Scammed in Shanghai… and My Revenge

shanghai tea ceremony

Travelling solo in Shanghai was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. 

shanghai street

Simply put, it feels like everyone is out to get you.

Within minutes, I became exhausted from the ever-present touts who approach you on their flashing light-up wheels that just snap onto your shoes, aggressively trying to sell you fake watches, clothes, massages and services I won’t name.

Then there are the scammers. 

The businessman who has lost his wallet and briefcase and needs money to catch a taxi to his hotel, the young art students who want to show you their original paintings in a nearby exhibition, the beautiful girls who try to get you to play karaoke with them for the small price of £500…

And then we have the Shanghai Tea Scam. 

shanghai tea ceremony glass and cup

After spending several hours walking around Shanghai and finding nothing but hassle, I was pleased to run into two friendly Chinese girls who were around the same age as me. They began by excitedly asking to have their photo taken with me, something that I had got used to very quickly since arriving in China.

Whilst I like to believe that these people are actually adoring fans of my site, the reality is that Chinese people seem to like collecting photos of themselves with small girls who look like they’ve shoved their fingers into a light socket. I was only too happy to oblige

With nothing better to do, and upon discovering that the two girls were actually very funny and had close to perfect English, we sat on a bench, talking and laughing for quite some time before deciding to part. As I said goodbye and started to walk off, one of them quickly gasped and ran after me to tell me that they were actually just heading off to a traditional tea ceremony, and that I was free to accompany them if I wanted.

As spending another few hours getting lost sounded about as appealing as urine-flavoured lollipop, I excitedly agreed to go with them.

I’d hung out with quite a few locals in Taiwan already and every single experience had been fantastic — I’d had an opportunity to learn about their culture and, in some cases, made what felt like a life-long friend.

Little did I know quite how different this experience would turn out to be…

tea ceremony in china

After a long walk during which the girls led me through a series of dimly lit, small alleyways, we finally arrived at our destination.

It was a nondescript building, with no identifying sign and no indication that it housed any kind of tea ceremonies. I dismissed my growing sense of malaise and followed the girls inside.

We were quickly ushered into a small, dark room by our host for the next 30 minutes: a tiny Chinese lady wearing traditional robes, who quietly motioned for us to sit. The room was empty apart from a low wooden table and a few wooden stools. The walls were covered by yellow, slightly peeling wallpaper adorned with Chinese symbols and landscapes.

As we sat down one of the girls turned to me, “the host can only speak Chinese. Don’t worry, I will translate for you. I hope you don’t mind my Engrish” she grinned as the other girl burst out laughing.

A menu was quickly shown to us and one of the girls told me that we would be sampling six different teas today. I noticed that the prices were not listed but after seeing the size of the cups I assumed that it wouldn’t cost much at all.

This was my first mistake.

The ceremony itself was uneventful but I was having a wonderful, fascinating afternoon. I couldn’t wait to write about everything I was learning, to share the incredible experience I was having — I learned about the teas for different ailments, as well as the history of Chinese tea. The girls translated every word and taught me about the different types of teas and their benefits.

I was having one of the best days since I began travelling, four months ago. I couldn’t have been happier, and the girls couldn’t have been lovelier.

pretty tea during shanghai tea ceremony

As the ceremony ended, the more talkative of the pair pointed towards the second container of tea. “This was my favourite tea, which was yours?” she asked. I indicated that I liked the fourth tea we had tried and she excitedly told me I could buy some to take home for my family.

After seeing how expensive they were, I politely declined. The two girls, however, both chose two bags of tea each.

And then the bill arrived.

The prices, scrawled out grey pencil, told me my share of the price, including their gifts for their family, came to 750 yuan…

I sat there in shock for a while before suddenly remembering the signs plastered all over my hostel. The signs which I had been joking about with friends just the day before.

The signs which read: “Caution: You may be approached by several young student-type locals with very good English who will offer to take you to a tea ceremony. Do not go with them. This is part of an elaborate scam to trick westerners into paying extortionate amounts of money”


How could I have been so stupid?

My guard had been up all day while I’d been exploring — I had been so cautious. And yet, the fact that these two girls had invested over 30 minutes of their day in getting to know me had left me completely at ease. That this could possibly be a scam had been the last thing on my mind.

Thinking quickly, I immediately refused to pay for part of their tea that they had bought. “But it is tradition”, they giggled, “in China we must always split the bill equally. This is what friends do. Are you not our friend?”

I stood firm, refused to pay the money, and asked the host to recalculate the bill without the tea. The new price came in at 500 yuan (£50).

To put that into perspective, £50 is roughly the cost of over a week in my hostel dorm room in China.

Feeling only slightly better with this price I handed over the money and watched one of the girls leave with the host so that she could “pay via credit card”.

I felt like crying and couldn’t prevent the surge of anger running through my body. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t believe my ignorance and naivety.

lucky money toad at shanghai tea ceremony scam

As I sat silently cursing myself, the remaining girl in the room quickly pulled out an advert for an acrobatic show that evening and asked if I wanted to buy a ticket from her so that we could go together. Feeling thoroughly pissed off and betrayed at this point, I simply stared at her and didn’t respond, leaving us both sitting in silence while she stared at me awkwardly.

When the second girl returned we left through a different door than the one we had entered and they led me down a different set of backstreets as before. I spent my time focusing on how I could get rid of them as quickly as possible. I was actually quite scared of what they would try next.

Suddenly, we were back among the tourists and the shops and bright lights and one of the girls tells me they have to meet some other friends now.

I let the waves of relief wash over me.

They asked me what my plans were for the rest of the day and as I started to tell them I noticed one of the girls with her arm outstretched behind my back. I swiftly turned around and caught her hand half-way out of my bag pulling out my purse.

So not only did they pretend to be my friend, scam me with their tea ceremony and attempt to scam me again with an acrobatic show but now they were trying to rob me? They were trying to grab my purse with all my money, my credit cards and my drivers license inside. Wasn’t scamming me enough?

It was at this point that I lost it.

With adrenaline pumping through my veins I pulled back my fist and with all my strength (which, admittedly, is very little), I flung it forward and hit her somewhere near her face. She stumbled backwards, stuttering, staring at me in horror as I began to realise what I’d just done.

Upon arriving back in my hostel, I was still shaking with rage.

I sat down and spent my evening searching online for more information on the Shanghai Tea Scam. The amount of people that had been caught out by the trap was overwhelming. After reading about people losing hundreds and hundreds of pounds through the same scam I realised that it could have been much, much worse. I felt so relieved to have only lost £50.

The good, and bad, thing to come out of this whole ordeal was that from that moment on, if anybody tried to approach me on the street in China I wouldn’t react and would make an effort ignore them. Whilst that therefore prevented me from being scammed, it was also upsetting to feel that I could no longer trust anyone else. On the occasion that I did chat to a local, it wasn’t long until they invited me to their art gallery or to a tea ceremony. Perhaps I just look like an easy target.

As George Bush once said: “fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me [pause] You can’t get fooled again”


Update: This post was written a long, long time ago (2011), at a time when I was a naive and inexperienced traveler. When I visited China, I had only travelled for four months in total and had never been outside of Europe or the United States. I was instantly overwhelmed by the difference in culture and didn’t handle it very well at all. I was a first-time solo traveler and had no idea what I was doing or how to cope with such unfamiliar surroundings. I am ashamed by how I behaved. 

I do wish that I had travelled through China with an open mind and given it more of a chance — I wish that I hadn’t been naive enough to be scammed, and I most definitely wish that I hadn’t reacted in the way that I did. It was stupid, dangerous and I regret it.

One of the great things about travel is how much it changes you and, in my opinion, makes you a better person. I feel as though I wasted an opportunity to explore a fascinating country because I was too busy freaking out about how everything was different and how it wasn’t like home. I’d love to return to China in the future with a completely different attitude and experience it with different eyes.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to avoid being scammed next time :-)

Update 2015: I’ve decided to take down the photo of the girls who scammed me. It now feels a little bit too much like public shaming.

Related Articles on China

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  1. Lisa @chickybus
    November 26, 2011

    I got scammed in China, too–in Guangzhou! I was invited out to tea. I went. Got hungry. The place looked cheap. I wasn’t worried. My “friend” ordered food. Turns out it was dog and snake meat. (I didn’t know due to his poor pronunciation.) The bill came. And he didn’t have his half. I paid. It was expensive! Long story, but…I feel your pain!

    • November 26, 2011

      Ugh, is there anyone who WASN’T scammed in China?! Dog and snake meat? Yum…

      • Tso
        November 27, 2011

        I never got scammed actually. Arrested, but not scammed.

        • November 30, 2011

          Hahahaha, how?!

  2. Angela
    November 26, 2011

    I’m very sorry you had to go through this, there are many of these “cheaters” especially in Nanjing Lu waiting for tourists.. Never go with those who offer you tea, bags, watches, sometimes they truly want to sell, but as a tourist who doesn’t know Shanghai well, never trust them. Even after a year I was there, I never responded when they stopped me in Nanjing Lu. And nothing strange if the tea they gave you was even fake.. There are many tea markets in Shanghai, go to those instead, it’s a really beautiful experience.

    • November 27, 2011

      Yeah, I think the reason why I fell for this was because the girls actually spent a good 30 minutes talking to me so my guard was completely down.

      • Abi
        December 3, 2011

        Reading this makes me feel so, so sad. I went to China about (gulp) 10 years ago and had the same kind of experience as you…right up to the point where the bill arrived. The Chinese family we’d met on the street (in Beijing) wouldn’t hear of us paying anything, as we were their guests. We met up again a few days later and the same happened then. It truly was one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had in terms of really connecting with someone…I’m a bit lost for words, really, reading this. I feel for you – and I feel a bit sick about the whole situation.

        • December 5, 2011

          That sounds like a great experience, Abi. It’s a shame more people can’t be like that family…

  3. Katie
    November 26, 2011

    OMG!! I can’t believe you punched her!! As I was reading I kept thinking you’d find a way to throw the bill back on them or get your money back, but heck…what revenge! (not that I’d ever advocate physical violence of course, but hey, I think that was payback for dozens, if not hundreds, of tourist they scammed.)

    • November 26, 2011

      I couldn’t believe I did too… It was so out of character for me. I’d never punch anyone back in England haha.

      • Vin
        September 13, 2013

        Hi.. I am very glad u punched her.. i am just back to the hotel after being cheated.. now that i am reading all the stories, i feel lucky i got away with less.. i feel so ashamed, embarrassed right cant tell you. how can i be such a fool is all i am thinking..

        • November 26, 2015

          Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed, Vin — as you can tell from the many comments here, lots of people fall for this scam, even experienced travellers.

      • Patrick Turner
        April 14, 2014

        Its good that you recognize how naive you were. I’ve been to 45 countries, mostly with my wife, and we are approached constantly for “things”. Things to sell, buy, tea scams, pickpockets, you name it.

        The best thing to do at all times is never to believe ANYBODY while on a Tour to a foreign country. Sorry, but I am a skeptic and 34 years in the military have taught me that. But you don’t have to be in the military, mind you. JUST DON’T believe anyone who approaches you who is not a personal referral from the tour guide, etc.

        My neice and her husband got scammed in the same Tea scam you described. The husband, however, did not punch anyone when he figured out they want $125. He simply threw a $10 bill on the table and walked quickly out the door with his wife. And no one came after him. After all, the local police already know that the teahouses are pulling a scam anyway so its doubtful one could get prosecuted in my opinion.

        We are going to China for 13 days in late April. Those scammers will have a tough time convincing my wife and me to have “tea” with them.

        • November 26, 2015

          It’s a sad way to travel though, isn’t it? To not feel like you can trust anyone. Some of my favourite travel experiences have occurred as a result of trusting a total stranger.

          • graham
            January 13, 2017

            you’ve had GOOD travel experiences?? Guess i better read more…

            • January 15, 2017

              Far more good than bad ;-)

    • Ian Bugeja
      December 28, 2011

      Oh my god just happened to me .. got scammed the same way in Shangai…same tea shop !!! its a pity I saw this blog late…but I believe that what you do to others it comes back to you !!! Karma

    • Chris
      April 20, 2013

      Punching is not good in such a situation. The police, especially in Shanghai, are often in league with the scammers. The police can be your best friends or your worst nightmare. But until you are involved over your hear there is no way to tell the difference.

      Old travelers learn that there actually is NO “traditional” Chinese tea ceremony (it is Japanese and you’ll never be invited.) You learn to wear expansion bracelet cheap watches, carry your own bags, never believe tuk-tuk drivers and consider that it it is too good to be true, it damn well it.

      But on the other hand, getting away from the city (scamming is a volume trade) and actually meeting real people is a way to discover wonderful people and wonderful food. I do find that a Pointee-Talkee (a form of picture dictionary) is better than a dictionary, especially in the Far East.

      • harry
        November 21, 2013

        You don’t know your tea history. Tea originated in China. Tea ceremony originated in China. Even the matcha used in Japanese tea ceremony originally came from China. The Japanese did take their tea ceremony to a different level, but don’t discount the Chinese.

        • jake
          July 14, 2015

          it’s true the japanese tea ceremony had origins from china, carried over during the ming dynasty. unfortunately due to the multiple dynastic changes in addition to the “cultural” revolution, the art and tradition has been nearly wiped out in mainland china.

      • Adam
        February 15, 2018

        There are definitely real traditional tea festivals in china. I have been to several in Chongqing with the price clearly advertised, ¥50. Most people I’ve met in china, outside of tourist hot spots, have been honest and generous.

        • February 18, 2018

          I think that’s it — once you’re away from where the tourists are, it’s so rare for there to be any scams.

  4. Kieron
    November 26, 2011

    Thug. Haha.

    Hopefully you put her scamming days to an end!

    • November 26, 2011

      Hahaha! SUCH a thug :) I hope maybe she’ll think twice about scamming other people now, but there’s hundreds more that will take her place anyway :(

  5. Raymond @ Man On The Lam
    November 26, 2011

    I woulda punched that beyotch too! Good on ya!!

    • November 26, 2011

      Thanks Raymond!! :)

  6. James
    November 26, 2011

    I’ve heard of this scam a few times now. A lot of travel bloggers seem to be getting caught with it. Well done for giving her a punch! At least you can feel like you got a little better value for money now :)

    • November 27, 2011

      I know, it’s crazy how many people have actually fallen for it. I didn’t think I would be so stupid… ;)

  7. Toni
    November 26, 2011

    I thought you punching her was funny the day you told me about it hun and I still think it’s funny.
    Note to scammers worldwide – this bitch bites back =D

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahahaha, yes, I am so aggressive and full of rage ;)

  8. November 26, 2011

    Count me among those who CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY PUNCHED HER, you badass!!! NICE!!!!!

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahahaha! Thanks, Kate! :D

    • Katrina
      November 28, 2011

      What Kate said. I always know I have the Marine in me, should I need it, but usually go for yelling and getting aggressive, not actual hands-on action. I think I would have been too pissed in the tea room for it to have gotten to the point where I actually paid that much, however. Gentle laughter in disbelief and an offer of an amount I considered reasonable… then on to the yelling, maybe. I’m afraid I might really hurt someone if I got going, though. :/

      • November 30, 2011

        That maybe would have been a better approach… However, I know there is NO way I’d ever be able to actually hurt anyone so I didn’t mind giving her a quick punch.

  9. Amanda
    November 26, 2011

    HA! You actually punched her!! That is beyond awesome. Sorry you got scammed, though. :( But hopefully you at least felt a little better after your revenge!

    • November 27, 2011

      I felt SO much better :)

  10. Nicole
    November 26, 2011

    Oh man! I recently watched a video all about the art and tea scams in China – crazy crazy stuff.

    Can’t believe you punched her (and put the photo up shaming her and her partner-in-crime haha!) Good on you!

    Glad it was 50pounds and not a lot more – it’s just crazy for a country which is beginning to come into so much money economically. Hope they learn and go and get a decent job instead of scamming supposedly ‘rich’ white people.

    Where I’ve been in China – only Hong Kong, Macau and ShenZehn – there are a few scams but nothing on the scale of what you experienced up North. This is mainly thanks to travelling with family and my father being overly cautious.

    I’m yet to be scammed though *touch wood* I would probably knock their block off as well… or stand up and walk out after leaving only a ‘reasonable’ amount of money, and yelling and threatening to spear tackle anyone on my way out of the building (but I’m Australia, I’m allowed to be more crass than you British, right? :P)

    • November 27, 2011

      As soon as I realised I’d been scammed I asked to have our photo taken together so I could use it as EVIDENCE!

      I’ve heard the scams are a lot worse in the north too. It was even worse in Beijing, but Hong Kong was fine for me.

      I definitely wouldn’t be brave enough to yell and run out haha, I’d be scared they’d come after me and kill me!

  11. Sunee
    November 26, 2011

    Ack! What a nasty experience to have. I can’t believe they were even willing to have their picture taken when they knew what they were doing to you. I’m always so disappointed in mankind when I read about things like this. Would make me think twice before ever visiting Shanghai.

    • November 27, 2011

      It’s funny in that at the time they came across as the sweetest, most genuine people ever. They even asked for my email address so that we could stay in contact afterwards!

      I doubt I’ll ever go back to Shanghai again.

      • jamar
        November 28, 2011

        Which sucks because this really isn’t a bad place once you get past all the scammers on East Nanjing Rd. (West Nanjing Rd is just expensive).

        • December 5, 2011

          Yeah, I just had a rubbish experience overall. Ah well, never say never and all that :)

  12. Angie Orth of Angie Away
    November 26, 2011

    I have GOT to start punching people who scam me! I would have much better stories and feel so much more vindicated in the end! You go!

    • November 27, 2011

      It’s the way forward haha! I felt so empowered afterwards… Don’t mess with me haha

  13. cashflowmantra
    November 26, 2011

    Good for you! I actually shouted “YES” when I got to that part. Serves her right for trying to steal from you a second time. I hope you drew blood.

    The worst I ever got was those worthless bead necklace in the Caribbean that they put on your neck and ask for a donation for their school. Much less than what you paid.

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahahaha, I’m glad my post caused you to yell excitedly at your computer screen. I don’t think I punched her hard enough to draw blood!

  14. Matthew Karsten
    November 26, 2011

    YES!!! :D

    • November 27, 2011

      Glad you approve! :)

  15. Terry Lee
    November 26, 2011

    Well done for punching her – respect.
    I even get the pleasure of seeing what she looks like thanks to the photo. I wonder what she looks like since you rearranged her face.

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahaha, thanks, Terry! Yeah, perhaps I should have taken a before and after photo? ;)

  16. Phil
    November 26, 2011

    Wow, so it wasn’t enough to rip you off with the tea ceremony. Trying to go for all of it?! Only would’ve been better if you could have snapped a pic of her after the punch. Well done.

    • November 27, 2011

      I know, that was what really pissed me off! Don’t scam me and THEN try and rob me!!

  17. Peg
    November 26, 2011

    Reminds me of the shoe shine scammers here in Brazil. They’ll shine your shoes (even your crappy running shoes) before you know what’s happening, then try to charge you ridiculous amounts of money. If you can talk them down to a small rate, they take your bills and run away without giving you change. Have to be careful though, they usually have some pretty dangerous “protection” nearby.

    Good for you for (literally) fighting back! I’m sure it felt good. I didn’t expect that and laughed out loud when I read it!

    And I agree, good for you for posting her picture and shaming her further!

    • November 27, 2011

      Wow, that sounds so ridiculous! I had a rapper guy in New York once ask me for my name, autographed a CD for me and then tried to get me to pay $10 for it!

      Glad you enjoyed the post! :)

  18. James Cook
    November 26, 2011

    I had heard of the tea scam and the art scam before. It can be so hard to stay vigilant when you are traveling. Good job with the punch though :)

    • November 27, 2011

      I’d heard of it before and I can’t believe I still fell for it!

  19. Carlo+Geneva
    November 27, 2011

    I bet Tea has a different meaning now than it ever did. haha. Sorry about your ordeal :(

    • November 27, 2011

      It definitely put me off drinking it for a while!

  20. Sebastian @
    November 26, 2011

    haha good onya!!! I’m very sorry though that you had to experience this!!

    I wish I punched that idiot who scammed me in Denmark in August. I lost 120 € that day!!

    • November 27, 2011

      Wow, 120 euros is a lot! What happened?

  21. Tran
    November 27, 2011

    I love the wink afterwards!

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahahah! It definitely made me feel better!

  22. Tom
    November 27, 2011

    HAHA omg – I can’t believe you punched her! Great article, I feel like I’m almost there in the background going “woooooooo HELL YEAH!” as you punch the scammer in the face!

    I think I’d have believed them, too – especially if they talk to you for 30 minutes beforehand in near-perfect English. It’s a lot different than someone who talks to you for 2 minutes in broken English along the lines of, “where you from? what you name? you like here?……..ok, you come with me to bar?” “ahahahaha…no.”

    Thanks for posting this, though – here in Korea, Shanghai is a popular place to go for a quick vacation so I’ll make my other teacher friends here aware of this!

    • November 27, 2011

      Yeah, that’s the thing – if they’d asked me to go with them within a few minutes of meeting me there’s no way I would have fallen for it!

      Yeah, spread the word! During my week in Shanhai, half the people I had spoken to had fallen for the exact same scam too! I can’t believe they’ve managed to get away with it for so long…

  23. Geraldine
    November 27, 2011

    Wow, can’t believe you punched her but I bet that felt really good! Hahaha.

    • November 29, 2011

      It felt SO good! :)

  24. Gerard ~ GQ trippin
    November 27, 2011

    You are straight gangsta! Love how you threw in the smirk after the punch. As chill as I am I could’ve gone Hulk status in that situation too. =P These kind of situations usually makes for a great story, glad you’re OK!

    • November 27, 2011

      Hahahaha, thanks!! :)

  25. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad
    November 27, 2011

    That brought back memories, few years back I also got scammed in Shanghai. It wasn’t with tea, it was with wine, but the same thing basically, she took her time. At that point I had thought myself invincible, getting scammed, nah, that won’t happen to me, I am too experienced for that kind of stuff! It did teach me a lesson. But what is with Shanghai and scams…

    Thou I am impressed with your revenge, good for you! :)

    • November 27, 2011

      Ah, Shanghai seems like one of the worst places in the world for scams! It has definitely put me off ever wanting to go back again.

