend could speak any English among them.

By now I knew I was being taken for a ride, but wasn’t at all sure how it would all wash out.  These girls were drinking like crazy, being poured drink after drink, but no one was getting drunk, so I took the liberty of tasting a number of their drinks as they arrived, and there was no alcohol in any of them. They tasted like weak tea with sugar, but looked like straight whiskey.  Not once had any of these girls asked me to buy them a drink, and neither had I offered, but it was becoming pretty clear what the game was going to be.  I already was sure there was a whopping big bill coming my way.

I excused myself and went to the washroom, and noticed I was being carefully watched by several male employees and the downright evil looking woman manager. I was actually starting to get a little worried now, realizing I was several floors up and would have to not only refuse to be scammed, but then might have to physically force my way to the elevator and to safety. I started figuring on a compromise solution, and took all the cash I had except for 300 RMB (about $37 USD back then) and stuffed it into my sock under my jeans. Then I headed back to the table and announced I had to leave.

The bill showed up in the bat of an eye, clutched in the hand of the evil manager, and it was for about 2800 RMB. My beer was 29 RMB, but the girls had apparently been drinking Hennessey cognac.  I looked shocked, but shrugged my shoulders and pulled out 30 RMB to pay for my beer, and made to walk away. Naturally the manager blocked me, backed by her 3 male employees. And of course, she couldn’t speak English, so I had to call on my little friend, who was also stunned that I was unwilling to pay this silly little bill, and ask her to translate.

I said to tell the manager that I never told anyone I was going to buy these girls drinks, and I was not going to pay this bill. I also said to tell her that I had tasted the drinks and none of them were Hennessey cognac. To support that statement I grabbed one of the offending drinks off the table, tasted it and then offered it to the manager. Of course she was beside herself with indignation that I would try to avoid my responsibility to pay for the high end drinks, and it did turn into a bit of a standoff, both of us feigning indignation and disgust with each other, before I finally played my hole card.

Pulling my remaining 270 RMB out of my pocket, and showing my other pocket to be empty, I dropped the entire 300 RMB on the table and said “that’s all I have and that’s all I can pay”. I then wished my little friend goodbye and pushed my way past the still sputtering manager, and brazened my way through the trio of henchmen. I admit that they were not exactly intimidating individuals, but still I was relieved when they parted before my challenge and let me pass.  

As I had hoped the manager couldn’t see any point in pushing me further when I appeared to have no more money, and 300 RMB included a lot of profit for 1 beer and a bunch of weak tea. However, in the circumstances I felt like I’d been blessed to escape so lightly. I had been in China for about a year or so, so I should have known better, but that’s what a pretty Chinese girl can do. Just think how much of a disaster this could have been for someone fresh off the airplane on his first trip to China.

Another version of this scam involves two art students who will tell you the same story of wanting to practice their English.  Instead of a teahouse, you will get invited to an art gallery where you will be coerced or tricked into buying an overpriced piece. 

More on the ground scams coming next week in Part 3…


From: Original         Author: John Abbot         Time: 11/14/2013 6:28:01 AM

 
Comments
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#2013-11-19 18:41:00 by zhangxiujin @zhangxiujin
Reply two years ago, two Americn friends of mine were travelling in Shanghai, one called me one day, said Mike (the other guy) was trapped in a teahouse, the owner would not let him out only if he paid the bill of $300, I didn't understand exactly in the phone what happened, thought he bought some expensive tea or tea pots, now I understand what was the circumstance, OMG, it is horrible.
#2013-11-22 14:49:00 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot
Reply @zhangxiujin - you are quite right, that is no doubt what happened to your friend and has happened to a lot of other foreigners over the years. It's a shame because it's probably the first thing they talk about when their friends ask them when the get back home, "so, how did you like China?".
#2014-08-10 01:15:00 by Anonymous204988 @Anonymous204988
This is hilarious! 1) Just because she is young and beautiful does not excuse her from being a scam artist. In truth, they are almost always the most beautiful for a reason.
2) Foreign men getting with their pants down and thinking with their cocks!
3) When you tasted the first drink and it was void of alchol....you continued to play the scam? Why? Because you thought you might get lucky with a beautiful young chinese girl! 4) Grow up, respect women and stop thinking with your cock every time you meet a beautiful girl....and keep your money for the honest dating. It never ceases to amaze me how when western men get scammed trying to take advantage of beautiful young women because of their ego or the 'rich man' syndrome how much they scream foul play like scared little mama's boys.
#2018-05-06 16:33:00 by oldghost @oldghost
Reply Mine was the coffee shop - near Tiananmen square. It was approaching 6pm with the Mao ceremony looming I thought I could really go a cappuccino, and lo and behold what pops up but a young (28yo) woman from Heilongjiang claiming to be studying teaching English who wants to shout me a coffee, to which I agree; shortly afterwards a second one turns up and turns out to be her colleague. Mmm. The pretense of speaking English was soon dropped and it was all putonghua from there. In the first coffee-shop there was a poky room, they closed the door and I said NO! I want to drink outside, at a table, and watch the passing parade. So we walked outside down the street - three guys sitting at a table playing majiang. The women spoke to them, they vacated the table and we sat down. Having checked the menu and seeing the coffees at 40rmb I though hmmm no way I am getting shouted, but 3 coffees were ordered. W2 then said brrrr coffee is bitter, may I order a tea, so not to be churlish OK I said - but of course 3 teas arrived. Then W2 again brrrr too cold can we go inside? Aiya, I shrugged. Inside, similar but somewhat less cramped room, likewise with a door which I propped open but kept on mysteriously closing every time I pushed it open. W2: 'Shall we have some fruit and snacks?' A plate with two slices of Xigua and Hamigua (watermelon and rockmelon) plus salted plums arrived. 'Shall we go for KTV?' NO We won't! W2 then went out and came back - 'You are lucky, they take Visa!' I had been thinking can I get up and just walk out? Three guys plus the manager and an assistant. No I couldn't. 750rmb. Think what it might have been with MTV!
I did chase up Visa, and took photos. Next day I went to Chang Cheng, but the following day I returned, and was crossing through a tunnel under Tiananmen, when guess what, a young women came up to me, 'Do you speak English?' 'Does your mother know what you do?' I replied. She looked at me a little more carefully, then took flight as did W2 who was lurking at the side in the crowd.

That first day I remembered how at a small shop in an anonymous hutong, I had bought daoxiaomian made by hand in front of me and so delicious for 8 rmb, how my backpacker accommodation was 150rmb per night, how one coffee had cost me 750rmb. Bitter coffee.
#2018-05-06 16:40:00 by oldghost @oldghost
Reply @Anonymous204988 These are preposterous things to say
They single out single men.
It has nothing to do with their cocks
One expects hospitality and does not refuse it when it is offered
Chinese hospitality is amazing..
Your comments are as disgraceful as these cheats who abuse the wonderful hospitality of China. 老鬼
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