  26. Janika
    November 27, 2011

    During my travels I like to stay in villages and small towns and to visit cities just once in a while. In villages there’s no scammers and in general it is more relaxing and people are sincerely friendly. I usually rent a cheap room right next to the locals, who invite me to the dinners at their homes and show me around just because it’s so interesting for them to interact with a foreigner. If You think that You could like it too, You can try! My last rent for a month was 15 euros (in Africa) and it was a great month.

    • November 30, 2011

      Sounds awesome!

  27. The World of Deej
    November 27, 2011

    Well I guess we know the answer to the question “You wouldn’t hit someone with glasses would you?” My buddy and I encountered the same thing in Beijing, and getting tired of it decided we would pretend to be Russian and they’d leave us alone. Turned out, they also spoke Russian, so that plan wasn’t so effective…

    • November 30, 2011

      Hahaha, that’s hilarious! I tried the whole pretending that I couldn’t speak English when I was in Bangkok recently, but when I walked past the guy 5 minutes later I completely forgot…

  28. Bret @ Green Global Travel
    November 27, 2011

    Incredible story! Good on you for standing up to them.

    • November 30, 2011

      Thanks, Bret! Glad you liked the story!

  29. November 27, 2011

    You are seriously hardcore. Don’t mess with t’Lauren. She’ll kick your ass.

    After buying you a cup of tea.

    • November 30, 2011


  30. Ali
    November 27, 2011

    Sucks that you got scammed, but totally awesome you caught them before they could steal your purse and that you got some revenge! It’s a shame that you will be less trusting going forward, but there are still lots of friendly, trustworthy people out there. Maybe travel is one way to improve our people-reading skills.

    • November 30, 2011

      Yeah, that’s true, and it is sad that it got to the point where I was blanking anyone who ever came up to me.

      Once I left China, I wasn’t so skeptical of strangers anymore though.

  31. mateo
    November 27, 2011

    Next time don’t pay ;)

    • November 30, 2011

      I didn’t know how to NOT pay… I didn’t want to be killed!!

  32. Deb
    November 27, 2011

    I don’t blame you for punching her, that would be my first instinct if someone had my wallet in their hand. It’s horrible. A girl we were traveling with in China was scammed as well and ended up paying 70 Euro for tea. She felt sick when she returned. It happens to the most seasoned of travellers. These scam artists are so good at what they do!

    • November 30, 2011

      I know, they are SO sneaky! I met so many people who had the exact same thing happen to them, apparently the scam has been going for well over 10 years now… I can’t believe they’re still getting away with it!

  33. Kieu ~ GQ trippin
    November 27, 2011

    I think you got her to quit her night job. LOL. Thug status indeed. Glad you stood your ground and only paid 50. Definitely on my radar when we arrive in Shanghai next year. In the mean time, I’ll practice my right hook just in case. =)

    • November 30, 2011

      Hahaha, maybe she’ll now think twice about scamming others… I doubt it though.

      Yeah, be careful in Shanghai, pretty much everyone is trying to scam you.. :)

  34. Deborah Thompson
    November 27, 2011

    Wow, that’s quite an elaborate scam – guess the amount of money they can make off trusting foreigners is worth it to them. We got “almost-scammed” in Jamaica a few years ago…. luckily we had refused to give payment up front until our so-called private day-trip was complete, or we would have been out a couple of hundred dollars. As the saying goes : “Live and learn!” Hope you’ll come check out my website & Page too! Enjoying yours a lot. Sincerely, Deborah

    • November 30, 2011

      Thanks for your comment, Deborah! Glad to hear you managed to escape being scammed :)

  35. Abhijit
    November 27, 2011

    Wow, you actually punched her! Kickass! Sorry to hear you got scammed though! :(
    But at least you got some revenge! :)

    • November 30, 2011

      Yeah, the revenge made me feel a lot better!

  36. Karl Searl
    November 27, 2011

    Good for you! I’m glad you “lost it”…no need for tourist to get taken advantage of!

    Glad you’re okay.

    • November 30, 2011

      Thanks, Karl!

  37. Changes In Longitude
    November 28, 2011

    We like to think we won’t get scammed but our first day in Beijing we ended up following a “student” to his art exhibition. Once we realized what it was we got out pretty quickly. Also in Beijing many people wanting to take their picture with Larissa because of her blonde hair. Some seemed legitimate then we started noticing groping hands for her purse so she stopped her star turn after that.

    • November 30, 2011

      Ah, when I was in Beijing I had a LOT of people asking me to visit their art exhibition.

      I had a lot of people wanting to take a picture with me, thankfully nobody attempted to rob me (that I know of)!

  38. James
    November 28, 2011

    Wow, kudos to you for actually teaching those people a lesson! It’s sad but China is rife with scam artists and swindlers – the rule of thumb is never to trust locals who try to strike up a conversation with you.

    I was scammed last year in Madrid, although I was pretty lucky as they only got away with 20 euros. I was with a friend in Retiro Park (she was walking ahead) when these two girls approached me, saying that they were collecting signatures and a donation for disabled children. I naively said “yes”, and feeling kind I proceeded to give them a 10 euro note. With a smile they asked if I could possibly give them 20 euros. And I (stupidly) obliged. Then they asked for a form of ID.

    That was the moment that I knew it was a scam. I had already handed them the money but there was no way I was going to let them see the rest of my wallet. So I refused and that’s when my friend came running back to shoo them away.

    A few months later my housemate’s mum fell pray to the same scam, but this time she was not so lucky. When she showed them her wallet they covered it with their papers and made a scene. It was only a few blocks later when she realised that they had stolen 320 euros (all the money) from right under her nose.

    It’s a real shame because I genuinely love Madrid – I feel a lot safer there than in Barcelona, which is known for its pickpockets and con artists. But a lesson learned is a lesson learned.

    • November 30, 2011

      Yep, definitely learnt my lesson.

      Ugh, that’s an awful story – at least you realised it was a scam before it was too late.

  39. Grace
    November 28, 2011

    Wow, what a story! Getting scammed is the worst, but I’m glad you stood up for yourself!

    • November 30, 2011

      Thanks, Grace! I felt pretty rubbish at first, but am pleased I did something about it.

  40. Zablon Mukuba
    November 30, 2011

    it sucks that you were scammed out of your money and they still had the nerve to try to steal your purse. i wish you swung two blows

    • November 30, 2011

      I KNOW! That was what made me really mad!

  41. Raf Kiss
    November 30, 2011

    Wow, what a story… Reminds me of the one time I was in Kenya with my now ex-wife and kids. After a glass-bottom-boat ride, the locals lured us to a tent on the beach, with was where we had to “pay for the excursion”. We entered the tent, and there was a man sitting on a small bench to the side… he asked us to sit down on the larger bench on other side of the tent… we did and then a bunch of locals entered, loaded with “artisanata”.
    the aggressive way they were selling their stuff intimidated (read: scared)us to the point that we ended up buying things that we really didn’t want, paying 10x what we were going to spend on the boat ride… We were able to “negotiate” about the price, but the thing is that they made us feel trapped in the tent and they would not let us go until we had bought a certain value worth of stuff…

    We didn’t punch anybody though… That must have took some serious guts :)

    • December 7, 2011

      Ugh, that does sound really scary, and I definitely wouldn’t have punched them!

  42. Allison
    November 30, 2011

    Heya, I got scammed in exactly the same way in Beijing!! I had no idea that these existed, and didn’t suspect cos scammers never usually invest so much time on so little a guarantee of success. Luckily I had sorted myself financially and was catching a plane tomorrow, so I ACTUALLY had no money on me, after an hour of chatting, and another 30mins of arguing, the waitresses let me walk out of a £300 (!!!) tea & snack bill, and thats JUST my half!!… I’d like to believe they weren’t part of the scam? It made me lose my cool though, and had to literally snap my blocked credit card to get my point across! Its weird to hear how common this thing is :S

    • December 16, 2011

      It’s amazing just how many people actually fall for this scam, it’s been around for years!

      That’s the problem, when they really take the time to properly talk to you, you let your guard down. They were definitely part of the scam though :/

      And, oh my god, £300!!!?!?! What were you drinking, tea of gold?!

  43. GlobetrotterGirls
    December 1, 2011

    Hilarious, Lauren! I also yelled out ‘Yes!’ when I got to the punching part. That is something you always want to do after you realize you’ve been scammed, so it’s awesome that you just went ahead and clocked her in the face in the moment. We’re all for non-violence, etc, but robbing you after scamming you is just so wrong. We got scammed in Bangkok recently and I am still dreaming up ways to get that bad man back if I see him next time (we know where his office is…) I probably won’t punch him though…wanna come? :-)

    • December 16, 2011

      Hahahaha, I sense a new side project now!

  44. Sally
    December 2, 2011

    Yikes. I’m sure the punch wasn’t premeditated, but I’d really be careful about retaliating against scammers in China by punching them. In fact, it’s very likely doing something like this could end up in you paying even more money!
    A foreign coworker of mine in China got in a bar fight last year with a local guy. Even though the fight was initiated by the local, my coworker was the one who was dragged to jail. The police were definitely on the side of the local. In order to get out of having charges pressed against him, my coworker had to pay a bribe to the guy he punched. So, yeah, it’s probably a good thing police weren’t around, as you might have been the one who ended up in trouble, not the scammers!
    That being said, I’m sorry you’ve had such troublesome experiences in China. I’ve lived here 10 months and really haven’t had any trouble at all. Granted I don’t live in a touristy area, so I get to avoid a lot of the hassle. I hope the rest of your time in China was better!

    • December 16, 2011

      Oh, I definitely agree, I wasn’t thinking, and I was so fortunate that there was nobody around who saw.

      The rest of my time in China was pretty tough, but I’ll be back to explore the non-touristy areas soon enough!

  45. James
    December 2, 2011

    I got caught by this on my very first day in Shanghai. I hadn’t even heard of the scams, and was just happy for the company, I moved to Shanghai to start a new job and knew exactly no one in the city so I was heart warmed to spend time with some (seemingly) pleasant strangers.

    I got stung for £100, and didn’t actually realise until I had become a bit more experienced in China.

    I felt embarassed more than anything, that I could be so naive.

    That was two years ago now and I’m still in Shanghai, so you live and learn :)

    • December 16, 2011

      You too?! :) I felt embarrassed too, and left Shanghai the next day haha! Well done for sticking it out!

    • eida
      November 9, 2012

      hi james & lauren, me and my hubby r going to shanghai this xmas and we r so afraid that we might get scammed now! any tips?? we dont know any chinese or locals there :(

      • November 9, 2012

        Well, if you don’t talk to any locals you can’t get scammed… :)

  46. Jade Johnston
    December 4, 2011

    ahahahahaha!! You showed her whats up! Good for you!

    • December 16, 2011

      Hehehe, thanks! :)

  47. The Travel Fool
    December 4, 2011

    Sweet young Chinese girls trying to rip of a westerner? I am shocked, but at least you got away losing what you did. Only time I ever had a problem was Picadilly Square London, years ago. I lost a small amount but it was tense for awhile between me and a huge genetic mutation of a man.

    • December 16, 2011

      Hhahahahahaha!! Fortunately I’ve never been scammed in London. I’d be far too scared to punch someone there!

  48. Maria D.
    December 4, 2011

    That’s awful! I’m glad you stood up for yourself in the end. It’s awful that tourists can be taken advantage like this.

    • December 16, 2011

      I know, it really is. They’ve been doing this scam for 10 years and still people keep falling for it…

  49. dtravelsround
    December 6, 2011

    Holy crap! You punched her!! That is marvelous.

    • December 16, 2011

      :) Thanks, haha!

  50. Sam
    December 6, 2011

    Meeting locals can be the best part of travelling. It’s a shame when they try and screw you.

    • December 16, 2011

      It’s true, and I had no interest in speaking to any locals in China after this…

  51. Fidel @IHarTravel
    December 10, 2011

    I remember anti-Thai I felt after being scammed in Thailand. Six months later, I’m planning my next trip. I would say that my point in bring that up is to not let what a few people do to you affect how you feel about an entire population.
    But then when I read about your experiences there as a whole, it seems like these weren’t isolated incidents.
    You have firmly satisfied my desire to not go to China. It’s never been high on my list and I’m pretty much scratching it off altogether.
    Do the tourism authorities there do anything to help detract these scams? I still can’t believe you had to part with that much money for tea. Unfortunately you had to learn the lesson the hard way. Kudos to you for sticking up for yourself.

    Think they have websites in China where they post all the pictures they take with tourists?

    • December 18, 2011

      They do nothing at all. The scams have been going on for around 10 years now and still everyone keeps getting caught by them.

      Hahahaha, wow, I want to find those websites!

  52. Aussie on the Road
    December 10, 2011

    I was totally going to make a comment about you not having to go all the way to China to find somebody willing to grope you, but then I read on and you turned into a friggin’ ninja bad-ass.

    Nothing but respect.

    • December 18, 2011

      Hahahahaha! :)

  53. trvl8dintern
    December 10, 2011

    I guess i should find a group of people to go then ;)

    • December 18, 2011

      I’d definitely recommend doing so :)

  54. Jeremy
    December 11, 2011

    Those look like the same two girls that tried to do the scam to me in Shanghai, however they called it going to a “festival”. I started walking with them some but then realized what was going on and changed my mind.

    Glad you punched her in the face.

    • December 18, 2011

      Oh, really? Maybe they were!

  55. Sabina
    December 12, 2011

    It is so hilarious that you actually PUNCHED that girl! You did what many, many other travelers have undoubtedly wanted to do so badly after being scammed but didn’t have the guts or the opportunity. I’ve been tricked and nearly tricked my fair share of times but haven’t lost 50 GBP. I’m sure next time you won’t either :)

    • December 18, 2011

      I hope I wouldn’t be stupid enough to fall for it again!

  56. Jim O'Donnell
    December 13, 2011

    Wow. You popped her. I’m not sure I would do that. Good on you tho. Its funny how famous this scam is and yet it works again and again.

    I got scammed a great one in Morocco. A guy was going to get me a special seat on a ferry. So I gave him my money to get the ticket. He never came back. And then I found out there was no ferry.


    • December 18, 2011

      Hahahahaha, oh wow, that would make me so mad, but it’s really funny too!

  57. Visiting Wanderer
    December 27, 2011

    I’m usually not violent. I think you showed great patience and restraint before leveling justice :) Great job!

    • January 3, 2012

      Thanks so much. It was the attempted robbery that really made me lose it!

  58. Taylor
    December 28, 2011

    New scam, or maybe not… Entered bar that showed up on a “nearby” social networking app, desperate for a drink and a light bite to eat… Bottle of red & snacks… ate and drank and played pool with some others there… On leaving and paying for bill (downstairs from main area) it was 6790rmb.. !! I asked for the menu to show them the prices, but the menu was a new menu with a “0” added to everything.. So, in particular that bottle of wine that was ordered for 450rmb (exhorbitant in itself, but it was my xmas gift) was charged for 4500rmb…. In total, bill was equiv of 931US$$… I refused to pay, asked to call the police, whereby door was blocked and I was pushed down. I sat there for a while flummoxed as to what to do. My Chinese SIM was only good for data, not voice, and annoyingly no one was online to assist… I bartered with them, but they held firm… So, being female, alone, mobile battery on 4% after a whole day out and about and it closing on in to midnight (and a little scared at this point). I decided to pay… Nice pretty night for them.

    Spoke to hotel wondering whether police would be interested, but was told no, by several different ppl.

    Still, first scam/rob in 23 years of independent travel across all continents… So the average of last nights scam, is what allows me to move forward, and enjoy the rest of china.

    So what to do?
    A: don’t travel by yourself?
    B: take a photo of every menu?
    C: risk physical harm and no pay?
    D: something else?

    I have no answers to this one at present…

    Annoyed, out of pocket massively Australian.

    • January 3, 2012

      WOW! I can’t believe that happened! But in the same situation I think I would have paid too.

      It’s horrible that these things happen, because it puts people off of travelling, and makes them not want to return to China (or elsewhere).

      I hope you tried going to the police anyway.

  59. Issa
    December 31, 2011

    Wow, I do remember that :) Thank you very much for your helpful tip…

    • January 3, 2012

      No problem, Issa.

  60. anon
    December 31, 2011

    And BTW your website is great. And what a shame that happened. Perhaps try a non A-list city. I think this thing happens in Beijing too. I was suspicious myself but perhaps the smaller cities are better. Good luck and google “China scams” for a good list (I did this).

    • January 3, 2012

      Thanks. I’ve heard of it happening in Beijing as well – while I was there I had people approaching me and asking me to visit tea ceremonies with them.

      I googled China scams as soon as I returned to my hostel and couldn’t believe just how long these scams had been going for, and that they still happen now!

  61. January 8, 2012


    Love your blog. I too got (kind of) scammed in Shanghai (though I had my suspicions) and I can’t believe this is still going on. I’m sorry you didn’t like China. I was just there for three weeks in December and, I admit, it was a hard place to like at first. But it grew on me. Can’t wait to read more of your stuff.

  62. Peter
    January 14, 2012

    Great post, thanks for the laugh! I went to China about 10 years back and the different scams were always an eventful challenge on a daily occurrence. The joys of travelling hey!? :)

    Cheers Peter

  63. Lauren
    January 31, 2012

    I can’t believe you punched her! That is amazing. I’m sad that you weren’t able to trust anyone after that, though. I know the feeling as I’m currently in Shanghai and have perfected the “bitch” face when people come up to me and say “Hey lady, you watch. Lovely watch. Hey lady, you purse. Fancy purse.”

  64. Ryan Brown
    January 31, 2012

    Wow, you are freakin’ badass! Punched her in the face? Hell yeah! I have yet to venture outside of New Zealand, but I am quickly learning that there are scams all over the world like this to watch out for!

  65. lisa
    February 2, 2012

    Ha! They look exactly like the two girls who tried to scam me in November. One had glasses too and the other didn’t. I wonder if it is them? I wouldn’t be surprised. They were in front of that museum and spoke to me for a while. I had already heard about the scam and was suspicious of their intentions (as I am with any-one who wants to know where I am from and how they are learning english and want to practise), but gave them the benefit of the doubt. When the mentioned the tea party I laughed and told them they should be ashamed to be learning english for the purpose of scamming tourists. Then I walked off. I hope they lost face, but I doubt it. I wish now that I had said it louder…

  66. Roy Marvelous
    March 1, 2012

    So awesome you punched that girl. You are my hero!

  67. Dukesy
    March 4, 2012

    Had the same experience several years ago. Was heading to watch the parade at Tianamen Square when two girls asked me to come see their school art competition. Have been scammed once before so am always weary. Lucky I had no money when they wanted me to pay for their artwork – so they gave up and moved onto other tourists.

    Was scammed in NY by a guy getting me a cab and he took $20. I was tired after walking around all day with a really heavy backpack on – sigh, an easy target.

    Had another one where an Arab guard was trying to entice me into a secluded spot during the Karnak night show for a good photo opportunity. My sixth sense told me to get out of there and get back to the tour group. I always wonder what might have happened if I followed him.

    All I can say is always have your wits about you.

  68. Jo
    March 7, 2012

    Wow good thing you mentioned this in your blog. We have an upcoming trip to China and we’ll watch out for this.

  69. TONY
    March 22, 2012


  70. TONY
    March 22, 2012

    so i end upp payin 600rmb totall but im gonna get it back i told them I will be back motha fuckers befor leaving.. I had 1000rmb showed it to the 2 big chinese dudes he went we split 60/40 i go no i give you 300 and leave now… he goes no 400 and you keep the rest take taxi home.. ‘i gave him becuse the son off a bitch held a knife and sayed enough talking pay and leave or problem.. i go are you robbing me he goes no laughing.. i stand upp and say take it but remember one thing i will be back and i wont forgett your face…he looks at me angry but at this point i go stabb me motha fucka go ahead..not saying it but thinking it feed upp..!!! and leaving i scream ill be back feeling termintatorish…Im planning on going back in there..!!! I cant sleep i live here now and i wont give upp…! they will pay me..!

  71. stephen blundell
    March 24, 2012

    Just found this thread and wanted to add my own story. It only really dawned on me when I returned home that Id been fleeced especially after reading some of the responses in this thread so elaborate and subtle it was.

    I decided to visit the Yuyuan garden in Shanghai. I had just exited from the Yuyuan garden metro station and wasn’t sure which way to go but started walking in what I thought could be the right direction. As I was walking along the busy main road I was stopped by two young women who asked me to take a photograph of them with the famous radio tower visible in the background. I remember thinking to myself at the time, looking back, that they would have been much better going down to the Bund river and getting a great photo from there. They asked me where I was from and what I was doing in Shanghai. It transpired, supposedly, that they were students having travelled down from a city near to Beijing. I explained that I was heading toward the gardens. They told me they were headed in that direction so would show me how to get there.

    In the course of the conversation I asked them where they were headed and they explained that as China was in the midst of the spring tea festival they were going to see a tea ceremony. With no need of being asked, I asked if I could go along with them. In my head I think I was imagining some sort of open air tea market with a live FREE demonstration taking place. Clueless and ripe for the picking doesn’t even cut it really does it?

    I was surprised to discover us all going indoors to watch a ceremony conducted in the same way as some of the earlier comments mention. One of the women was explaining everything to me in English and I had a really enjoyable time and found it all very interesting. I also decided to buy some tea as well. Now the prices of the tea were shown to me beforehand and I could see clearly that they were priced at about 350 RMB each. I remember thinking that that seemed ridiculous at about the equivalent of £35. Having only been there for a day and in my naivete I assumed that I must have confused myself with the exchange rate, it wasn’t £35 it was £3.50 of course. That sounded about right for a bag of tea. So of course when the bill for the ceremony was presented as 1000 RMB, I assumed it to be £10 (I could kick myself now) How did I get this so wrong? It was my first trip to China, I was only there for 2 nights so this was really my only day to go out and explore and use the currency for the first time. I had been to Japan a couple of times where 1000 JPY is actually about £10. So when the total bill came of 1773 RMB I naturally thought it was going to cost me about £17 – £18, perfectly reasonable for a local insight in to Chinese tea culture.

    I was so grateful to the girls for letting me tag along as I had asked and they’d welcomed me and been so kind that I offered to pay for the tea ceremony after all it was only a tenner. There had not been any acts of astonishment on there part of the prices as I had not at any point questioned them as I thought it was all legit. They then told me that they wanted to buy me a gift along with their own tea purchases and asked me if I would like one of the small tea pots with two tea cups that came in a presentable box. At this point we exchanged email addresses. They then walked with me to the Yuyuan market area and showed me where the entrance to the gardens where. They said they were then going to meet their friend but were planning to go in to the garden later so might possibly see me in there otherwise wished me well for the rest of the trip.

    It was only when I was leaving the hotel the next day and chatting to the rest of my crew about my amazing cheap 1 hour massage that cost just 89 RMB I realised just how much I had actually paid for the tea and ceremony. I must admit that even then it didn’t occur to me that Id been scammed. I obviously don’t operate in a cynical way and put my trust in people far too easily. It was only when I came home and tried to research the cost of such ceremonies that I was lead to this thread and it all became clear.

    I fell for this one good and proper and they really didn’t have to work hard to get what they wanted out of me. I had invited myself along before they even asked. Was this all down to my own curiosity or had I been coerced? They showed me the prices and I agreed to pay without hesitation due to my unfortunate conversion skills. They even bought me the small tea set as a gift. Why did they do this? Was it because they felt sorry for me?

    I’m not feeling too annoyed about it because there’s obviously no point, I can’t do anything about it it’s happened. I’ll obviously become much more vigilant about it the next time I’m there and I’ll personally make sure that any crew I travel with who haven’t been there before get a little warning about it.

    • Anna
      July 18, 2013

      Pretty sure that is where I got scammed too. They gave me these email addresses:
      Huazai ( and Xenia ( It was a young man and woman this May 2013. Me and my co-worker refused to pay for the gifts and stormed out while raising our voices at the scammers. The tea ceremony woman was following us the whole way down the stairs trying to put trinkets into our purses and we were shoving them back at her. I didn’t realize it was a scam until the bill came. They had showed us one menu that was 45 yuan total and a second menu saying it was 45×6 or something like that. I can’t remember the numbers but in the end it was about $66 instead of $100. I took someone of my money back out of the woman’s hand when it all became crystal clear what had happened.

  72. May 18, 2012

    So a physics grad who had seen warning signs the previous day can get nailed by the Shanghai tea scam.

    That is a relief,

    since I just got hit this afternoon, having read about this scam last night. I feel like I should have any proof of my intelligence revoked immediately.

    But this girl was sooo friendly! It’s just so hard for an honest mind to accept that such dishonesty really does exist, and that it exists inside the friendly person right in front of you.

    The best part was at the end when I was talking about their scam, (having *eventually* put it all together), when she said “you should be happy, now you know not to talk to people, since sometimes it can be much much worse.”

  73. Miyudreams
    May 24, 2012

    Sorry to hear this happened to you. China really should crack down on these scams, such bad publicity for them. The whole alley thing already scared me, I would run before walking into that alley. I’m just glad you only lost 50 pounds, and came back in one piece. It could of been worse. & I know what worse is, which actually happened to my local friend.

    • June 6, 2012

      They don’t crack down on the scams, because the police get a cut. Basically, in countries like China or, to a much larger degree India and Thailand, if anyone comes up and talks to you, assume they’re trying to scam you. There are plenty of people who will come up to you out of curiosity in China, but if you can’t tell the difference, err on the side of caution. In Thailand and India, there is no such ambiguity–if someone approaches you, get rid of them–preferably rudely.

  74. June 30, 2012

    I tip my hat to you, Lauren. My tea scam happened just yesterday with three kind Chinese girls. My naivety looked past the extremely high bill of $150. As I thought about it more and more and started to realize how strange it was that so many people were asking me to take picture of/with them. I started to think about how I would get back at them (note that I don’t have the most conniving personality, I just HATE getting scammed/ripped off). So, today I chose to go back to the same metro station where I had been asked before (Yu Yuan Garden) I saw the same people who had asked me the day before. In frustration, I chose to “take them in for questioning”. Getting no where talking to them, I decided to reverse the scam and walk off with the camera of the next group to ask me. Getting about 3 blocks away with their camera gave me enough pleasure while at the same time teaching them a lesson. They ran after me after a 5 minute “what the fuck just happened” moment. It felt sooo good! Tomorrow, I might just keep walking.

  75. Michael
    July 14, 2012

    Today I got scammed with this tea thing and lost about $300. I feel such a fool, I pride myself in being smarter than this so getting caught.

    Anyway, here are all of the details in case it helps.

    Hualiu523 @ hotmail .com
    Rena-lee90 @ hotmail .com

    Their boss has this phone number – +86-15900467943

    A friend of mine said its mob run and they admitted to me they have friends in the police.

    Be careful people, I wouldn’t punch them – just walk away and consider it purchasing a life lesson – its how Im coping. (sooooo glad you sucker punched her and got away with it though)

    • Michael
      July 16, 2012

      Update: I’m Home in my own country now, but before i left I was luckily enough to con them back and got almost all of my money back.

      I’m a happy camper now

    • Anna
      July 18, 2013

      The person is still going strong. She got me in May 2013. Funny that she gives out the same email. How did you get your money back?

  76. Jeffrey T
    July 15, 2012

    Had the same thing happen to me yesterday on the way to YuYuan Garden. different place as yours, but the description and pictures are almost identical. The bill was split evenly but still cost me over $130.

    The funny thing is that they were so friendly – even afterwards when we tramped around in the rain storm getting soaked as they showed me how to get back to the garden. They brought up the acrobatic show also, but didn’t press me to buy a ticket.

    I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it, but then later thought “holy crap” what just happened, that is a lot of money for tea. A google search back in my hotel revealed the scam that I was hit with.

    Live and learn. Will be much more cautious today.

  77. Jeffrey T
    July 15, 2012

    oh and 1 more comment, mine was with a very friendly couple. Two cousins supposedly named Coa Pan (male) and Momo (female). He supposedly was visiting for a week from Beijing and she was showing him around. Their story was very consistent the entire time. In hindsight I can’t think of any slips in their stories about family, what they have been doing, etc. They are obviously very well rehearsed.

  78. Micah G
    July 16, 2012

    This happened to me while in Shanghai two weeks ago. I lost about $150, however, I did take home some pretty awesome tea. Anyway, to get back, I decided to take a daring route and cause them some heart ache. So, the next two groups of people that asked if I would capture a photo of them, I simply said, “why yes, of course I will” and took the camera and dropped it from about 5′ high onto the ground while they posed.
    I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but it sure made me feel damn good.



  79. Bob
    July 18, 2012

    Yours is the first account I’ve heard of a woman being tricked with this scam. Most stories I’ve read were by men. Luckily I had read about it, so when I fell into conversation with 2 local girls, after they asked me to take their picture, and the conversation got around to the tea ceremony they were going to–and by the way, did I want to join them?–I was able to quickly get away from them. I kind of wish I had punched them, though, for all the people they had scammed in the past. Good work.

  80. Josh
    July 20, 2012

    They got me today,
    two girls and a guy near PPL SQRE / NJ RD (NIKE STORE). Asked me to take a picture for them, then talked me into visiting a tea ceremony.
    Normally, I avoid all such ‘strange’ contact, today, however, they got me. Nevertheless, I quit after two teas, payed my ‘share’ of RMB 128,- and left.
    Maybe next week, I will try to find them again but not for tea, they said they’ll be returning to Beijing, but somehow I doubt that.

  81. Joey
    July 26, 2012

    Baller is all I have to say.

  82. Diane
    July 26, 2012

    Not that I’d want anyone to find out the hard way, but what happens if you just laughed in their face, threw down a reasonable price for tea and got up and walked out? Do they threaten violence? Scary! Gld you’re OK.

  83. Dirk
    August 1, 2012

    Same exact thing happened to me, but in Beijing. I felt stupid, angry and for some reason, embarrassed. It literally took me a year before I could get over my shame and talk about how I got totally taken, and the crazy part is that I LIVE HERE! I’ve lived in China for 5 years and got taken, so don’t even feel a little bit bad.
    You are totally right though, it’s sad because all that that experience taught me was to never trust or even casually talk to anyone I meet on the street. The reason some Chinese thing Westerners are rude is because of this.
    Thanks for the story, it was like therapy for me.
    Love the Bush quote too btw.

  84. Edgar
    August 14, 2012

    These exact same girls approached me today!! Even-though they were really nice to me, I refused their offer since I’ve been to a tea ceremony before … But got the number from the small one with the glasses…. 18684984162 (in case somebody wants it)

    Btw tea ceremonies are very common in China, I got invited by some local friends in Changsha – they paid but said it was expensive….

  85. Allison
    August 26, 2012

    Found your blog while searching for “I hate Chinese people”. I know that sounds racist, but I am Chinese myself and have been thoroughly thrown under the bus by Chinese people, so I can feel your pain :-(

    I am sorry to hear about your terrible experience, but at the same time, be thankful because worse scams exist in China. For example, there’s this scam where they put out an ad for a job interview (ok, maybe this doesn’t apply to Westerners). Then once you go to the interview, they drug you and once you wake up, you find out you’re missing some of your internal organs. Sadly, I’m not even kidding.

    I’m so glad you punched that girl in the face — don’t feel bad at all.

  86. jimmy
    August 27, 2012

    so glad You punched her i would have done the same if it was a guy.
    I went through the same and then read this blog then phoned the police . They were very nice and some spoke good english. They took me down to the tea house and i got my money back .The police are aware of these scams and are willing to help you any way they can i urge you to get them involved

  87. Sarah
    August 31, 2012

    My list of being scammed in China is endless … Lived there for 4 yrs (yes i know im still alive lol)

    Lauren i sent you a private email ;) hope u get a chance to check it soon :):)

  88. September 1, 2012

    wow, that’s insane! thanks for the post! I’m going to Shanghai in October so reading it was very useful to me!

  89. leandra / adbenturera
    September 7, 2012

    scam’s totally insane! but good u had ur “revenge,” we’re going in december & seeing ur post i have to research for more scams for caution, thanks Lauren!

  90. air jordans
    September 20, 2012

    In fact when someone doesn’t know after that its up to other visitors that they will help, so here it takes place.

  91. scotchmist
    October 13, 2012

    Wow, I’m sorry to say this, but I’m so glad this hasn’t just happened to me! I arrived in Shanghai last night, and was scammed within less than an hour of leaving my hotel this morning! The worst thing is, I’m going to be based in China with my company for the next year (Chengdu though, not Shanghai) and I just hope my perception of all Chinese people isn’t going to be tarnished by this experience. As you have attested to, I just feel overwhelmingly embarrassed that this has happened to me. I thought I had done my research before I moved out here…. evidently NOT! And the amount of information on this scam on the internet is just overwhelming… I think hotels/travel agents/my company(!) need to make more effort to highlight these problems before someone travels. I do think I got off lightly with a 600RMB bill compared to some stories, but when you suddenly realise you have been sitting in a closed room with no windows, with 3 Chinese criminals, it does make the heart sink a little. :(

    On the upside, I spent last week in Singapore (which feels like the safest city in the world) with some Chinese friends I had met through work before – they treated me to lunch, dinner and tours of the city every day I was there (the kind of hospitality I would never expect or even offer myself in the UK!!!).

    I hope the latter are the Chinese people I continue to meet through my travels…. and not the scammers of Shanghai!

  92. routzi
    October 13, 2012

    I am so upset that I am reading this now because I got hit with $330 …yes that is the most I had ever paid for food for a I got scammed for 6 cups of tea..they were seven girls and 2 guys..same identical story..I feel so dumb. Please if you know anybody going to china warn them.

  93. Gay_Chevara
    October 16, 2012

    Oh Lauren, I’ve never met you, but you absolute SWEETHEART!!!

    I hate those scam girls on Nanjing Road. Never been caught but I have a great story that I may email to you at a later date.

    I know this scam happened to you almost a year ago but just happened upon your site.

    I am so happy to hear you punched one of them in the chops!!

  94. October 20, 2012

    Sucks you got scammed, Awesome job though on getting a punch :D

  95. Eve Ash
    October 22, 2012

    I got scammed 2 days ago – same thing in Shanghai – it leaves you with a lousy feeling… is there anywhere to post the photos of the scammers?

  96. CynicalCanuck
    October 25, 2012

    Hi, I have just read about your experiences in China. People should realize that China is mostly a third-world country where most people are dirt poor (how else do you get your goods produced cheaply?). Large parts of China are rural but the government has been demolishing villages to make room for useless construction projects. You mentioned pooping babies in another post. It occurred to me that diapers are probably a luxury over there and us first-worlders go through many-a-day, just chucking them in the trash when we’re done. So for any future travellers to China, it’s not any more genteel than other third-world places (in Africa, Latin America or Asia), so beware. Maybe you don’t see shantytowns but the desperation/lawlessness is still there.

    Tourists let their guard down too easily when they’re on vacation. They have this subtle attitude that the town they’re visiting is an entire resort that’s entirely safe. Just because you are vacationing somewhere doesn’t mean the residents will roll out the red carpet for you. You’re on vacation but they aren’t.

    And I think it’s unfair that some commenters characterize the Chinese as being money-obsessed. That’s racist and ignoring everybody else’s behaviour around money.

  97. CynicalCanuck
    October 25, 2012

    It is sad that the world is not a safer place and that scammers everywhere take advantage of people who travel to other places and seek a connection with the people who live there.

  98. Conn
    November 14, 2012

    It happened to me in Beijing as well. These people (of all ages) are well educated and convincing. The problem is it makes it hard for us to trust other decent Chinese people after been cheated. Always choose the cafe yourself when you meet someone for the first time. China is a very safe and also very friendly country despite these scammers.

  99. Robin Ong
    November 14, 2012

    I’m a Malaysian Chinese and it really saddens me when I heard about all these scams happening in China. After all, China is where my ancestry root originates. However, as decades pass us by, I realize that although the migrant Chinese and the folks in China share the same skin colour, we have evolved differently especially in our life philosophy. Lauren, I hope you won’t let this episode of your life leave a scar of distrust to your fellow human being :). God bless you.

  100. Ally
    November 17, 2012

    haha this is hilarious, maybe she’ll think twice about scamming the next person

  101. Louie
    November 18, 2012

    I knew about the tea scam thanks to posts like yours. I swear I ran into your two scammers today. I had some time on my hands so I went for a bit of my own fun. Keep in mind I am in my late forties male and very overweight. So they approached me the same way, I had been walking for over two hours and needed break so I waisted about fortyfive min of their time chatting before I thanked them for the fun told them I knew the scam asked if I could take their picture for my stupid scammers page. They refused and walked away.

  102. Kate
    November 20, 2012

    Good for you! I live in China and have decided to leave after 8 months because it is so terrible. I had a guy pick pocket my wallet and I managed to get it back by chasing him, shouting and just creating a huge ass scene. What frustrated me is that a bunch of Chinese people saw him return my wallet but didn’t say a thing to him. They just don’t care when Chinese people teat guests to their country like dirt!

  103. Dave
    November 23, 2012

    *Sigh* Well I got done by this one about 4 years in Shanghai, and while I was always ‘suspect’ about it (paid about AUD $120 for the tea thing), I never googled it, and some part of me thought ‘well, maybe not, maybe it was just really expensive’. And I am in Shanghai today again, and while I didn’t get hit with the tea scam, I got approached for ‘lady shows’ and asked by a lady to buy her coffee to ‘just make friends’. Blindly thinking my usual “all people are generally decent people” I was polite to all of them, and now just googled ‘shanghai scams’ to see how common/dodgy these were. Which is where I learned that the tea ceremony is the most common and dodgy of all – and these other situations (lady shows, having drinks with people) can lead to bad expensive (and potentially dangerous) situations.
    Oh, and I also got done by the illegal taxi thing at the airport. Thankfully only paid about 20% above normal price, and while the thing felt dodgy, I still felt bad to be ‘impolite’ in case it wasn’t! It’s sad as I think it’s generally good to treat everyone with respect and assume people do the right thing by you. But I guess there are some bad apples everywhere, and you just gotta be aware. Live and learn.

  104. Yousif
    November 28, 2012

    Hi Lauren, reading your post made me extremely happy. I was in the exact same situation 2 days ago in Shanghai “People’s Square”. Knowing that you punched a girl, it’s like as if I punched those girls who scammed me with the stupid tea ceremony rubbish. Thank God I played it right and only paid 100 RMB! At the time that was the only amount I had in my wallet, I paid it n told them that’s all I have, then they noticed that I had credit cards, so they took me to an ATM machine, I used the card that had a zero balance in it. Then I asked them to come home with me where I pretended that I had cash there.. I made them pay for the taxi to Jiangsu Road. Haha. Then I acted as if I had no idea where my apartment is, pretended to look for it with them. Made them walk with me for an hour, until they lost patience n left.

    Although I managed to pay 100 RMB instead of the alleged 3000 RMB bill, I was still pissed off and wanted to bitch-slap one of those 4 Chinese girls.

    In conclusion, Shanghai is a tough place to live in, especially when you’re new. Be careful peeps! Cheers!

    Warm Regards from Bahrain,

    • zelo
      December 26, 2012

      hahaha, well done, smart guy !

  105. Sven
    December 1, 2012

    We just got teascammed in shangai , it gives you an unsafe feeling when you ‘re dealing with chinese companies !

  106. zelo
    December 26, 2012

    hahaha, well done ! And thank you very much for story, we are right now in Shanghai for 9 days and probably will run into that kind of scams, shall I punch the guys right away ? I mean just for credit ? Or better ask for the bigger bosses to talk to….

  107. Yousif
    December 27, 2012

    Dear Zelo,

    Just punch one those bitches straight away without any hesitation.


  108. in Shanghai now
    January 21, 2013

    WARNING. Be careful. They have security.

    I’m in Shanghai by myself for work now. Watched them in action at Yuyuan subway station on Sunday. When I tried to tell a guy he was being scammed I was descended upon by 3 guys, threatened and pushed around. One of them was quite strong (I’m a reasonably big fella) but I am not interested in taking any sort of risk in China.

    This is the wild west…

  109. Shanghai jacked
    January 25, 2013

    So good to read all the comments on here and know that I’m not alone!
    So there I was last night in the same situation on the Nanjing Rd. A couple of girls with lovely personalities asked to walk with me because it made them “feel safer” they said. From out of town they were in Shanghai for the weekend. Come for a cup of tea they said. Now, having been ripped off in another way two days previously I was already very much on my guard but not sure whether it was right to distrust everyone because of my previous stupidity. I was in need of a coffee and they seemed so nice, taking such an interest in me, where I was from, what I do etc and even offered to pay their own way. I was thinking oh well, go for a cuppa, what’s the harm in that? They suggested a couple of places but I was being cautious and suggested that we go to a more public area – a hotel lounge where we were able to relax in soft chairs. What a lovely couple of girls I thought. You know what?…I’ll happily buy them a drink because I earn good money and hey what’s wrong with being generous to those who appear less fortunate. All that said my gut was saying “something doesn’t compute” – especially when not just tea but whisky arrives on the table then a plate of fruit and more and in fact more things that no one could have ordered in such a short sentence. . Given my experience a few days before I immediately thought “oh no – I’m being stupid. I asked for the bill which showed 180RMB – I thought I was getting off lightly when they explained – “no its 1800!!!!”. I tried to leave whilst being hit and pulled by these girls. I realized immediately what was going on and didn’t react and cutting a long story short got out of there paying just 300. You have to be careful as its not just the people on the street but the supposed businesses and establishments that are in on it too. The price list I was shown by the hotel showed reasonable prices but the bill was completely different but there I am a man on my own in China being pulled and slapped and eager to do anything to avoid a scene. Shame on the authorities I say. I could help them stamp this out in a week and point them to all the criminals. I literally fended off 30-40 offers of massage, sex, tea and things unimaginable in one walk up and then back down the Nanjing Rd. Theres no need for such lawlessness but clearly no one cares. Quite simply I now know to distrust anyone that approaches me.
    By contrast over the River in Pudong I didn’t get hassle once though did buy a laser pointer off a man in the street for 100RMB only to be offered 8 for the same price down the road. Well, I suppose I could open a disco!
    Having typed all this on my phone from the relative security of my hotel I’ve forgotten the name of the lady that started this thread and goes around punching girls in the face. I’ll just say thank you to you and if you’re ever in Shanghai can I take you for a cup of tea as I’d like your help with a couple of girls I know need a good slapping where the gent in me is unable to oblige. You’re clearly a secret Ninja tea drinker! Well done you!!!

  110. Vipul
    January 26, 2013

    Ohh My God,

    Same happaned with me.

    I did’t read this otherwise i could saved my 500 RMB :(

  111. Alex Morris
    January 28, 2013

    I had the same problem, but in Beijing. Two girls got me, bascially, and after the ceremony this whopping bill turns up. They didn’t try and nick my waller, though. Still, I felt like a complete moron after it all for being lead into it, although I was only 21 at the time. Never again will I be cheated of my moolah!

  112. February 18, 2013

    The same thing happened to me today. The same girls. I plan on going back there tomorrow with the police. This must stop.

  113. miko
    February 26, 2013

    same thing happened to me to…except at least you punched one

  114. George
    April 3, 2013

    Lauren, I say we go again and punched them both! haha, they actually love doing that kind of thing since they have no morale values, no religion, no ethics whatsoever, psychologically speaking they believe they are doing the right thing because it is for their own benefit, there is no remorse whatsoever. I was once riding my bicycle when all of a sudden I saw a woman in need, something went wrong with her bicycle so she fell, so I did the most human thing, I stopped to help her, to give her a hand, quickly she made a big fuss of it, getting attention and calling the cops on me, accusing me, they fined me, she got a big chunk of money from me and a big smile too. You should have seen her face (no conscience at all! no humanity in such eyes) souless and empty, perhaps not even an animal, I don’t know what that was, but there seems to be a lot of that kind all around so becareful, never place your good intentions and faith in those wrong hands because all you will find is dissapointment, run and never stop, never help them or even look at them, just pray for them, you don’t need to love them, but you don’t have to hate them either, be good, be benevolent and always keep your spirit pure and alive

  115. Greg Lewry
    April 5, 2013

    Same thing just happened to me just now. 2 girls, one younger than the other, started chatting to me on the Bund. Said they were from out of town on holiday. Offered to take me to see a tea ceremony which I stupidly agreed to. I knew that it was potentially a scam all along but didn’t see anything that could hurt me. The girls were small and I had very little money on me. Anyway we did the whole ceremony and then I said I had no cash on me. They and the tea lady walked me to an ATM and I withdrew £30, 300 yuan, about 100 less than they asked for as I thought I didn’t have much on my card. They wanted to take me to see more sights but I decided to part from them.

    What made it seem not a scam though, even afterwards, was this: The girls spoke excellent English, they appeared to pay their part of the bill, they even gave me a gift of tea that I have in my room now, and it seemed like a genuine experience, not that I really care about Chinese tea, a lot less so now! I have three days left in Shanghai and if any Chinese person says ‘hello’ to me I am going to tell them exactly where they can go!

    Be careful!!

    • Pavan
      April 7, 2013

      I feel so stupid now! Greg I am in the same boat as you are in now. I did not realize it is a scam at all until I started checking the tea bag prices online. I was walking back to the hotel and the guy at the concierge asked me thats a nice bag where did you buy your tea and how much did you pay for it? I told him what he asked and he said it is very expensive tea. I came back to my room and hit shanghai tea and google autocomplete suggested “shanghai tea scam” I clicked it and here I am. I did not think for once the group was trying to scam me. The group that took me to a tea shop showed me around the city for around and told me a lot of stories. We were having a decent conversation. DAMN !! I want to complain to the police and I am so mad at myself now!! They spoke with me for a very long time and I completely let my guard down. AHHH!!!

  116. George
    April 8, 2013

    Pavan, they do it all the time and they enjoy it, I am afraid going to the police won’t help cause there is never justice here if you are a foreigner, those people could say anything they want and the police will take their word for it, the best you can do is publish spread the word to every single foreigner, website, etc.
    NEVER TRUST a Chinese NEVER, if they are ever nice to you in anyway, it is only cause they have a selfish interest, there is NO such thing as courtesy, kindness or gratitute, you name it! in this country, everything comes at a high price and entirely not for your benefit in anyway, so NEVER TRUST them.

    • Sarah
      April 11, 2013

      George you are SO SO SO right !!! They are truly horrible people !!!

    • Pam
      April 23, 2013

      Wow that’s a racist comment if I’ve ever heard one! How about ‘proceed with caution’

  117. April 10, 2013

    Pavan, don’t feel ripped off. The prices you pay online are not the same as you pay on the ground ANYWHERE. When I buy in a store and I get personal service with helpful advice I am happy to pay more than buying online because I enjoyed the experience. If you got a guided tour, good company, a guide to Chinese tea rituals, as well as ‘designer’ teas, for 50 quid then that’s not a bad deal. If you paid £150 then ok feel angry. The fact you were happy until you read this means you are probably over-annoyed. I recommend listening to Monty Python’s “Always Look in the Bright Side of Life” for therapy.

    I bought my girlfriend tea at Gatwick airport at 10x the price because it had the name “London Tea Company” and the picture of a red telephone box on the front. Do I feel ripped off? No, because it made her smile. Worth every penny.

    The worst one above is Taylor, but ironically I heard it in reverse. I met some Chinese guy (well Chinese looking, could have been Malaysian or something) in London who got ripped off in Soho. He was offered free entrance into a “gentlemans bar” and when he found it empty and tried to leave he was told in no uncertain terms than unless he bought a bottle of champagne for £1,000 he would have his legs broken. I’ve heard it several times since then.

    As for Lauren, good on you! Punching somebody actively trying to steal from you falls under self-defence in my book. I plan to travel to Shanghai next month and your blog has been eye-opening. Thank you.


  118. james brummel
    April 11, 2013

    But how was the tea?

    • April 11, 2013

      Wasn’t that great.

  119. edgar
    April 18, 2013

    hi you all, this just happened to me in peoples square in shanghai!!!
    i paid 440 RMB and left in the subway really mad and confused but…..
    30 minutes later i got so angry i decided to go to the police and confront them! police officers laughed really bad when i told them but they joined me to confront the ladies, i was really angry and asked them for my money and managed to get 300 RMB’S back!! so sick be careful

  120. George
    April 23, 2013

    Chinese Baby Scam (often seen in subways)

    “Why is sleeping child in the hands of beggars? Have you ever wondered … ”

    “”Near the metro station sits a woman of uncertain age.
    Women’s hair is confused and dirty, her head bowed in grief.

    The woman sits on the dirty floor and next to her lies a bag. In that bag people throw money. On the hands of a woman, asleep, is a two year old baby. He’s in a dirty hat and dirty clothes.

    “Madonna with baby” – numerous passers-by will donate money. The people of our kind- we always feel sorry for less fortunate. We are ready to give unfortunate people the last shirt, the last penny out of your pocket and never think another issue.
    Helping, seems like. “Good job done”…

    I walked past a beggar for a month. Did not give any money, as I knew that this is a gang operated scam and money collected by the beggar will be given to whoever controls beggars in the area. Those people own numerous luxury properties and cars.
    Oh and beggar also gets something, of course “ A bottle of vodka in the evening and a döner kebab”.
    A month later, walking past the beggars, as shock, it suddenly hit me….
    I’m staying at a busy crossing, stared at the baby, dressed as always- dirty track suit. I realized that it
    seemed “wrong”, finding a child in a dirty underground station from morning to evening.
    The baby slept. Never sobbed or screamed, always asleep, burying his face in the knee of a woman who was his MUM.

    Do any of you, dear readers, have children? Remember how often they slept at the age of 1-2-3 years? Hour two, maximum three (not consecutive)afternoon nap, and again – movement. For the whole month, every day of my
    walking in the underground, I’ve never seen a child awake! I looked at the tiny little man, with his face buried in the knee of his mother, then at the beggar, and my
    suspicion was gradually formed.

    – Why he sleeps all the time? I asked, staring at the baby.

    The beggar pretended not to hear me. She lowered her eyes and hid her face in the collar of her shabby jacket. I repeated the question. The woman again looked up. She looked somewhere behind my back, tired with utter irritation. Her look was similar to the creatures from a different planet.
    -F **k off … her lips murmured.
    -Why is he asleep?! I almost cried …

    Behind me someone put his hand on my shoulder. I looked back. A some old man was looking at me disapprovingly:

    – What do you want from her? Can’t you see how hard she’s got it in her life… Eh …
    He gets some coins from his pocket and throws them in the beggar’s bag.

    Beggar made a hand wave of a cross, portraying the face of humility and universal grief. The guy removed his hand from my shoulder and strolled out of the underground station. I bet, at home, he will tell how he defended poor, distraught woman from a soulless man in a tube station.

    Next day I called a friend. It was a funny man with eyes like olives Romanian nationality. He only managed to complete three and a half years of education. The complete lack of education does not prevent him from moving around the City streets on very expensive foreign cars and live in a “small” house with countless number of windows and balconies. From my friend I managed to find out that this business, despite the apparent spontaneity, clearly organized. Its supervised by begging organized crime rings. The children used are in “rent”
    from families of alcoholics, or simply stolen.
    I needed to get the answer to the question – why is the baby sleeping? And I received it. My friend Gypsy said the phrase, completely ordinary with calm voice that twisted me in shock, just like he was talking about weather report:
    -They are on heroin, or vodka …
    I was dumbfounded. “Who is on heroin? Whom – under vodka?! ”
    He answered
    -The Child, so he doesn’t scream. The women will be sitting whole day with him, imagine how he might get bored?

    In order to make the baby slept the whole day, it pumped up with vodka or drugs. Of course, children’s bodies are not able to cope with such a shock. And children often die. The most terrible thing – sometimes children die
    during the “working day”. And imaginary mother must hold another dead child on her hands until the evening. These are the rules. And the by passers-by will throw some money in the bag, and believe that they are moral. Helping
    “mother alone” …
    … The next day I was walking near the same underground station. I stocked up journalistic identity, and was ready for a serious conversation. But the conversation didn’t work out. But turned out the following …
    A woman was sitting on the floor and in her hands she was holding a child. I asked her a question about the documents on the child, and, most importantly, where was yesterday’s kid, which she simply ignored.
    My questions were not ignored by passers-by. I was told that I was out of my mind screaming at poor beggar with a child. All in all, I was escorted out of the tube station in disgrace. One thing remained was to call the police. When police arrived, beggar with the baby disappeared. I stood with a full sense of – “I’m trying to fight windmills”.

    When you see in the subway, on the street whether women with children,
    begging, think before your hand climb for money. Think about that, if it wasn’t for your hundreds of thousands of handouts, the business like this would have died. The business would die and not the children-inflated with vodka or
    drugs. Do not look at the sleeping child with affection. See horror… Since you’re reading this article, you know now- why the child is sleeping in beggars hands.

    If got this from a friend, ifyou copy this article on your wall or just email it to all your friends, they will read it too.
    And when you decide again to open your wallet to throw a coin to a beggar, remember that this
    charity could cost another child’s life.””
    It’s unbelievable how malicious these people can be, there are simply no limits to their dark imagination..

  121. Pam
    April 23, 2013

    Wow! I’ve lived in Shanghai more than 5 years and have never heard of the Tea Scam! People in China truly can be great! I’m sad your experience made you feel as if you couldn’t trust anyone or enjoy your trip. People are indeed always out to make a buck around here, but in a tourist area like Yu Yuan it’s where it turns to ‘scam’. Our scams have more to do with fake Dish TV, than stuff on the streets. One note of advice, when traveling anywhere in the world never go into a shop or situation with no street store front or visible pedestrian area. Anywhere in the world. Unless you are with a true friend or reputable tour guide. Although I’ve probably been in well over 100 tea shops in this country none have been back alley or off the beat and path. Best of luck in your travels!

  122. Ron
    April 30, 2013

    Scams are prevalent everywhere in this world. I wish I new what world you live in. To have been scammed in a foreign country, well that’s nothing new. Especially for someone traveling alone, you should be more vigil. Actually your pretty lucky that’s all that happened. Single white female traveling alone in china supposedly being fondled by grown men (most likely untrue) there are worse things and I mean worse things that can happen to you. It’s obvious you enjoy empathy. Maybe not enough attention as a kid but I find your article utterly bullshit. Welcome to the real world sheltered single white female.

    • May 1, 2013

      Hi Ron,

      Sorry you find my article bullshit, but I’m actually going to agree with you on some of your points.

      This scam happened two years ago. I’d been travelling solo for a couple of months, I had never travelled before, I had never been to Asia, I didn’t know what to expect. And I behaved like a child. I was close-minded, immature, naive, judgemental and I expected everything to be how I wanted it.

      Completely the wrong attitude to have as a traveller, I know. Fortunately, travel is a wonderful thing for helping you grow into a better person — and after two years of travel my entire world-view has changed. I recognise now how terrible I was when travelling in China, I regret it, and I’m actually quite keen to return. This time without the biases and the expectations — and definitely without the whining :-)

      • St0815
        May 3, 2013

        I don’t think this article qualifies as whining. Sure you can learn from the experience, but it’s perfectly reasonable to be disappointed when you are scammed by someone.

        Besides what you wrote there is informative, interesting and potentially very helpful to other travellers.

      • Julio
        December 14, 2013

        It takes humility to admit you were naive and ignorant. You were pretty lucky to get away with just parting with £50. It’s no biggie really.

        Do read up on all that is negative before you visit anywhere in your travels, google and forums really help.

        Shanghai Nanjing road, Paris artistes spots, barcelona la ramblas are all large and lovely places but alas such places draw those who make their fortune by questionable means.

        Despite knowing all about the soccer trip tackle by the north afrique or Romani pickpockets in Europe, one of them still tried it on me in Belgium. Joke’s on him I rained blows on him up really bad for a few seconds only to realise he was just trying to eke a living, shameful yes, hateful? Definitely. But I should never have hit him, all he tried was to snatch the was of 10euros scrunched in my back pocket despite me telling him to go away. When he sniffles and had that wild eyed look did I know he’s just another human being.

        Ok, back to shanghai. Chinese are strangely like the Scandinavian folk, they are passivw until you approach them. Never talk to locals that tout to you. Drink and eat at where menu prices are clear and there are locals eating and drinking the same things. Hold on to the menu as you dine, same menu that you ordered from in case they switch it for another one with an extra zero. If you need help approach an uninterested passerby who will respond to you instead.

        As for the Romani and drugged out baby story above I can vouch for it’s authenticity.
        The gypsy guys I befriended previously did some slapping of a comatose tot whilst he was held in his “mom’s” bosom. The tot didn’t even flinch.

        I’m Chinese myself. China can be lovely, even if seen up close.

    • Sonja
      December 30, 2013

      Sometimes I’m shocked by the things that people write to each other on the internet and Ron’s post is no exception. His response is absolutely insulting. Does he mean to say that a white female should not expect to be safe in a foreign country? That a woman should know better than to travel alone? If a man had been ripped off, would his anger and reaction be more justified?
      Getting ripped off is embarrassing and angering. The people who do it, unless it is to put food on their plates, are despicable, and this is not something that is culturally relative, or merely the beliefs of privileged westerners who want things in a new place to be exactly the way they are at home.
      This same scam happened to me recently in Shanghai when I was traveling with my non-white husband who is originally from Mexico city, and not some sheltered small town in the American Midwest. We have been living in Japan for the past year and a half and perhaps let our guard down because of the degree of safety that we have experienced there. Getting ripped off stung, and reading Ron’s post made that sting fresh again.

  123. gardner broadbent
    May 15, 2013

    I also was a victim of a tea ceremony scam. It was December 2009 and I was in Shanghai.

    A pretty Chinese girl came up to me and started chatting with me. In very good english she told me that she was meeting a friend and they were going to attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. She explained that every year all Chinese people travel from all over China to attend them. Of course this sounded like a fantastic idea. I had plenty of time to kill, the two girls were very pretty and I had wanted to experience something that was very traditional and very Chinese.

    We walked several blocks away to some kind of shopping mall and then up to the second floor where we were lead into a small but nicely decorated room. I must admit, I had a great time and had no idea I was getting scammed.

    The hostess spoke no english so the girls translated. We tried all kinds of different teas and I learned more about Chinese tea then I ever wanted to know. It was a very cool experience.

    After about an hour we started talking about the cost of the ceremony and I blurted out that I was having a great time and I would just pay for the whole thing (cuz that’s what gentlemen do, right? and it shouldn’t cost that much, right?) Yep, they even talked me into buying tea and a tea set. When I got the bill it was in RMB so I tried to do the conversion in my head and I knew it was really expensive but I didn’t really know what the actual damage was in USD. They didnt take credit cards so they lead me to an ATM where I withdrew the amount needed and I paid the bill. I had that nervous feeling in my stomach where I knew I had probably paid way too much but I just tried to forget about it and relax.

    Getting scammed didn’t even register in my brain. I just thought that tea ceremonies must be really expensive and I shouldn’t have offered to pay for the whole thing. I still had a great time and tasted lots of different teas and the girls were very nice. I even got their email address and took several pictures with them.

    When I got back to the hotel and did the conversion on a calculator I realized just how much I had spent. $350.00 USD. I told my wife and she was sure it was a scam.

    After getting back to the states I sent an email to both of the girls and never got any response. That’s when I concluded I probably did get scammed. As time has gone by I have become more and more convinced that I was a victim of a scam.

    And then today I decide for some strange reason to type into a search engine “shanghai tea ceremony scams” and all kinds of stories pop up. Yes, now I know I got scammed. And I laughed out loud at my complete stupidity!

  124. amruta
    May 23, 2013

    Hi, I am a solo indian girl traveling to Shanghai. I just visited the Bund area today and got scammed. So stupid of me really. I first refused to go to a tea ceremony when a group offered to take me. But then I went with the other three , 2 girls and a boys. Guess what, the girl whom you punched was one of them. It is really shocking that she is doing this again to other tourists. I will be in shanghai for a week and I hope I can go back to people’s square, find that girl and get some of my money back.

  125. Marcos
    May 28, 2013

    I was victim of this kind of scam in Shangai they charged my credit card Yuan 48.500,00!!! If some one can help me to get the money back please tel me. My bank don’t want to return my money..

    Scams in bars:

    Some bars in Julu Lu or Tongren Lu will get you one or two or six girls to sit with you and talk to you. For this they expect you to buy them drinks. There have been a few incidents where foreigners were roughed up by locals because they protested an extortionist bill (10X+ honest amount). Call police in the event of any scam. They are on your side in Shanghai. Be very careful if you keep a tab as each drink costs 100rmb, typically the drinks the girls have will be watered down but customers drinks are not, and you will be encouraged to drink heavily. If you run out of cash be very careful when using a credit card not to let it out of sight, so that it is swiped only once and to check that the amount is correct.

    In a similar scenario a stranger offers to take you to a karaoke bar or massage parlor with beautiful girls. He will assure you that if you don’t like the place or the girls, he will return you. You go to the place, meet lovely girls and the staff will bully you out of whatever is in your wallet. These people present a bill in thousands of yuan and if you protest, big bouncers will approach you with serious mean faces. Pay up or else is the message.

  126. Max
    June 14, 2013

    Currently sitting in Shanghai, got nearly scammed today by two very professionals …
    At the entrance of the “tea house” I got a bad feeling because she was showing me some photos on her new mobile phone but I had to take a photo of them with an old digicam. Made me wonder, made me suspicious. I faked a phone call and got of.
    Thanks to your photos Lauren, I know now what I have missed ;-)
    Nice story and a shame you have no photo of the girl after your punch :D


  127. Paul
    July 4, 2013

    Just been reading your Shanghai Teahouse Scam post and its great, though its a completely different to what happens to a lone male traveller! I was in China about the same time and alone and its easy to get sucked into scams when you just want to talk to someone in English.

    I picked up a weird vibe from the start though, im very cautious of friendly people when im away because that kindof thing just doesnt happen to me in real life! Glad you got revenge, whilst I knew of the scams with the help of google and don’t condone violence I really felt like doing the same thing sometimes but a male could never get away with hitting like a female can!
    I did get revenge by tormenting those scammers and pretending to be a confused tourist a few times though! just because I was bored I wanted to see what would happen if I went along with them right to the end and then abruptly changed my mind and even seeing if they would go to a place I suggested which I knew would be scam free. They didnt like it and nothing gives me as much pleasure of having them annoy me for a week and knowing I wasted lots of their time and seeing the annoyed look on their faces!

    Another funny thing to do in this situation is to be a calm, ignorant tourist but then abruptly shout at them that you know about their scam! It scares them and embarasses them and I found shouting at them was the best way as they went away very quickly to avoid attention from other people and police! (Though I think the police are actually in on the scam too)

    But as annoying as it is, if you dont get scammed its actually a pretty fun thing to watch and maybe the best people watching ive ever done there, so many weird things going on!
    Even got talking to atleast 2 of the scammers, the ones who bring you to shops and seem to have connections with everyone for discounts etc. I think they felt weird when their scams didnt work as I recognised them so id go up and talk to them and got to hear why they do what they do, when questioning one girl and asking why she doesnt persue a career in a legitimate job she laughed and said do i think she will make as much money in that kindof job! but her English was perfect and seemed like a real waste to just annoy and waste time of tourists with it.

    The scams in China are probably the worst though as they even happen in temples! I did find a way to embarass the people who continuously ask if you want a massage though! just left the place wanting to scratch their eyes out but now I want to go back!

  128. Stevo
    July 10, 2013

    We had a similar situation today. My friend and I were approached by 3 “student tourists from Xi’an” for whom I took a photograph. They were very nice and one of the girls was very cute indeed (which for a guy like me is like a hook with a big fat juicy maggot on for a fish). They invited us to a “tea festival” and we didn’t even give it a 2nd thought.

    Anyway, same story, same ceremony and similar bill. My friends words were “absolutely not”. I told them that we did not have any money on us and that they could walk us down to an ATM. That they did.

    I promptly phoned a friend I have made in the city and after laughing her arse off because we had fallen for the infamous tea scam, she said that we should just find security (this was in a shitty little flat above a mall). I said that I can handle it and after ending the call, I just told them that I did not trust them and that they were not getting a penny from us.

    We then walked off. The lad stopped in front of me and told me that he had a gun to which I replied “really? show it to me”. Calling his bluff worked, he backed down and we were free.

  129. Stevo
    July 10, 2013

    I have a picture… the girl you punched was one of them (the one that I thought was cute)! I’ll email it to you once if you write to my email.

  130. Andrew
    July 15, 2013

    I just got scammed on nanjing… I was aware there were going to be scams.. But the long story made short is that these two girls totally convinced me that they were kind. I let my guard down and followed them to a restaurant.. I was insecure about the situation sobi just ordered a cheap salad.. When the meal came it was at least 5 playes along with whiskey.. I was pretty alarmed but somehow they were so convincing that i felt bad accusing them of scamming me.. I ended up talking with them for over 30 minutes.. Finally when thr bill came it was 2,277 Rmb.. And ofcourse they expected me to pay.. Only i could not settle for giving them anything so I prepared myself and acted like I was going to get up to pay,. I quickly put my cash back in my pocket when they grabbed my arms.. I easily shook them off and when sprinting out of the restaurant.. Up the stairs on accident.. Through several other businesses to another exit where I made my way back to the street… There the waitress stood cursing me but I knew they could keep up as I pulled off a track star performance down nanjing and into the metro where i was able to escape completely.

    Now my concern is running into them again and facing police or thugs.. Sort of terrified from the experience and saddened to feel like i ditched s bill even though it was an obvious scam.. I am going to stay far away from Nanjing .. But now im still paranoid of being recognized. Do you guys think I should be worried? Im at least happy I didnt lose a dime.. Save for a really bad scratch on my back. Those twirps didnt stand a chance at holding me back. Even the older man working the restaurant didnt dare get in my way. I am happy I did not resort to violence. Be weary out there folks. I thought I was smart enough to avoid such a stupid situation but these girls were truly talented at appearing as genuine people.
    Safe travels

  131. Rebecca
    July 30, 2013

    this is too too funny! in a way well done for punching her – I mean your very brave lol but well done!

    • November 26, 2015

      Thanks, Rebecca! I didn’t feel brave at the time — just saw red when she started robbing me and had my instincts take over.

  132. George
    August 3, 2013

    I just returned from PVG (Shanghai) and I am so sad, disappointed and somewhat angry that I became a victim of this nonsense. I paid approximately € 350 for this scam. Not Nice .

    Why?, …..why on earth do these guys have to rip us like this? As it is I am struggling with finances and last thing Imwanted was to face this.

    I’m sad, because € 350 for me is a lot of money. I would rather feed my kids.

    All I can say is “Karma is a bitch” !!!

    • November 26, 2015

      Ah, that’s an insane amount of money. Sorry you experienced this, George.

  133. Tobi
    August 13, 2013

    I also got scammed the same way. At around 200 Yuan (approx. 25 Euro), it was a cheap lesson. I learned from it.

    • November 26, 2015

      Yeah, that’s not too bad at all.

  134. Melanie
    August 16, 2013

    Hi Lauren, just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog and especially this entry because I had a similar experience when I was studying abroad in Shanghai. I was with two friends and three Chinese students claimed they were “sightseeing” in the area. They took us to a tea house and the bill ended up costing about $90 per person for a 15-minute experience. I wish I had punched them in the face like you did! haha!
    I’m hoping to write an entry about it in my blog soon. It’s one of those experiences that make for a great story, huh?

    • November 26, 2015

      Agh, sorry to hear that, Melanie! That’s a very expensive tea ceremony.

  135. Wendel
    August 20, 2013

    I hate to play devil’s advocate, but those girls were most likely already getting screwed before you punched them. Most scammers working the streets are desperate for money and get paid jack shit while the people running the scam face no retribution.

    Getting taken advantage of is the worst feeling in the world, I know. But maybe there’s some comfort in knowing that some of your money went to people who need it.

    • November 26, 2015

      Oh, absolutely! If ever I’ve been robbed when travelling, I let it go, because I know the people robbing me are likely to be in a far worse situation than I am. I can spare a few dollars and have it not make much difference.

  136. Suzie
    August 28, 2013

    I just happened upon this post while googling about this sort of scam I just heard of. I was interested to see how you got revenge, thinking you outted them on the street later or something. I can’t believe you punched her!!! I don’t condone violence at all, but I find that hilarious still! Serves her right for not only ripping you off but going in your bag as well!

    • November 26, 2015

      Yeah, trying to rob me after scamming me was a particularly nasty touch.

  137. Alper
    September 11, 2013

    We just got scammed 160$ !! Going to police tomorrow! Fk this shit! Pity we didnt googlr before!!

    • November 26, 2015

      Ack, that’s a lot! Hope you manage to get your money back.

  138. Crystal
    September 17, 2013

    I’m going there in a few weeks and will be on my own for a week. I want to meet locals, but how do I know who to trust? Who did you hang out with there?

    • November 14, 2015

      To be honest, I didn’t really trust any of the locals after being scammed. I found that if anyone approached me, the conversation would inevitably turn towards tea ceremonies and art galleries within a few minutes. I hung out with other travellers instead. Maybe in the less touristy parts of China there are fewer scammers?

  139. Jeff | Planet Bell
    September 18, 2013

    I was scammed in a very similar way in Cuba by two guys who invited me to a bar. I ended up paying for a couple of mojitos and like you, I didn’t trust anyone I met in Cuba again.

    I wrote a ridiculous post about the 12 times that I know of that I was scammed or conned while traveling if you care to read it on my blog.

    • November 14, 2015

      It sucks when being scammed affects how much you trust people, doesn’t it? I hated feeling like I always had to be on my guard and shut down anyone who approached me.

  140. Jay
    October 1, 2013

    Hi Lauren,

    Greetings from Hong Kong…

    It’s sad that only foreigners fall for this. Many of my Chinese friends overseas, including myself, we all traveled and walked around China, and its many cities on our own, and nothing like this happens to us, or me. My guess is that scammers tend to know foreigners don’t know anything, and that scammers think anybody who is and speaks Chinese will be a local, and avoid them. I’d like to see your girls try on me, though it may not work if I speak Chinese to them.

    All that was just my guess. if you, or anybody else, think that they will target “Chinese” people, any of you are welcome to comment.

    Your case is interesting, though. Thanks for sharing. I think it may help if you travel or toured Shanghai with a Chinese friend. If those girls saw your friend speaks Chinese, they most likely will walk away. Or you can travel with me :)

  141. Dorian
    October 2, 2013

    That is just insane, I guess when you travel frequently, you put your self in situation.
    But your able to handle it and did not get hurt.
    Thank God !
    Lesson learned !

    • November 26, 2015

      Definitely :-)

  142. Hong Kong Stuey
    October 4, 2013

    think its funny as hell that you have the photo and can show people the scammer that you smacked! Thats worth a couple hundred RMB of your money back. You were lucky to get away with it though as the way chinese stick together is xenophobia de-luxe. Regarding these scammers – what i find disturbing is the mentality of these people who treat it as if they are just doing a job. It really is a bit sick IMO.

    • November 26, 2015

      It makes sense now that they were so uncomfortable when I asked for a photo with them.

  143. William
    October 15, 2013

    Of course I read this after my experience….two young girls who asked me to take a picture for them, spoke very good English, and “we are off to a tea ceremony”… Care to join? I started to sense something was going on at the end of my 25 min,
    and when the final bill came, I claimed that all I had was cash, and reluctantly parted with $500 yuan…..I got emails, phone numbers, and a video …….ahhhhh…….

    • harry
      November 21, 2013

      Ok, I just want to say that part of the scam is having these young kids ask to take a photo of you. Shanghai has a large population of caucasian expats, not to mention many more as tourists, so as a white person, you are NOT that novel. If somebody asks to take a photo with you that should be a clear indicator that they may have motives.

      • November 26, 2015

        That’s good to know, Harry.

  144. @shanghai
    October 19, 2013

    We got scammed yesterday. Being tired after a long day, our guards were down. The boy and two girls told us they were students and they were very friendly. We ended up paying 1000 yuan for us both. I got it charged to my creditcard ( which was never out of my sight) and asked for the receipt, which they gave me. I called the cc company a couple of hours later, but of course the charge had already gone through. They reassured me that no other charges were made to the card. They did not hink it was necessary to cancel the card. I read about the scam on some websites ( also this one ), but still went to sleep feeling pretty stupid.

    This morning, we went back to search for the tearoom, photographed the street name and memorised the housenumber. We then went to the police station. Nobody spoke any english, but they used a telephone translation service that worked very well. After we had explained what had happened and had shown them the receipt and address, stuff started happening. After some calling to and from, we were taken to another police station. En-route, we identified the place to the police officers. After a short wait for something in the police station we found ourselves in another police car (sirens blaring) with another officer, destination teahouse. The officer walked through the establishment and emptied the place (people ran out from all over the place, haha). He said something to the “manager”, who gave us our money back. We were then led to the exit (all very politely) and that was that. The officer stayed behind for his morning tea ;-). Fact is that the police were all very friendly and helpful to us. The whole thing didn’t even last for 2 hours, and it was good fun actually. The bad feeling we had for being scammed has left us entirely ;-). If you got scammed by these people, go to the police!

  145. juncay
    October 25, 2013

    Now in China for over 9 years (2 years in Shanghai), yes, I see these people everyime I visited downtown area. Good that I did not listen to them. After all these years here, I only heared this scam this month.

    But hey, looking at the bright side, consider that experience a good write for your blog.

    • November 26, 2015

      It was definitely that!

  146. Robert
    October 25, 2013

    Hi Lauren ,
    Just found your blog and really enjoy reading it since i’m gonna travel to shanghai in dec , from my perspective , i feel sorry for ppl who said that you’re whining and bla bla bla , probably they have pity life nor expect a better life for themselves . I’m chinese indonesian but i dont speak mandarin and as i’m having chinese blood , i do feel sorry for what you’ve been through . I was travelling a lot and as in many asian country ( maybe except singapore ) , scam can varied as for the common taxi driver scam and goes through the complicated one like tea ceremony scam in china ( i always google tourist scam in xxxx or tourist trap in xxxx before i set foot on their country ) . I hope that this experience would make you love travelling more and more . Many thanks for the heads up . keep writing .

    • November 26, 2015

      That’s a good tip. I do the same now, so that I can be on my guard.

  147. James
    October 31, 2013

    Exact same thing happened to me few hours ago with three girls and a boy next to People’s square, Shanghai. .
    Luckily they got only $55 US after the bill came to $375.

    I hate these f#*ing Chinese. Haven’t found a good one although there are over 1 billion go them.

    • November 26, 2015

      Glad you managed to get your bill down — that’s a significant drop!

  148. Jeff Stein
    November 7, 2013

    Same thing happened to me, except they showed me the price, and when I saw that it was ‘Ah ha!, so that’s how it works.” And I ran out. Lucky for them, I had my knife on me that day.

  149. dennis
    November 10, 2013

    There’s a long thread about this scam on tripadvisor. Many victims seem to return to the tea house, sometimes with the cops, to recover their money.

    • November 14, 2015

      I’ve heard that. Might be worth trying if you’re still in Shanghai.

  150. John
    November 14, 2013

    Very interesting post, but I must say you were very lucky to get away safely and I strongly advise against anyone reading this to react the same way no matter how angry you may feel about having having been scammed. These people don’t work alone and it can be very dangerous. Just go to the police. There is actually a commissioned task force in Beijing and Shanghai fighting these scams, but with everyone they seem to stop, ten new one spring up.

    Having said that, I’ve been living in China (originally from Canada and not of Chinese origin) for the past ten years and have met some of the kindest, most generous and thoughtful people here. Even if there are 500 scammers walking the streets of Shanghai as we speak, there are thousands of good people here as well.

    Scammers are everywhere, in New York there is even a guy giving courses in how to con people.

    By all means, be careful, but don’t judge Chinese people as a whole because of this. You’ll be wrong and miss out on meeting many amazing people.

    Be safe, be smart and enjoy your time in China


    • November 26, 2015

      Thanks for the advice, John. I definitely wouldn’t recommend that anyone behaved as I did.

  151. oldvine
    November 20, 2013

    OK so I thought I was an experienced traveller- 50 plus countries- never had a real scam until today- but luckily I read your post and went back to Hectometer Champs Elysees- not hard to find, and got most of the money back- after all, the tea was excellent, and the small amount finally paid well worth it. What I would really like is to contact the ” student” scammers, as they would make excellent wine salespeople, and that’s what I make… wine! So if by any chance, one of you lovely young kids read this, please contact me for a real opportunity…… as per my business card.
    BTW, read all of the above before you go out with young students in China, or caveat emptor!!

    • November 26, 2015

      Glad to hear you managed to get your money back!

  152. Jordan Bryant
    November 24, 2013

    Blah, I got done too today. Knew it, but was with another guy and couldn’t convince him otherwise and then for some reason just paid the money. Spewing right now.

    (Michael and Lulu were the ‘names’ of the students who saw us along The Bund).

    • November 26, 2015

      Sorry to hear that, Jordan. What a pain.

  153. KA
    November 24, 2013

    Just got scammed this morning in People’s Square. You essentially narrated my experience. Wooohooo!

  154. Winston Yang
    December 2, 2013

    Hi Lauren,

    I was so glad to read your post, but it was a little too late.

    First of all, I am Taiwanese-American and for the first time, I visited China. I thought that it would be similar, but was I wrong.

    There were two girls who were so charming, college students, and yes, I was had. It was terrible.

    The reason why I am posting here is because I am so happy that you had visited Taiwan. It is the country where my family is from and I have always gone back every year. My friends always say that foreigners feel most hospital there out of other countries, but of course I never believed that. However, after listening to others, I now truly believe that Taiwanese are true to their heart and I believe that your experience in Taiwan has now truly affirmed my believe that people there are hospitable.

    While I was born in NY, I thank you for your insight into both China and Taiwan and so happy to see that Taiwan is truly different from China.

    Thank you for sharing….


  155. Ted
    December 4, 2013

    I don’t understand why nobody here asked to see the prices before buying something or at least agreeing on who treats for what. I would never buy something before agreeing on a price. That’s just foolishness. You essentially gave them a blank cheque the moment you took your first sip.

    I’m not sure I see the scam here. I just see a bunch of foolish people who consume things without asking the price.

    Where’s the common sense?

    • fabio
      September 19, 2014

      Ted, at least in my case, they showed me the price list, and they told me we were going to have just the first item. Then the bill arrived, multiplied by 8x. I didnt blame too much, cos i heard about cases where they put drug in the beers, makes u unconscious, and steal every thing. Worst thing is that this drug causes health problem even 6 months later. So i just paied, went to supermarket, bought water, drunk it, then put 2 fingers in the mouth.

  156. Ted
    December 4, 2013

    If you truly feel like its a scam, then you don’t pay.

    But you can see the sense of owing in most of the commenters here given the fact is that most people paid full price only to walk off in a huff, mad at the shopkeepers even though they only have themselves to blame for not being aware of what they were actually buying.

    A friend of mine had this happen to him as a newbie in Shanghai. His bill was 700 rmb or something. After he told me about it he looked at the bright side and said that in the half hour he actually genuinely enjoyed the conversations he had with the girls and learned some new things about China.

  157. iJohn
    December 5, 2013

    Hey Guys, I’m currently in Shanghai now. First Night here and WOW – plenty of scammers out there.

    Few things to consider – The Tea Scam is alive and well and has many forms such as;
    – Tea Ceremony
    – Food / Company / Time Sharing
    – Bar Girls and paying over the top prices for any drinks

    What has not been mentioned is the Brothel Scam or Massage Scam.

    Typically a man or a middle aged lady will approach you to refer you to get a massage. 100 RMB to 200 RMB for a happy ending etc.
    Most of the times it’s a simple brush off, but sometimes they are so good at their craft they tempt your curiosity. That’s why you follow – you think it’s just an innocent massage or having a look etc.

    After you follow and go up stairs (always up stairs or up an elevator) you head to a room and part take in a tea ceremony or have a few girls come out and talk to you etc. Ask you where you are from, what hotel you are staying at, your name etc. Sounds like innocent chit chat right? WRONG!! They are gathering info / intel on you. They may ask to see your driver’s license or local currency to see if you have your passport/wallet on you etc.
    Shortly after the massage will begin and they will try to sexualise it. Some fall for the trap, others get up and leave.

    The trouble is there’s 2-3 chinese guys outside waiting to intercept you…

    The girls finish what they are doing or you get up to leave, you’re intercepted and they are in the room, guarding the door. 2 are typically at the door and one, with perfect english is explaining the situation to you. You need to pay up to 30,000 RMB to get out of there or there will be trouble. They will explain that the massage sample was free, but you need to pay for the room, like a hotel room etc and stand over you to make sure you comply. Your only options are to either pay up, or fight and run like hell.

    I did the latter. As a martial artist and powerfilfter I could hold my own against the 3 guys. They told me they had 10 more guys down stairs waiting for me if I tried anything stupid. To get away, I got a feel for their strength one time and see how serious they were with keeping me there and standing over me. They were quite serious etc. Then they told me they got cameras rolling inside the room etc. I protested this was extortion and I wanted to see the footage etc. Told them I had no money then proeeded to get up and put my hands on my head like I was freaking out. What I was doing was actually protecting my head with my elbows and keeping them within striking distance should anything happen. I had a wrestle with the two guys guarding the door, pushed them out of the way and threatened they better not hurt me or else and promptly made a run down two flights of stairs. There were 2 guys waiting near the exit door but they were a bit slow to recognise what was happening as instead of running past them I walked at a fast pace then crossed the road just as a bus was coming out. I ran like hell away from my hotel and then double backed to get to where I needed to go.

    It could have been really messy or costly. Thankfully it was neither. Now I have the dielema of bumping into them again so I will be prepared with something to defend myself.

    Moral of the story – Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home and be skeptical of all people approaching you at ‘random’ for anything.

    I have met some wonderful people in China, but Shanghai, espeically around The Bund area, is filled with tourist traps that can leave you pennieless or perhaps worse.

    PS: Prices are not always clear. They will add charges, house charges etc. Free quickly becomes 1000s of RMB for other chages such as time/rental etc.

  158. Tripmark
    December 11, 2013

    Wow that sounds terrible. It is the same way when we travelled to Czech and India, scams everywhere, you need to be alert and automatically just assume people are talking to you for your money and always confirm how much everything costs up front. I am sure you know this by now. Good luck.

    • November 26, 2015

      Yeah — I’ve definitely learnt my lesson since!

  159. hank
    December 12, 2013

    I got chatted up by these guys several times but I had read about them before coming to Shanghai so I never fell for it. They follow a script, someone must have passed on to them cause they all have similar questions and chat, but maybe in a different order. Instead of scamming people, some of these guys could hold down a sales job and do quite well, they seem quiet friendly.

    Never saw any of them outside of people’s square / Nanjing road. The rest of Shanghai is quite normal.
    When I walked down Nanjing road with a friend they never approached me. But walking by myself, I could only walk half a block down that street before some other scammer(Tea, massage, rolex watches, etc.) approached me.

  160. Cloud
    December 29, 2013

    Such a shame :( but don’t let it put you off china there are scammers all over the world

    I have lived in china for 6 months now and have found the people lovely and helpful I have been to shanghai and Beijing but wasn’t approached by anyone offering me anything, I have a lot of tattoos and quite crazy hair so I get a lot of attention from young people that want there photos with me because I look a little different but I always check my wallet just incase! but they all seem to be innocent, even the old lady’s who want photos! ^__^

    I’m heading back to Beijing soon so I’ll keep this in mind, luckily I dont like tea! Hehe I hope this hasn’t put you off china to much.

  161. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs
    January 2, 2014

    As they say, lesson learned!

    • January 3, 2014

      Absolutely :-)

      • Daniel Perry
        January 11, 2014

        Hi Lauren,

        I can relate to everything that you were saying about the tea scam place in Shanghai. From the pictures you took, it seems to be the same place.

        I am still in Shanghai, and I want to do something about it! Try to get my money back or involve the police or my hotel or something.. Do you or anyone else have the name of this place?

        Payback time!! hehe..

        • November 26, 2015

          I’m afraid I don’t. Hope you manage to get it resolved.

  162. hanin
    January 5, 2014

    hi, thanks for sharing this post. I wish I read this earlier before traveling to China. I just came back with my husband from shanghai and we totally fell for this tea scam. We only found out about this scam when we returned back to his sister’s apartment in Shanghai and related the whole incident to her. Now I am trying to dispute the credit card fee with my bank. I really feel so stupid to have been so gullible, but my husband and I had a very stressful time with the touts and the constant haggling that we let our guard down, when we finally met 3 “friendly” Chinese people.

    Oh well, it is an expensive lesson and I am just hoping that the bank will accept my dispute claim for this bill. A lot of hassle but I am really really disappointed with our trip (2 weeks from Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, Yangshou and finally back to Shanghai again).

    For all those traveling to China, please please please be aware and always be on your guard! I know not all Chinese are as vicious as these scammers as I have Chinese friends as well but just be careful when faced with such situations. As they say, never take anything at face value…

    • November 26, 2015

      Yeah. I think being suspicious of any well-spoken locals who approach you for zero reason. immediately wanting to become your friend is a good rule to follow.

  163. Ivan Penaherrrera
    January 8, 2014

    Something similar happened to me in Dublin Ireland,so it’s not just what we consider”third world countries” Thank God you are ok. I do believe that because of our ignorance into their culture we sometimes assume that the cops are in on the scam. This certainly is not the case,but once you are caught in something like this,you do become very paranoid!! Remember traveling is about having new experiences,good or bad,you learn from them.

    • November 26, 2015

      That’s true — if you have many good experiences, you let down your guard. And then one bad experience has you putting it up for months afterwards.

  164. Huy
    January 12, 2014

    @hanin, I am curious, were you able to resolve the charge? I became a tea victim yesterday in shanghai. I unfortunate fly back in a couple hours.

    • November 26, 2015

      I doubt you’d be able to achieve anything within a few hours, Huy.

  165. Jala
    January 18, 2014

    I feel you. I got tea scammed too. Really sucked ass!

    • January 19, 2014

      Ugh, sorry to hear that, Jala!

  166. Joey
    January 25, 2014

    I had almost the exact same experience a couple years before yours(2009). When I first started reading your account, however, I was thinking I had you beat, because I had actually been warned about it, and felt like a numbskull for falling for it. When I read that you had been warned about it as well, it eased the pain of the memory a little bit. I found your blog as I was looking to gather info as I am returning to that same area tomorrow for the first time since. But like George Bush said, I won’t be fooled…., uh, how does that go again?

    • November 26, 2015

      Wow, it was still going on all the way back in 2009? Hope you managed to escape unscathed second time around :-)

  167. Becca
    January 27, 2014


    Is there any info on your blog about how you have been able to travel like this for the last two years? Do you work as you go? Did you just save a ton of money before hand? I love travelling and have traveled quite a bit, but it is expensive. If you could email me some info, that would be great!

    PS- I lived in China/Taiwan for 2 years and am fluent in mandarin, if you ever wanna go back, let me know. I’d LOVE someone to travel asia with.

    • November 14, 2015

      Hi Becca! This travel blog funds most of my travels these days. I work as a freelance writer as well, and I recently wrote a book. In short, it’s a whole host of things that mostly revolve around writing. If I can work online then I can work from anywhere. Check out my FAQ page for more information!

  168. February 18, 2014

    Lauren – don’t feel bad at all for how you handled it.

    Kudos to you for highlighting it as a warning to others to hopefully watch out for it.

    But the reality is that Shanghai (particularl Nanjing Rd / Bund is best avoided.

    As a big promoter of travel and cultural experiences this may seem strange to hear from me – but I’m dead-straight honest about this. Shanghai is best avoided – period!

    Until the Chinese government realizes that the tourist revenue is at risk – they won’t make the efforts required to stamp this out.

    Luckily – I was fine. But I’ve lost count on how many friends have been scammed/conned or blatantly mugged in Shanghai.

    Be aware that many police will NOT help you (contrary to comments above), some are in on it, some don’t speak English, and some simply don’t care.

    As many experienced hotel managers will advise you – it’s usually a waste of time going to the police, and the scams are getting worse every year.

    Most are gang-organized (so I don’t recommend fighting or punching as things could turn south on you quite quickly), and the current dominant gangs are all Filipino.

    Besides the tea scam, blatant mugging are becoming more common in the last two years.

    Typically, you wander into the wrong store or section of the market, next thing you know you’re surrounded by some guys that clearly let you know you should comply. They will relieve you of whatever cash you’re carrying. As far as credit cards go – no need to visit an ATM, they carry modern POS machines on them and demand you swipe your card on the spot, if you don’t PIN, then they won’t let you go until you sign.

    Quite often they will also make you sign blank credit card slips and may (or may not) keep your card.

    You can educate people to avoid the tea scam, but there’s nothing you can do to avoid getting mugged (other than not going there). In way too many cases – the police have not been helpful.

    As much as it pains me to say it – the simple advice for people is that some places should be on the “Do Not Travel” list.

    Shanghai (or at least Nanjing/Bund) is on that list.

    Lauren – don’t second guess yourself, your article is accurate, wise, and worthwhile to your many readers who now know to watch out for scams, and to enjoy travel whilst still remembering to keep their wits.

    You don’t do anyone (including yourself) any favours by putting an after-the-fact romantic revisionist spin on it. (Although I totally get that line of thinking).

    Travel IS about being outside your comfort zone, but being wary (but not paranoid) is important – and this in the area in which you learned a hard lesson.

  169. Andrew
    March 7, 2014

    Wow, I am reading this thread as this happened to me today TWICE! I had just spent a fantastic 4 hours in the Shanghai Museum being fascinated by Chinese history. When I left I decided to walk for awhile before catching a taxi back to my hotel. Whilst walking through a busy plaza, I was approached by 2 young good looking girls who asked me to take their photo, being a nice person, I obliged, then they started asking me where I’m from etc and we chatted for 10 minutes then they asked me if I wanted to go to a traditional tea ceremony, I was tempted but I had funny feeling that something was not right. They looked like in their early 20s and I’m mid forties and they were just overly friendly. I politely declined and walked away even though they pleaded. About 10 minutes later walking through a busy plaza again, exactly the same thing happened, this time 3 girls and 2 guys, all speaking English fairly well, they said they are Beijing students travelling through Shanghai for Uni excursion, I took their photos and then started walking away, they were very persistent I join them to go to a tea ceremony and maybe catch a theatre show as they had a spare ticket blah blah blah…. I quickly walked away and when I came back to my hotel room, I started googling this as I wanted to know if my instinct was on the money. WOW can’t believe how many people fall for this. I guess my older age and enhanced scam instinct got me out of this.

    • November 26, 2015

      Glad you managed to escape the scam! It does seem like the scammers are all over the place in Shanghai!

  170. Marisabel
    March 27, 2014

    OMG! I was just scamed like that right now!! I am in Shanghai, a couple of hours ago i went to people square and there was a group of 7 people (students from beijing they said)… they asked me to take a picture for them and then all started exactly the same way that happened to you. When they brought the bill and told me it was 900 Yuan (i managed to bargain to 647 Yuan haha) i knew it was a scam, and i got extremely afraid, i suddenly realised i was by myself in a dark room with 4 guys and 2 girls and they could do anything to me, i started shaking and gave them the money. They also took me out by another door… I went straight to the hotel and i told the concierge what has happened and started crying out of raged and fear. They went with me back to the place, it was a gallery called champs elisees, we called the police! The worst part is that THE POLICE IS ALL IN FOR THE SCAM!!!!!!!!!!!! one police officer went with me into the gallery, he did not let the concierge go with us inside, he may them wait outside the gallery, wich i already thought it was weird. The police officer was trying the whole time to confuse me so that i could not find the right store, i manage to find it. We found the waiter, i even have a picture of the waiter. The police asked the owner of the store to come with us to the police station. We left the gallery by another door, and i asked the police men if i could go look for the concierge because they were waiting for me by the other door but he said he had told them to go away because there was no need for them to be there. I did not like this.
    They me and the owner of the tea shop in a very dirty and full of cigarette’s smoke closed room, she looked at me like if she was going to kill me… i got very nervous… The police officer that took me in and spoke english was no longer there anymore, instead they were 2 police officer that did not speak english… I told the police my husband was in his way, they asked me if he is Chinese i said no… but anyways i think they got nervous and told the woman to give me back some of the money. At the end the owner gave me 400 yuan back. I just wanted to be over so i accept it. They let her go like if nothing had happened, they (the police officers) were even laughing about it. When i got out the concierge was out of the police station, i asked them where they were, they said that out of the door of the gallery waiting for me… I am sure the police is working together with the scam group and that is why they tried to separate me from the people of the hotel i told that to the concierge and he agreed. At the end i only loose 40 usd but had a very very bad time. Wich makes me sad because i was having the best time in Shanghai and i was feeling to secure. I have no excuse for my behaviour, i am southamerican and i have known from always that you can never trust people on the street, i have traveled a lot but steel i was stupid enough to let my guard down with these guys and i trusted them, they just were SO LOVELY hahaha lesson learn!! .

  171. Diana
    April 4, 2014

    At least after reading your blog I don’t feel quite so stupid because I’m not the only one who fell for it. Exact same story. I knew something was up but couldn’t quite think straight because they just kept talking and talking, intentionally leaving no space to think.

    I’ve traveled quite a bit and, I have to say, I hate Shanghai.

    • November 26, 2015

      Absolutely — so many people have fallen for this scam!

  172. Nick
    April 6, 2014

    Thanks Lauren & Every One for sharing really Valuable Information.

    Hats Off Lauren for the Punch :) Keeping you as Inspiration here is my Revenge on the next day….

    I too got trapped in and paid 1000 RMB (I feel stupid on my doings). The same story… College students ..take one picture..conversation… Tea ceremony.. The same FROG… 

    There is little change at tail of the program. There were two girls in the 6 member group. Once I receive the bill they said “We 5 Gents will bear for the two Girls share on the total bill – Saying it is unfair to make girls pay in the boys gang..”.

    Next the Girls said “We will purchase you some gifts to make you & your family happy and offered me some tea cups and tea leaf pack”
    I didn’t have sleep over night, realizing the complete story is fraudulent activity and I have been cheated.

    My Revenge:

    I decided next day morning whatever I have to do today all would be in English as I don’t know Chinese and do as single.

    Target 1 – To understand minimum level strategy they use to scam how these people making fool foreigners and there network.

    Target 2 – If I figure out any of their groups fooling the foreigner on the day, do save the victim on the spot.

    I went to the area where I trapped Small Park near People Square subway. I find the same troop using same strategy to trap foreigner in their loop.

    I observed around two hours sitting behind them ..There are around dozen members in the group talking each other often and they cover whole park divide and lookout for foreigner. I videoed some of their movements….

    Finally they made a foreigner fall in there trap and started to step toward on their way for executing their plan.. I ran and entered into the story. One of their people stopped me on the way not to reach near to the foreigner. I shouted on the spot calling the foreigner. The group dispersed, stood watching from distance leaving only two of them with me and foreigner. I informed foreigner do not fall in their trap as you are stranger. I lost money on their scam keep going on your way don’t mind them. He Thanked me and left off.
    These two persons were shouting on me on my activity. I was so aggressive and screamed on the public shouting them If you are not going to give me 1000 RMB back which you cheated me yesterday I will provide all your video to POLICE and report to Media which I recorded for past two hours and further I will be here not allow you to do your business next.
    They called to their employer and told the situation happening over the park in 5 min time. People over the park were watching us. Finally they negotiated the refund about 400RMB detecting their nonsense tea charges and crap gifts and paid me.
    I left the place next…..
    I hope I will have my sleep today but I feel bad that their business (Cheating a forigner) still goes on…

    • November 26, 2015

      Amazing! Good job.

  173. Dave
    April 12, 2014

    Amazed about these comments. First..let me say..good on you for punching that nasty scam it!.

    I have been living in Shanghai from 95 to 98 and later 2001 to 2004. I also spend around 3 months each year on business until now , which is 2014/3.

    Just to explain, I speak Chinese…yet are a typical white guy..from Australia. In all this time I have never been scammed..except on buying a bag of oranges when first arrived in 1995…I paid 10 times the local price..i.e 25 usd versus 2.5 use at that time because of a pushy rude lady…trying to make me feel bad by screaming at me because I would not pay..i paid in shock to escape..left and laughed when got back to my dorm room ..found half were rotten!..Last time I ever “lost face” and paid up.

    So as an old white, Shanghai “hand” let me give you advice.

    (1) Chinese scam artists are well not educated and certainly in Shanghai..are never Shanghainese..100% not students..most students have too much pride and honour to do such things..what these people are is “waidis” (non shanghainese natives) whom are typically from the northern or western areas of China. They are in Shanghai to make money at the cost of any poor sod ..chinese or non chinese they can take on..they typically are uneducated, from families that are low class (not in money sense ..but bad way were mums and dads that were also crooks)

    (2) Fight them off by been very loud and not accepting. These scammers work on “moral” intimidation ..they put you in a tea shop..make you feel very uncomfortable and obliged to pay..they expect no resistance them at their own game..refuse no even 1 cent..showing any acceptance to pay gives them strength..refusing is “shock and awe” to them.

    (3) If you get hooked by a scam..stand up and bunch of crooks..get f”kd or etc etc..walk and push not worry about been stabbed or hit..its highly unlikely they dare do yell that you agreed to buy nothing and tea tasting is free anywhere..hell you tasted similar in many is actually true..tea tasting in china is typically free..unless its a big tea house..with 50 or more people drinking and eating..don’t get in a big long argument ..push , shove and walk out..after losing your temper at them..make sure you obviously have your coat at hand and bag/s secured with you at all times

    4) Police have issues on these scams (include market pressure mugging)..the police (lower level beat cops) do get kick backs..but generally they want an easy beat and the rule with the cops is no abused/ hit or attacked foreigners..the last thing the cops want is press saying someone whom was a foreigner was stabbed or even punched..if that happens it gets elevated internally among the cops as that then becomes an unwanted , annoying scam that breaks safety. This means the cops will not accept the it will be elevated..cops want an easy beat..not real trouble..filling out heaps of paperwork, dealing with superiors and pissed off foreigners !! So you win!!

    5) So you stand your ground, yell blue murder (i.e like you lost your temper), stand up, push through, walk or
    run away. They will be shocked..may follow counter with abuse..loud and rude …and get somewhere “public” ..away from them..ignore..jump in cab or go to most public area..keep avoiding them..

    6) If you are in a bar..same applies..but its abit more dicey. In a small, closed off bar a rougher element can exist and they can claim you poured whisky down 10 patrons throats etc etc.. So you are screwed..unless you want to which case you may still escape..what to do? First..NEVER agree to enter any empty bar with so called student friends..Second..Stick to busy mainstream bars which are open, have lots of foreigners etc..Third..tell the waiter/barman you rate only paying for your own drinks!..before you order!! ok!!

    7) Shanghainese people do not do this nasty stuff..its all “waidis”..non Shanghai people. So ask the guides where they are from…say you like people whom are non shanghainese (just lie to them!!) .if they confirm by saying Beijing or somewhere not in Shanghai then YOU HAVE NOTHING to do nothing with them..ignore and say thanks,,gotta catch plane and walk awayfact is that 99% of Shanghainese have no interest in scams..its sm,all money for Shanghainese and their pride and morals actually mean they do not like scams..

    8) I once got scammed in Hangzhou..I on a ..decided to try and hit a hostess bar solo..late at night..just to see how it was solo..yes I speak fluent Chinese..but got scammed.I had 3 beers..several girls came in and one hour. I left..they told me it was 15000 RMB..I told to get stuffed in Chinese..several tough guys turned up..still stood my ground..its all about nerves.. I agreed in end to pay 800 RMB..a scam still, but somewhat fair, as did womanise with several skimpy dressed tarts!

    I hope this is useful!

    • Tim
      November 19, 2015

      Hi Dave,

      You claim that the Shanghai scammers are not educated people but I’d think their command of English would beg to differ. Undereducated people in China can’t speak a word of English beyond “hello” and “goodbye,” both spoken with a thick accent. I teach oral English in China and the scammers I’ve come across speak English just as well if not better than my students. I think it’s more likely they’re victims of economic woes – Ambitious young graduates who moved to the big cities for work but found no opportunities. It’s sad to think about.

      • November 26, 2015

        My scammers definitely had perfect English. I agree it’s sad to think about.

    • November 26, 2015

      It’s so useful! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

  174. Dave
    April 12, 2014

    1) My point re the Hangzhou case which was not a well planned scam..was that you stand your ground..agree to pay a basic amount..argue and hold your ground.. its all about playing them at their pay a minimum you accept and walk..unless someone pulls a knife..which is very unlikely! In such case pay..go straight to cops..tell them they mugged you at knifepoint..stand your not change your story..

    2) Always carry 200RMB cash in one purse or wallet to show them and your cards hidden in another place..tell them you need to go to hotel safe for more money..if they threaten you with police etc..say fine..bring on the police..once again..remember..scams only work for police if trouble free!! So lady luck is on your side!!

    • November 26, 2015

      Thanks so much for the advice, Dave.

  175. Dave
    April 12, 2014

    Another note look fantastic..if ever do see you..more than happy to shout you a few drinks to hear your story!! Love to see a beautiful lady fighting back against these scammers!!

    • November 26, 2015

      Haha, thanks!

  176. Ulric
    April 24, 2014

    Hello, I’m happy that you punched her. I never been scammed by the Tea Ceremony, but 2 times as English teacher by agencies (recruters) . I lose a lots of money. Anyway, more we have knowledge about that, more we can do better.

    • November 26, 2015

      Oh, that sucks. Sorry to hear about your loss of money.

  177. Henry
    May 3, 2014

    Ran in the same situation in Shanghai near the Yuyuan gardens. 3 young people of whom 2 ladies, 1 tall guy (probably to avoid getting punches – haha).

    I’m not sure she was trying to get to your wallet. In my case one lady put some Chinese charm on my backpack when splitting up. I think it’s a token allowing other scammer teams to recognise victims. Reason is that in People Square a similar team approached me. But suddenly 2 of them went on, one at first still chatting could not see the charm from that angle, then later wandered off as well.

    To the military guy and other disbelievers that “would never fall into such trap”. I was thinking the same of myself. I’ve been to Thailand and Vietnam before. Always stayed alert. It’s usually shady people approaching you there. About China I even read about the art student scam in Beijing, in a way I was warned. But apparently not enough.

    Now it were 3 young, clean and witty kids. Also tourists,just like me, what a coincidence mister! I think they’re mostly approaching singles for better success rate. It’s an oiled team, skilled people doing this for a living day in day out. All these years they have polished their topics, feel what works on foreign ladies and guys.
    To me, as guy, there’s the “why still single handsome”, “marry Chinese lady”, sticking their legs uncomfortably close, … (should have set all light to “red alert” – sigh)

    They never ask for a special favour; on the contrary they offer to join (it’s the same direction mister). One by one they spend some time with you, firing questions on all kind of chitchat topics. Making excuses for too many things; their bad English, not being handsome, until the point it gets awkward. I guess the philosophy is to make you think you’re so great? Slowly your guard goes down; your brain does not get time to process “something is going on”. They don’t allow any silence gaps.
    The tea ceremony is introduced late in the discussion. And you’re “invited” to join because you’re so kind, not “asked” to come. It was my first day so I think my brain was tired after the long flight, and I was in a mode to open for experience etc …

    Actually I loved the psychology work out flawless on me. I was amazed (and pissed of course) after realising I got ripped off. Actually the rule is so simple but sad at the same time, if unknown people behave friendly out of the blue, don’t trust them, don’t get into conversation. Don’t allow confidence to build up …

    Hope many people will read this blog _before_ going to China!

  178. Jack
    May 5, 2014

    Lauren, I just stumbled across your blog while I was researching an upcoming trip to Shanghai. Thank you for relaying your story, and to those that have commented. I feel much better armed to be able to spot a scam while in China. And good on you for defending yourself! I’m so not looking forward to this trip, but work calls.

    • November 26, 2015

      You should be fine, Jack! Just be wary of anyone who approaches you on the street :-)

  179. Dais
    May 8, 2014

    I enjoyed reading this thank you =)

    Glad you learned from your experiences and errors.

    • November 22, 2015

      Glad you enjoyed! :-)

  180. Karen
    May 11, 2014

    While hitting people wouldn’t be my preferred option, it’s fair to say she wouldn’t have got hit if she hadn’t scammed you. Cause and effect!

    After 10 days in Shanghai/Beijing/Xi’an, I’m not sure how quickly I want to go back either. We were approached by a lot of people to have our photo taken. But if anyone engaged us afterwards in conversation in English, the talk ALWAYS turned to a ‘tea house/art exhibition/other tourist site we were just going to see’ scam. In fact, we think we met the second girl in your photo near the Yu Bazaar in Shanghai (with her male ‘cousin’). She said she was a student from Beijing visiting a friend.

    There were lots of lovely things about China. But the constant scams, being stared and pointed at as a foreigner, hard sells and being short changed in shops, all made it a really tiring place to visit. I’m glad I wasn’t travelling on my own.

    Going between Xi’an North station and Xi’an main station by taxi, we spent the entire 20 minute journey with our taxi driver using a phone translation app trying to get us to tell him where else we were going so he could get a friend to take us ‘for good rates’. When we gave up answering, he gave us his phone – it was an English-speaking friend who them questioned us thoroughly again.

    But I too loved the Great Wall. And for that, I might go back again…

  181. DAVIDZ
    May 15, 2014

    At first….LOL….NOT another punter scammed!!

    I was informed by a Chinese national that in general Chinese people do NOT be friends with you easily, if they try to talk to you they want something, they are shy people and reserved and only befriend you if they can scam you, would take a long time to be friends to this level.

    This happened to me and a friend of mine, he was horny and as soon as the girls did exactly as they did to you he though he was going to bang one [ i told him its too easy, and not normal to be friended like that but he ignored me]

    Anyway the situtaion was pretty much EXACTLY as per yours, laneways, side streets etc, but i knew we where being had but he ignored me and still would not believe me.

    I think we paid about US$60 a person [RMB 350 each] for *special* tea

    As i knew it was a scam [before even reading about it] i had my camera [and unlike you they would not let me take photos inside] but i did take photos of the building and street name, because i had a fight back plan.

    When he *finally* woke to that we had been had, [i showed him the internet stories/posts at the hotel] he agreed to the next day to go to the police and make a report

    This is where the real fun began!!

    We tried to go to the local police station but had troble with translation and they said we would need to make a report near where this “crime” happened

    So off to the 2nd police station, a major HQ one where we were finally taken to a room with the police chief and a translator, they took notes, looked at the photos, took our passports and questioned us for 1/2 hour took more notes and sent us away, that was that i though.

    Like you, it ruined our holiday, but being able to spank my mate was priceless though :-)

    Later in the afternoon we got a phone call to please go back to the police station, my mate thought we would be arrested or locked up under some strange law and he did not want to go back, i told him they can easily track us any time and we need to go back as they requested that we do.

    When we arrived it was like we never made a report and had to do it all again, then we where told to come with the police [thinking oh no, into the police cell now we are screwed ] but no into the police car [nice VW with leather seats] driving up a one way street THE WRONG WAY [OMG!] lights flashing and all and finally informed we are heading to the tea ceremony building!

    On arrival the Police Chief asked if it was the building, yes of course as the photos i took proved that, we saw the tea server [but not the girls who took us there] and the Police Chief went MENTAL at her screaming and ranting, she was cuffed and arrested and brought back to the pollice station with us.

    After waiting a while we where called in and the Police Chief refunded us every penny and asked us to sign a letter that [like a statement] that we where pleased with his performance and the outcome,,YES!

    Not sure what happened to the girl, she was party to this but the real criminals where the 2 that scammed us on The Bund

    When i think back, and i have this story over my mate for ever, if they charged like $20 you would not bat a eyelid and think it was a little expensive but still a interesting tea, where they fail is asking big money.

    Thanks for the flashback


    • jake
      July 14, 2015

      700RMB says the police are in on it too.
      most likely they got the money back from the server to return to you guys, put on a show with the yelling and arrest, then let her go about her business as usual afterwards.

      the police got a highly coveted good review from foreign tourists out of it, and the tea store gets to continue their scam on tourists more gullible and less capable than yourself. if they get reported and the police feel like collecting another good review, they’ll return the money again. rinse, wash, repeat.

      kudos for getting your money back, plus you got a great story out of it!

  182. nora
    May 16, 2014

    Sorry about your experience in China. I am ashamed to call myself Chinese even thou I am from Hong Kong.

    I never had the desire to visit China what so ever. ( my mom told me , dont dis it until you try it) ….So, I went to China for the 1st time in Oct 2013. I try to have an open mind but China still needs to have a lot of improvements in every way. Breakfast buffet feels like Armageddon. The locals cuts in line, eats right on the buffet line. Lots of food were wasted on the table and the mess they leave behind…..( no words) ….

    Scams are every where even today. Mainland Chinese people like to make a quick buck when ever and where ever they could. Hence, tea scam and the aerobat show. You are lucky, they didn’t knock you unconscious and take your organs…..

    Let’s just say, I will go and visit China after 10 years ( only if they have better citizen education)

  183. Alex
    May 18, 2014

    I read this when it was too late…….I was scammed this afternoon and something did not feel right. First the amount of money and second the whole situation…..I paid with a credit card and I am disputing the charge, hopefully they will drop it. it just happen earlier today so I do not know the outcome…..I am at the hotel now reading this and I feel like a fool……..

    • November 26, 2015

      Fingers crossed!

  184. June 2, 2014

    This exact thing happened to me and my friend a few years ago in Beijing! Two girls, all very nice and friendly, didn’t want to be rude so went along for a quick cuppa….nightmare. Can’t believe they tried to rob you as well, she’ll think twice next time now I’m sure! I felt exactly the same way, it’s a horrible realisation. On the bright side, it’s not something that’s likely to happen twice to anyone. Thanks for sharing Lauren.

    • November 26, 2015

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Neil. Sorry to hear you feel victim to this scam as well!

  185. Daniela
    June 9, 2014

    I have a friend, who, on his first day in China, he wasn’t used to the money yet. He bought something and was given change and he later realized it was a bill from another country who was worth a lot less.

    • November 22, 2015

      Ah, that sucks!

  186. plsdntask
    June 23, 2014

    this happened to me too. But I did not give any money. :) After 10 minutes wrestling, I escaped from there. They were about 7 – 3 males and and 4 females in the shop. The space was also very less, which made more violent fight riskier. I lost one valuable item – an umbrella given by my mother(Though it cost only 36 RMB). M an Indian and I first thought only indian males were the easiest targets for these girls. You should post this as DOs and DONTs in shanghai. Otherwise people will miss this.

    • November 26, 2015


  187. Mickey
    June 27, 2014

    Tea scam happened with me as well. But the nice way to teach a lesson to these guys is to call the police and they are really affraid of police (I had paid 500 Yuan and after 3 days when I went to the same shop he agreed to return all the money but because of my stupidity I got only 200 Yuan and this happend before I had called police).

    • November 26, 2015

      Yes, it does seem from these comments that calling the police is the best way to get your money back.

  188. Jim
    July 1, 2014

    Just got scammed here in Shanghai today. I live in a different Chinese city (Zhengzhou) and the people there are very honest and generous. That’s why I was so easily taken in. In most parts of China it’s OK to trust strangers. They are honorable and gracious. But I will avoid Shanghai like the plague from now on.

    • November 26, 2015

      I agree. Shanghai definitely seems like a place where you should err on the side of caution and stay away from overly friendly locals.

  189. Sue
    July 9, 2014

    I just got scammed by exactly the same girls in Shanghai yesterday…. 700.00 RMB. Age is no indicator, I am 48!! They used the same photo taking stint as with everyone else. They caught me by the Bund. Only wish I’d read your wonderful blog before. Well worth circulating this page link to any friend that is likely to visit Shanghai or China in general. …. And yes, the even had the cheek to email me…

    • November 26, 2015

      Oh, really?! What did they say?

  190. Craig
    July 22, 2014

    Brilliant blog post! This happened to me too! I wish I read your blog earlier.

    You are very brave.

    • November 26, 2015

      Thanks, Craig! I didn’t feel it at the time. Just angry :-)

  191. Cee-Jay
    August 2, 2014

    Thanks for bravely posting this story – I’m so glad that I managed to read it before visiting Shanghai last week!

    I was approached by 2 teenaged girls at an intersection near Yu Yuan market, asking if I could take their picture together with specific buildings in the background. After they asked me to shift positions and take a second one, I became suspicious, handed back their camera, and rushed away from them. I swear my purse was opened more than it had been before, but that could have been sheer paranoia. I went back to the intersection later and found the girls still at work! They continued to pass their camera to various strangers and approached people from all 4 corners of the same intersection. I was taking their photo from a safe distance (so they’d know I was watching them), and watching to see if they would potentially start leading someone away or try to pickpocket them. (I was preparing to step in and intervene if needed – was wishing I could speak Chinese and get the police involved!) Eventually, I got tired of watching and moved on.

    I travel frequently to various parts of the world, but have never come across something as common and unusual as this scam – really good to keep in mind! Thanks again for sharing!

  192. Girl
    August 9, 2014

    Those two britches tried to scam us. i realised what was going on half way through their tea ceremony. They got nothing out of us.

    I would never go back to china after the experience. I wouldn’t recommend Shanghai as a travel destination. I experienced too many rude and pushy people. Clearly the authorities are corrupt. Im sure there are plenty of nice Chinese people, however the uncontrolled situation in the cities makes it a negative experience for tourists.

  193. Ryan Hunter
    August 15, 2014

    I was propositioned with this scenario over by old Shanghai city near the city god temple. Fortunately it smelled fishy when they wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I walked off. It was the same story, but it was 2 girls and a guy who were on “holiday” from their college in Tsing Tao Best thing you can do is know the emergency numbers in the area speed dialed on your phone (Police English Hotine 6357-7913). Use google maps to drop a pin if they end up taking you somewhere. If you don’t have a local phone or one that roams? Don’t be a cheapskate! Get one! Your security and ability to not get lost are worth it. Don’t be a afraid to push people away there if they are physically too close, they are used to it!

  194. GP
    September 16, 2014

    Disgusting stuff. Just happened to me and a friend last nite on Nanjing lu. Approached by two young girls with very good English. After a bit of chit chat they suggested maybe going for a coffee or something. It seemed innocent enough and I had no idea what was to come. An hour later im staring at a bill for over 3000 RMB. I was shocked, we had seen a menu on entering and I ordered the cheapest beer, around 40 RMB as did my friend. The girls though had us brought whiskeys and cokes, as well as a fruit platter and some tea with flowers in it. We were tired and naive and assumed it would be no where near that kind of cost. Unfortunately my friend decided to pay the bill and put it on his visa card as he was worried about the police if we didn’t pay. Now i owe this friend 1500 RMB for basically a whiskey and a beer (I didnt drink the tea or eat any fruit). Now that I see this is a common scam I am really annoyed with myself for letting it happen, we should not have paid or at least should have caused a commotion but we didn’t. We were both depressed and the girls knew it, apologizing for the expensive nite, and left as they knew we had been bled dry. Now I’m wondering if I should contact the police despite this having happened last nite and the fact that we have already paid. Any suggestions?

    • fabio
      September 16, 2014

      To me also… close to nanjing lu, yesterday

  195. fabio
    September 16, 2014

    It happened to me also, yesterday. Shanghai, close to nanjing lu… the worst thing is that when i went there later again, they were there again stopping other people… and if they dont even try to change place, that means police don’t even try to stop them …
    Previously i was in guangzhou, i talked to a random guy just to practice my English, and thr result was he took me to dinner and he PAIED everything. Also, another time in guangzhou, some drunk guys invited me to drink beer at KTV, and also that time i didn’t pay anything…
    That’s why i was so naiv with this scam …

  196. will
    September 17, 2014

    also watch out for the businessmen scam. they are dressed as office workers and hang around the financial district in shanghai(lujiazui). they will say they have no money for a taxi and will ask for it. sometimes it’s a train. they look so legitimate as white collar workers but they are scammers. i never about it so i just call them cheaters and walk away. I’ve been approached several times over a period of a couple years so it must be still profitable.
    seriously, there is no way these guys have no money and if anything they can sell you their fake prada business case for taxi money if they are so desperate. scammers.

  197. Stephanie
    October 1, 2014

    Wow, I can’t believe you punched her! I just got back from China recently and fell victim to the same scam only when I lied and said I didn’t have any money, they locked me in the room. Thankfully I had hidden my money in a small pocket so when I showed them I had nothing in my wallet they had to let me go. Mind you, this was after banging on the door and screaming for them to let me out. Not one of my finer moments…

  198. October 2, 2014

    These crooks deserved that punch…to wake them up. I am a chinese from Malaysia..I am treated as outsiders of course when travelling to China.,,. so not spared of being cheated… I believe following a tour group for the first visit will help alot in getting to places. And then having made some genuine friends, i shall then travell alone or with a partner..

  199. Thorsten
    October 3, 2014

    Wow this nearly happend to me this april. After traveling to malaysia, hongkong, macau and Bali the last years i became more carefull. But this year I spend a week in south korea and 3 weeks in japan and got used to all the friendly,polite and helpfull people there. They are amazing. But unfortunately I kept this attitude of all the nice people while having 15 hours of time to spend in shanghai as stopover. I was lucky that i read about the tea scam and thought I am not that stupid.

    But near the bund I was asked by some chineses collage girl ( vacation in shanghai) the same age if I could take photo and of course I did. Then she asked if I´d like to get one of me, but I thankfully refused. However we chatted like 15 min about common stuff and she was quite nice Person. Suddenly she wanted to show me a nice place nearby, which she got recommended by local friends. I was think of a place to get some good local dishes. We walked a bit to some strange back alley and she unexpectedly talked about that in this building is some kind of traditonaly tea ceremony. That was the point i knew it was a scam and walked away.

    Later on that day I was taking some footage of the Skyline during sunset , when I saw her and some other girls doing the same thing with the photos at the bund to trick people, mostly solo travelers.

    Hope something similar doesnt happen to you again. Stunning that you punched one of the girls, i can understand that, but as a guy it would be wired for me. Also its unbelievable how good their english is, I just couldnt that she was acctually a scammer.

  200. Josh
    October 28, 2014

    Came across this tonight and good on you!

    A similar thing happened to me in Beijing in a hutong next to Tiananmen Square yesterday and today. After checking out sites all day yesterday I just needed to sit down and relax for a while. What better place than a run-of-the-mill nothing special tea shop to soak up some culture eh? Waitress chatted all friendly and asked how long I had been in Beijing (was 2nd day)? First time here (yes)? etc… Basically sizing me up…

    Then came the bill for 800 RMB! I tried to make sense of it and couldn’t believe (first time in over 40 countries, consider myself a seasoned traveler) what was happening and ended up arguing. Then she
    showed a “menu” with inflated prices saying it was special tea colour etc… I kept arguing but still ended up paying 400 RMB. I felt so angry and like an idiot.

    Pissed off I read up on tea scams that evening and saw that they are quite elaborate and common-place, but it hardly made me feel better.

    Today I grabbed a Starbucks (30 RMB) and was accosted by two ladies talking up the preliminaries for an obvious scam to follow and sure enough they asked if I wanted to try some tea later. I told them: “Nope! Some place charged me nearly 400 RMB yesterday and as far as I’m concerned they can all fuck-off and die.” Their response was: “You should have checked the menu first” but they got the message and left.

    Having been freshly reminded of the previous day, I was a bit in a fighting mood when walking along the hutong back to hotel. I wished that I would recognize the place from yesterday and how great it would be if cops were around.

    Then, as fate would have it, I pass a parked police van and sure enough 20 feet further was that tea house. So I went in and it was the same people working there from the day before and I said: “Hi remember me? I want my money back.” They showed me the “menu” again I told them it was bullshit and threw it on the floor. Then they tried and tried to invent stories but I promised them that either they paid me back or that place was going to get some damage and that in either case the cops weren’t far.

    Finally they called their “boss”. We discussed to the point of me raising my voice, a few chosen words, my middle finger, and fist, and I ended up getting back 300 RMB.

    Then they wanted me to sign that a statement saying i had gotten a refund. I wrote “Scamster refunded part of my purchase”. Then they wanted me to initial it and so I put “F.O.”.

    Damn it felt good! Although I still paid 100 RMB for normal tea, which thinking about it now I should have demanded a full refund but anyways… I don’t think I’d have gotten physical, but I certainly let them know that if they chose to escalate it that way, I had no qualms. A gamble that paid off, well at least a partial refund lol

    As far as I’m concerned these people are some of the most sophisticated tourist scammers in the world and have absolutely no morals and are the scum of the earth and should be treated as such…

  201. Guy
    November 22, 2014

    I got scammed too by these friendly assholes called ‘Sophia and Peter from Beijing’, at the peoples park. I never had heard of these tea tastings. Luckily i asked the price before ordering anything. Understood this was a scam.
    I had some tea, listened to their silly bullshit, its amazing how well they speak, it’s a good lesson! Then i paid 80 rmb and kindly left.

  202. Chris
    November 29, 2014

    First visit to China and I was very careful not to be scammed. My friend was however scammed and I privately thought he was a bit of a fool. One year later I am back in China for uni, the people at uni had taken us for free meals and have been genuinely friendly. Through a combination of factors my gaurd was down, besides what’s the harm in what sounded like they were going to watch some street festival. Well it turns out it was some tea place (I can’t believe I didn’t realize at this point), I had previously been given similar presentations for free inside more legitimate establishments so I figured they just wanted to sell me stuff. Nope Sophia and Peter just scammed me.

  203. drewseff
    January 10, 2015

    Hi Lauren! My names Drew. I am from Connecticut in the US. Looks like you haven’t had a reply in a while, but I loved reading this post!

    I wish I had punched the foreigner that was working together with the Tea scammers in Beijing. Yes, a foreigner. Who said he was from Russia. He really deserved a punch!

    I have another interesting Tea scam story and I met others who got scammed too. I am trying to let as many people know about this scam as possible. So nobody else gets scammed.
    I honestly cant believe how long this scam has been going on. And now they just keep getting more sophisticated!

    I posted here on
    Heres the link.

  204. Melanie
    January 26, 2015

    I’m going to Shanghai tomorrow (for the second time alone) But these kinds of scams tend not to happen to me since I walk fast, and maybe don’t look friendly. But it’s good to be aware that these things happen.

    • March 21, 2015

      That’s a good plan. Not making eye contact or conversing with anyone who approaches you for no reason can deter scammers.

  205. Alex Filicevas
    February 9, 2015

    oh my, I felt anger just reading this! Almost happened to me in Beijing, but I realised what was going on thank god! I’m so glad you punched her, hope she learnt the lesson little c**t! Happy that you got away without having to deal with the police following that accident. I do agree with your point, that once you experience that once, that is it, you close off yourself from the locals and trusting them again is almost impossible, despite the fact that there are so many lovely local Chinese that wish you no harm. I live in Beijing now and still am suspicious of every single one of them! haha

  206. Hahaha! That is awesome that you punched her, she deserved it (although you are lucky you didn’t get arrested!). My friend was scammed this way in China too and thankfully he told me all about it. When I was in Beijing someone approached me and tried to get me to go for tea and I knew what was up. But she would NOT leave me alone! Even when I told her I had to leave right away to go to the airport (lie) she wanted to follow me to my hostel and grab a drink before I left. I literally had to run away.

    • March 20, 2015

      Crazy, isn’t it? I can’t believe the scam has been going on for so long and they’re still trying it.

  207. Max
    March 31, 2015

    Hi Lauren,

    Had a similar experience in Beijing when I was travelling alone through China. I got lost close to the forbidden city, two girls came up speaking english to me. Mind you, I had been in China 4 weeks by then and I was already well aware of scam and con artists. I, however, needed help. I was distrustful, but asked if they could get me to some place, so they did. On the way we had a long chat, I even talked about scam artists in China to them (!) and told them I don’t usually accept help from strangers. Stupidly enough, I let my guard down.

    They asked if I cared for a drink. I figured they helped me, alright I’ll go for a drink with you for about 10 mins then go on my way. Ka-zing, I was like a fish on the line when I entered the door. I only ordered a coke, smelling the scam, it was 30 RMB where it should be 5. I figured, alright I’ll just pay for this. They went on ordering copious amounts of tea. The bill came, it was 600 RMB.

    I got angry with them as I didn’t order any tea and didn’t drink any either. They wanted me to pay, I didn’t. They got angry with me, we started having a row and then the teahouse boss came. I must tell you their act was pretty damn good as I couldn’t figure out if these girls were in league with the teahouse or not – one of them ended up crying when I conceded to a 3 way split each of us paying 200.

    I got out, knew I was scammed and was angry as hell. I got on my way, turned around 30 mins later and was determined to get my money back. Arguing with the shopowner didn’t give me much though.

    I went back to my hostel, looked up the scam online and got furious. I went back to the place I got lost, tracked my way back to that damn teahouse, stormed in ready to wreck the place. Now, I’m a big guy and not a pushover (play rugby), so I suppose my angry face got them a little scared. I took out my phone, made her read aloud an article on teahouse scams in Beijing.

    She promptly gave me back my 200 RMB and I was on my way. The whole ordeal took me the entire day to get through though.

    Travelling China alone wasn’t easy. In the 5 weeks I spent there, there were 3 occasions that really sucked. (1) This one. (2) I got driven to a garbage dump by a taxi driver where 3 guys waited for me. But that’s another story… I told them to fuck off basically and I found my way back to the train station on my own. (3) I got lost in Xian once when I hadn’t slept for over 40 hours (long story) with no cash on hand and hungry as hell, no ATM accepting my card. Walked for 5 hours before I found my hostel.

    Tip for travelling to China solo: Don’t trust people. Even if you know not to trust people, don’t think you can outsmart them. Even if you prepare, sometimes you could get scammed (Great Wall trips ahoy) – the best you can do then is to show no emotion and haggle to the best possible price. Whatever you do, don’t EVER accept help from someone who initiated contact with you. Ignore them, DO NOT follow their advice.

    That said, these stories may skew your view but I had plenty wonderful experiences and doing the 5 weeks was worth all of it. I have way more good stories to make up for the bad ones. Anyhoo, safe travels.


  208. April 27, 2015

    I just read this and it made me really happy. I mean, it sucks so much that you were scammed but the same thing happened to me in Shanghai and I have felt so stupid for falling for it. Knowing I’m not alone really helped.

    The stupid thing is that I am always on guard when I travel and very cautious but I’d got off a long fight and had a 12 hour stopover. It was horrible weather and I was soaked to the bone. It was pretty much the same thing — the girls approached me to take a photo of them then one together. They said they were going to a tea market (not a shop) which got my guard down. Then suddenly I was in a room with them closing me in each side and the tea guy was a huge Chinese bloke!

    I didn’t have enough money so the three of them accompanied me to an ATM. I was fine, well a bit shaky because the Chinese bloke scared me, because I figured it was a stupid tax on me for being so gullible but then they wanted me to pay a tip. No freaken way. I didn’t punch anyone but wish I had!

    And the tea wasn’t even that good!

    • June 30, 2015

      You’re definitely not alone — there are so many comments on here from people who have been scammed in the same way :-) Crazy that they accompanied you to an ATM as well — I would have been terrified.

  209. andy
    May 21, 2015

    just got scammed today, $220 is the damage.

    I feel pretty silly that this happened to me, but one of the things that made this scam so effective is that most other Shanghai scams are sooo blatant. Of the first 5 hours I was in Shanghai, I literally spent the entire time with someone following me around asking me if I wanted a massage. Once I finally shoo one off, another person would find me within a minute.

    While standing at the Bund taking in the scenery (and momentarily free of the massage scammers), I’m approached by a mid-20s guy and girl and asked if I could take their picture. Their English was OK (not great). One claimed to be from Shanghai, and the other visiting from out of town. After talking for a long time with them, the tea ceremony comes up and I happily agree to join them.

    Oddly enough, the 2 hours I spent with them is still probably my highlight of being in Shanghai – partly because it was the only time I was free of people pestering for a massage. It was also excellent conversation, and an all-around great time.

    When the bill came, I knew $220 was high for an hour-long tea tasting and a nice tea arrangement (for a present), but I found Shanghai very expensive, and in New York / Tokyo / London that’s about what I’d expect to pay. I was suspicious, but did not create a scene. My suspicions started to subside after they spent another 15 minutes showing me through Hu Gardens before heading out to ‘meet a friend’, and later e-mailed me pictures of us together at the tea house. But once I got back to the hotel and googled it, I’m now sure I was taken.

    Anyways, $220 is a small price to pay for a good life’s lesson. But I’m incredibly surprised that they would invest so much time with me, with no guarantee there’d be a payout (or am I that obviously gullible?) It was completely off my ‘tourist trap radar’

    • June 30, 2015

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Andy, and I’m sorry to hear you got scammed out of so much money! I was surprised, too — it must be because it works practically every time!

  210. May 27, 2015

    This happened to me when I studied abroad in China in 2012! Our group was in Shanghai for a few days, and a group of “students” approached our group and convinced 4 or 5 of us to go to the traditional tea ceremony.

    It was kind of cool. And they actually asked if we wanted to stop halfway (thank goodness). Since the bill was split between our group, it wasn’t as much as it would have been. Some of Chinese were aggressively flirty with our group, and one of our girls even got proposed to (She ignored it, the equivalent of no).

    Only two of us in the group was convinced it was a scam, but I definitely recognize that room from your picture.

    • June 30, 2015

      No way! It was the exact same place? Sounds like your experience wasn’t too stressful or expensive, which is a relief!

  211. June 18, 2015

    Hey Lauren! I’ve been following your blog for a number of years now :D I’ve just started blogging myself and live in Shanghai so I was curious to read your post. I understand the way you got into this situation and how you reacted: being inexperienced and overwhelmed can suck sometimes.

    Needless to say, this scam is still in complete full swing. Regardless of the constant warnings in hostels, guidebooks and awesome blogs like yours, people fall for it. I think it is because like you said: they invest a lot of time and friendly energy at the beginning and travellers are really drawn to that.

    Thanks for the article and congratulations on your book!

    • June 30, 2015

      It’s crazy, isn’t it? There are warnings everywhere and still people are falling for it! For me, it was definitely them investing their time in getting to know me. If they’d approached me outright and ask me to go with them, I wouldn’t have agreed! Thanks for the congratulations!

  212. July 2, 2015

    I hope you will visit China again in the future as it is a beautiful country despite all the stressful experiences. Shanghai is a touristy place with lots of scammers, but you could also try to go to more remote regions. I feel like the people there are genuinely friendly because there are no tourists to scam. I look asian so scammers don’t approach me often but I have noticed a lot more people throwing fake rolex watches etc at us when I walked around with non-asians. Sad to admit that it ruins the trust in the locals..
    hope that next time will bring better experiences!

    • November 26, 2015

      I agree that the more secluded places would have fewer scams, and I do hope to visit China in the future. There’s so much more I want to see! :-)

  213. Natalie
    August 6, 2015

    You had every right to punch her! I didn’t read all of the comments you got on the post, but I suspect that people got offended that you punched her, and that’s why you had to make the disclaimer at the end about how you were naïve at the time and are now ashamed at how you behaved. The only people who should be ashamed are the scammers, not you!

    • November 26, 2015

      Yeah, people did get offended, and there was a particularly nasty Reddit thread about this post, but I also do regret my actions. I should have remained calm and not lost my temper with them.

  214. Mili
    August 8, 2015

    it is incredible!! I got approche from the same girls today!!!! it is funny you got the pict… Was the same history until we arrive to the extrange place to have that ceremony… when I arrived there I knew some thing was wrone and I through they will put drugs on the tea and they will rob all my things, money and passport…so When we arrived to the place I just run away! I am so happy I did that but after I saw your blog I am so upset because this continue happen… I am glad you punch her!!! thank you for sharing your history!!!

    • November 22, 2015

      Oh, wow, so they’re definitely still doing it then. Well done for running away and avoiding the scam :-)

  215. August 17, 2015

    It’s actually incredible how easy it is to get sucked into this scam. I was in Shanghai early this year with a friend, and on our first day there walking towards the Yu Yuan we were stopped by a male and female asking us to take a picture of them. Long story short, they seemed so lovely and were quite persistent to show us Old Shanghai. We couldn’t really shake them off so we went with them. We walked past Old Shanghai and they walked us to a set of stairs inviting us to a traditional tea ceremony. Alarm bells went off, and we thanked them and walked away. But my gosh, it’s so convincing! I’m a really skeptical traveller, which is really sad, but I think it’s better to be safe then sorry.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your experience! :)

    Chalsie x
    Wayfare | Travel & Life Blog

    • August 21, 2015

      Sorry to hear you got sucked into the scam too, Chalsie! Given the amount of comments on this post (328 so far!), we’re definitely not alone :-)

  216. Carlos
    August 26, 2015

    Hi all, I’m now at my Hostel in Shanghai after living through this same scam. But, i got back at them!

    Same story as all only that I refused to pay more than 100 yuan, after a long argument and me not being able to leave the room, I ended up giving them 200. But I actually took a picture of the building street and number. After feeling like a moron and reading about this scam I approached a police truck that was standing on the side of the road. I told them what had happened and they asked me how much they took, I said 600 as I wanted to get back at them. They took me to the station where luckily an English speaking nice soul told them what I told him and I made a trip with 2 policemen to the building. A lady came right away and was desperately saying they took 200 from me and she offered them back. I took them and then kept arguing that this was a scam and that they needed to do something about it. Then the guy that actually charged me the money came and we started arguing, after his threats of taking me to court, he offered me 100 yuan to close the deal. Seeing how the police was not interested, besides that I couldn’t communicate with them, I took the extra 100 yuan and left. When I got wifi again, I had an email from this girl (I had given her my email before he scam as we were going to be “pen pals”, yeah, right!) where she was threatening me that if I didn’t take he extra 100 to her where we had met I would not leave Shanghai in one piece! Her and her friends emails are and they are still threatening me saying they know every hostel, that they will be looking for me at the airport and what not. Feel free to write to them to laugh at them because this time I took 100 extra from them!!

  217. Estados Unidos De' America
    October 2, 2015

    Thanks to this and other sites, I was well-prepared when I hit Shanghai for the scammers and I turned the tables on them.

    For the ones on Nanjing Lu, when they sidled up to me and said “Massage-ee?”, or “Where you from?”, I looked at them and spoke Spanish. “Buenas Noches, mi amiga, como esta usted?” They said “What”, to which I replied, “Ohhhh, yo no habla Ingles, tu habla Espanol?’. That made them go away.

    Then I got approached by two young women at the corner of Henan Lu and RenMin Lu. This is a grimy intersection near a Metro station – not exactly a scenic spot to take a photo. They asked if I would take their picture there! “Sure” i said. After I snapped their picture, they asked if I wanted my photo taken too. Of course I wasn’t going to let them touch my smart phone lest they run off with it. Next they asked where I was from. I said in Mandarin, “Guess?” and they correctly guessed “Meiguo”. As per their script, their next question was to size me up and assess my longevity and general awareness of Chinese street scams – “Do you live in Shanghai?”. “No” I said, in Mandarin, I’m a tourist.” Continuing in Mandarin, I started asking the questions. “Are you students?” They said yes. “Which college?”. They had an answer. “What are you studying?” “English, they said”.

    So I said, “Then we’d better switch back to English.”

    In English I said, “I have to get going”. Fearful that their sucker was getting away one said, “Where are you going?”.

    “Tea Ceremony!” as I walked away.

    • November 27, 2015

      Hahaha :-)

  218. Tim
    November 19, 2015

    I almost got hit by this scam when I visited Shanghai. It’s strange how so many people in China care very much about their country’s image. They want people from other countries to respect China and see the best of Chinese people. Sometimes it seems to me that nationalism takes the place of religion as the highest source of morality for many modern Chinese people. These scammers, however, completely defy this stereotype.

    As for the advice about not trusting anyone in China, that’s not necessarilly true outside of the largest cities. There are plenty of smaller cities and towns in China where people are genuinely curious about foreign people and have a real interest in befriending you. Of course, you need to be careful, but if you use common sense you shouldn’t need to fear everyone. I had one great experience travelling along in a lesser-developed city (still quite large by world standards) that wasn’t a major tourist destination… A man approached me on along the road, asked me if I was a foreigner, and after a long conversation, we went out and ate hot pot together with his brother and his girlfriend. I didn’t pay a cent. They were extremely warm and hospitable people and I keep in touch with them to this day.

    As far as the Shanghai tea scam goes, I’d love to see foreign people in Shanghai hit back in a more creative way. When the scammers begin to talk to you, instead of ignoring them, why not play along with it for a while? Waste their time, act like a niave idiot, and then when the invitation to go to the tea ceremony comes up, tell them to f*** off. Better yet, in the midst of their conversation with you, beat them to the punchline and invite *them* to a tea ceremony that *you’re* going to. Watch them squirm or break down. It would be a great social experiment. “Oh, you’re tourists from Zhejiang Province? I’m on my way to this traditional Shanghai tea ceremony, wanna join me?” Be creative, people!

  219. Alan
    November 24, 2015

    In Beijing I once took a Bicycle rickshaw on short ride to a taxi stand. The guy rode down a back alleyway, stopped, and then 3 guys came and demanded 300 RMB for the “tour of Beijing” I had taken. I stepped off the bike and towered over them. I said with confidence- okay you fellows have a choice, I break all of your legs, call the police, or both. Which do you want? They ran off and fast too….

    • November 26, 2015

      Eeeek! I have heard that’s quite a common scam.

  220. Alan
    November 24, 2015

    PS Always turn the tables on them! If a girl approaches me on the st, and offers services for 200 RMB or whatever, I say actually to be with me is a unique experience, so you’ll have to pay me 3000 RMB! If she keeps talking to me, I say oh I charge 200 RMB a minute to speak to me, so now you must pay me! She runs the other way!
    Also, excessive picture-taking. I tell them yes we can take pictures together, but I charge 100 RMB per picture. That ends it right there.

    • November 24, 2015

      And if you don’t realise you’re being scammed, like many of the commenters here…?

  221. Stefano
    December 5, 2015

    I’m glad you added an update at the end of the article and that you’d like to return China someday.

    I have been living in Shanghai for 9+ years and this is a wonderful, great city to be in. I have never been scammed once but mostly because my personality tend to be very suspicious when people get too warm with me so I usually avoid when my guts say no.

    The rule here is to just ignore any stranger who tries to approach you, especially in some commercial and crowded roads. If you just simply walk away they won’t stalk you, there are plenty of tourists around so definitely they don’t want to waste time following people who don’t care about them. But if you start talking to them, they may get a bit sticky.

    And at one point scammers didn’t even bother with me anymore, probably because now I look so “local” and hard to be cheated :)

    Other than that, Shanghai is super safe, I never felt danger around me and at night you easily see girls walking home alone. The only things to worry about are the scammers you mentioned in the article (but these are very easy to avoid), the traffic (yeah, this is probably the most dangerous thing :) ), some pickpockets (but recently I barely see them).

    China is a country that you hate or love, there is no middle way. Hope you give another chance to Shanghai, with a more open mind, a bit of common sense and hopefully less stress.


  222. Sully
    December 9, 2015

    i got scammed too!!!!!!!! Exactly the same story as you! They target westerners. We had two guys and a girl. Angus, Alex and Claire. Claire spoke perfect English. I’ve just been looking up if it was common and the reality is overwhelming. 650 yuan for me. I have photos exactly the same as you. So angry and felt sick. HERE’S MY REVENGE:
    We saw them A few days later targeting more westerners. We ran up to the westerners and told them they were scammers and saved them from losing hundreds of dollars. The scammers tried to push us away! So funny, the shock the scammers got, you should have seen their faces! And the sweetest bit was that the shock and disappointment they got was equal to the anger we experienced. Felt great.

    • December 13, 2015

      Happy to hear you got your own back and saved someone from being scammed :-)

  223. John
    December 19, 2015

    I got duped with tea tasting in Guilin! Couldn’t believe I fell for it. I had spent a few hours walking around the city and was tired and hungry and let my guard down. Luckily I only handed over 100 yuan but still 100 yuan too much. Could have been worse. Some of these people are really charismatic and would make it as actors in Hollywood. Oh well, lesson learned!

  224. Olof
    December 26, 2015

    I had heard about beautiful girls bringing you down to a bar and ordering super expensive wine etc. but hadn’t heard about the tea room scam. Happened to me today in People’s Park, three young (non-attractive) people who seemed to be what they told. After a longish chat I went to Hectometer Champs Elysees with them.

    I was told that a friend of theirs was supposed to have a tea ceremony, but it really wasn’t what I would expect to see if a friend was to serve tea. It was only at this point that I got suspicious, as I was expecting some cozy apartment and friendly hugs, but it looked like a setup. So we checked the prices beforehand and I realized it was probably a scam, but decided to taste one tea anyway and see how things progress. When no one else tasted any of the other teas I was assured that it was a scam. My bill was “only” 80 RMB, though, as I had checked the menu beforehand. They tried to make me pay for the girls (“as gentlemen do”) but I declined. I paid with a 100 RMB bill and got my 20 RMB change back when asked.

    After reading all these stories, I guess my lesson was a super cheap one. Although, I’m still not sure if it could be considered a scam or not, as I could have walked away, but decided to check it out anyway. For that price it wasn’t that bad an experience, although I’d have preferred legit intensions nevertheless.

    • December 27, 2015

      It definitely could have been worse!

  225. January 7, 2016

    Great story and i’m glad you punched her!

    I’m interested as to if you really thought Shanghai was that bad and everyone was out to get you compared to places like Vietnam and Thailand?

    I have spent a lot of time in China and only a couple of people tried to scam me. I suppose being a solo female traveler might have made you an easier target?

    • January 7, 2016

      Well, I usually came up against half a dozen attempted scams every day in China — I’ve never been scammed in Thailand or Vietnam, so I felt much more on my guard in China. I definitely could just look like an easy target!

      I also think that once you’re aware of the scams in the country, they’re pretty easy to spot and avoid.

  226. Jane
    January 8, 2016

    Hi Lauren,
    Sorry to hear of the scamming experience and as a Chinese person (living in the US) I’m embarrassed and indignant on your behalf that this happened to you. I also read your other posts on China and it seems that overall you didn’t have a very good experience there which is a shame. I really hope that you give China another try. China is so vast and diverse and you’ve only been to Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an which is like saying you’re “been to Europe” by going only to London and Paris. I wish you hadn’t gone through the rest of your trip through China regarding everyone with suspicion and thinking everyone is out to get you. I got scammed (at a very nice expensive looking cosmetic store in a fancy area in Paris no less; I googled it later online and it was definitely a scam) so it’s not something unique to China, or Asia, or developing countries. I just really hope that now that you’ve traveled more you would return to China with an open mind. I do agree that China is crowded and can be hectic and overwhelming, but it is also changing rapidly. It’s astonishing really. I was in Beijing in 2010, 2012 and 2015 all during the summer and there were distinct differences in the way people behaved as well as the feel of the city in general (for the better each time). So do give China another try! You seemed to have enjoyed other parts of Asia so much more, I wish you could have the same experiences in China, which I totally believe if you give it a fair chance with an open mind you would! (Personally, I don’t even think Shanghai and Beijing are the best in terms of tourist destinations in China. I like southwest China, such as the Yunnan province more.)

  227. Joel
    January 15, 2016

    I got scammed in Beijing last month, which tore my heart out as a experienced traveller getting cheated and lied to like that. So I do not blame you for punching her.

    Im in shanghai now where two friendly students attempted the same, but obviously failed. My new strategy is, be friendly and always look to engage with locals, but take everything with a pinch of salt and I do not allow myself to be put in a situation for paying for anything unless you have a fair amount of time invested in the friendship.

    Due to that, I have made some amazing Chinese friends. Two of which spent two days translating for me in huangshan. While another young girl insisted on paying for my cab from the airport on her smartphone app, as she feared I would be annihilated by extortionate fares – I had only known her for a 1 hour flight and she refused any money I tried to give her for the 120 yaun trip.
    All in all. The £40 I lost in Beijing was worth it for the lesson learnt and all the other times I met geniune nice locals.

    The important point is. If you think you are a seasoned backpacker and you havent ever been scammed… Your probably not doing it right.

  228. January 29, 2016

    I was so stupid that I got scammed (super same scenario) last October 2015. But I got more stupid in not getting this blog read before my trip in Shanghai. Lol :))

    I thought I found new girl friends in Shanghai as they were really nice, they even went with me to my hotel to help me pack my stuff.

    Oh well, we learn from our mistakes..

    • February 4, 2016

      Yep, it’s all a good learning experience :-)

  229. January 29, 2016

    Oh btw, I spent USD 240 for the effin’ tea.

  230. February 16, 2016

    I want you to know I love how you’ve posted how you’ve “grown”. Your edits just show how human we all are and how we can learn from our mistakes. I love that. You have a wonderful blog and I really enjoy your writing voice. So sad that I’ve just found it now!


    • February 16, 2016

      Thanks so much, Sara! :-)

  231. February 17, 2016

    I’ve been reading your blog and I LOVE it! I actually went straight to this post to read about it because the EXACT same thing happened to me and my friend a few years ago in our first trip to China. We felt so powerless and stupid, but one of those things we chalked up to another “lesson learned” haha :)

    • February 17, 2016

      Absolutely! And the hundreds of comments on this post show that you definitely weren’t the only ones to get scammed! Sometimes it feels like it happens to everyone who heads to China :-)

  232. Paulo@Travel Bugs
    March 4, 2016

    We will get scam anywhere if we do not do our homework and keep our eyes open. But we shall keep our hearts open when we visit any place. Not everyone is a scammer :-)

    • March 15, 2016

      But it’s tough to know who to trust and who is taking advantage, no matter how much research you do.

  233. Clemson Turregano
    August 28, 2016

    Yep, got hit today — same gig. Nice people, tea ceremony, they even gave ME a gift and the hit me with a tea bill of 1000yuan. Thought it was a nice day, but it was just too nice. Looked up the scam, there it was, and being a former military officer, did not take this well. I returned to the store, with the tea they sold me, told the truth — it was overpriced and I wanted to return it. He said that is not the way China is and then I said I was getting the police and he changed his tune. I did allow the 300 yuan for the tea ceremony because I did learn something. But demanded the entire price back for the tea I returned. He gave me my money back, very upset that I did not understand Chinese culture. Nah, maybe not, but I know a criminal mind — even one that is ‘not’ so criminal. Beware and you know, unless you are introduced to a person from someone you know, you just can’t trust ’em.

  234. December 11, 2016

    Wow! This story makes me really sad that there are people in the world who would do this!
    I was in Beijing a month ago and a Chinese girl started talking to me. After a while she asked if I’d like to go to some tea rooms with her.. I thought the question was a bit odd and abrupt so declined, and how glad I am now that I did!
    At least you can warn other travelers from what happened to you :)

    • January 9, 2017

      A lucky escape! :-)

  235. Goodbye Shanghai
    May 8, 2017

    Hi Lauren, well done I bet you felt so much better after punching them! On behalf of fellow travelers I wana say that trust in mankind shouldn’t be forgotten, but this will stick with you – it’s really sad. They’ve taken advantage of your kindness, because they’re shameless. Something similar happened to me and up until now I’ve had amazing travel experiences – just like you – meeting locals or others to enjoy different worldly experiences and its absolutely amazing. I’m a YoutTuber and see a few places. The scammers in Shanghai are ruthless and relentless. Im also now trying to not have such a guard up as before but they’ve planted this protective seed that I cant shake.

    There’s much more happening than you think. Met a girl, she was cute, Met loads of girls on nights out. Totally normal situation, boy meets girl they like each other, as with what happened to you I let my guard down :) we were dancing etc. Living in Shanghai my place is far from center so was hers its after closing and she knows somewhere we can go. Giggling along the road into an unsigned place. We’re both tipsy having fun, after she says “just going to the toilet”… ok babe.

    One guy comes in wearing a stupid shiny suit. Says: “you have room charge 29,000. You cannot leave” I actually wasnt in the mood for this, squared up to him. He saw my tattoos and sees an MMA stance. Next thing I know another guy opens the door. As that happens I catch a glimpse of 4-5 thugs waiting outside the door, scars, mean faced bulldog looking chaps. Seriously, this was some kind of Chinese mafia. One standing cross armed at the door, one in front closer to me. So if I went for the door, the second guy would be behind me. Something at that moment when I saw those thugs made me realize they could have guns or knives. Biggest concern was my shoulder bag had a brand new Camera + Gimbal around ($2000). He starts shouting loudly, telling me to swipe cards. I told them cards wont work here. Tells me to show him my wallet I had a few hundred in there gave him it, he sees my bag. I put the bag shoulder around my neck so both hands are free. Thinking they’re not taking it never. Gave him the stance again, he can have the 500 rmb. But he’s not taking the bag. He saw that, and let me go after a while of shouting. They understand that shouting at you causes you to be disarmed, they do it publicly in markets all the time. I see tourists giving in to it everywhere. It’s really unnatural for us to be in that shouting situation and they understand this, just in general.

    I was really lucky though, a lot of people have lost $5000 – $10000. This experience really got to me, cant explain the actual feeling of how small that room felt. I’ve done some research on this since, its all interlinked with tea scams and different levels of police. There’s horrible stories, most people get their cards maxed out or escorted to bank machines to clean out their accounts. This happens equally with tea or massage scams. Usually guys are punched in the stomach but never the face. If someone gets a tourist in for a massage and they suspect somethings wrong and try to leave, the men stop them, force into a small room and make the girl perform sex acts – the men film it or photograph with phones, used later to blackmail with all your social media in your phone which they’ve also just stolen. A young US student said yes to a massage next thing he knew he’s in hospital with broken hand and ribs, and theirs a thug in the hospital standing next to him. The student and entire family booked the next flight out of Shanghai the following day. The second worst thing was when this all happened to a 70 year old man, he was really old and fragile, horrible. But the absolute worst was an Aussie who just arrived found himself locked in a room after being told that the men would rape him, said he could hear another tourist screaming for help in another room.

    There’s 2 things which happen directly after the incident. One is they inform you that if you go to the police their would be consequences worse than what they did to them. And there’s also scammers in TripAdvisor forums looking for people in Shanghai who have been robbed who open up on the forums about it for support, they say its ok to meet and come forward and they can get their money back. But actually they’ll walk them in to more police fines where they’ll later be exiled depending on the situation. And the forum scammer gets a cut in the money they lose, again.

    Scammers, scamming people who have just been scammed.

    You did really well standing up for yourself. Hope you keep traveling and meet amazing people try not to let the Shanghai events carry on with you. What happened to you was just 2 thieving girls. Whats happening to guys in Shanghai is really a different kind of beast. It’s organized, they have no shame and I find the whole thing a little bit disgusting.

    • May 17, 2017

      Sorry you had to go through that. So many scammers in Shanghai!

  236. Wendy
    July 7, 2017

    I am a local Chinese and before I saw this thread I thought the scammers can only dare to scam Chinese.It is so common to get scammed in the famous scenic spots in China and the media reported that for several times. It’s not like tea scams because local Chinese won’t be interested in that. Usually they work out like this: Going to a restaurant and the waiter shows you a menu with all prices so reasonable and when the bill comes it is totally a different story. Also, the local police gets some profit from it and it would be hard to get help from police.

    So sorry they also target for the foreigners. Really feel shamed.

    • July 8, 2017

      Oh, it definitely happens to tourists! But it’s okay: tourists are targeted by scammers in basically every country around the world.

  237. July 31, 2017

    Hi Lauren, more than a decade ago, I was also in Shanghai and two overly-enthusiastic ladies claiming they were students from Anhui province and that they were inviting me to a tea party. Being perpetually skeptic of shiny happy strangers, I politely declined and hurried my way out. Having read too much scams involving hypnotism (not even sure the legitimacy of those news), I don’t usually make eye contact when first approached by strangers.

    I’m writing about “culture shockers” and would like to link to “13 Biggest Travel Regrets” post in reference. I hope it’s okay with you.

    • July 31, 2017

      Sure, you can link to it.

  238. David from
    August 8, 2017

    Great article, thanks for the tips! As the world’s largest country, China has a myriad of world class attractions to offer. However, there are also quite a number of crooks who target tourists in the country.

    Do be wary of the English practice/offer to help scam, fake traditional chinese medicine clinics, cheap low quality tours, fake monks, tea house scam, arts gallery/school scam, fake officials at Mao’s tomb at Tiananmen square, fake tickets, fake silk/jade/jewellery/pearl and many more!

    • August 8, 2017

      True that!

  239. Ivy
    September 17, 2017

    I’m from Taiwan and Hong Kong, currently residing in Canada and have heard of the need to be wary of scams in China growing up. I thought things were much better now since China had become a much wealthier and modern country (especially places like Shanghai and Beijing) so I didn’t have my guard up as much as I should have. I was scammed by a taxi driver in Beijing telling me he could not take me to my destination as it was closed to an event and there was a city wide event preventing me from going to pretty much all of the attractions except the Great Wall. He said he knew of a bus that goes directly there and back for 200yuan and could drop me off at the bus stop. I couldn’t see why not since everything else was supposedly closed. He claimed it took about 50 minutes to get there on the bus. I paid and got on the bus, was sitting in it for 2 hours before we approached the Great Wall. At this time the “tour guide” said that we all needed to pay for our rides. I mentioned I’d already paid prior to getting on and he said “that’s a different story, you need to pay twice.” Naive as I was, I knew something was wrong then. But seeing as no one else said anything and I knew nothing of Chinese law, I paid again. All other victims were Chinese tourists from other cities, and the other buses were full of Chinese tourists so I assumed this was a norm in China but I later find that the practice is illegal and everyone else was aware but too afraid to refuse payment. Needless to say, the rest of the day (which ended around 9PM…) was a horrible experience with many more surprises but it would take a whole blog post to elaborate so I’ll leave it at that.

    I totally understand the feeling of, “How could I be so stupid?!” It’s been a week since I’ve returned from the trip and I still feel at fault for falling for it. I only wish I did my research prior to going or was at least smart enough to take down the bus’ license number to call the police in the bathroom during the “tour.” But my family tells me it’s better to have lost money than risk my safety as I’ll never know what could have happened to me if I tried to fight back. I know there are many good people in China but the experience left a bitter feeling in my heart about the country. Coming from only democratic societies where the individual has a high degree of power and freedom in comparison, I was traumatized when I realized what was happening to me and how powerless the victims were. I’d visited dozens of other countries without ever having similar issues. I guess I was way too naive and ignorant and this experience caught me off guard. I only wish I could be like you in your later notes and look forward to exploring the country again but at the moment I never want to return…

  240. November 2, 2017

    I think you were well within your right to punch her! Shame you decided to remove parts of the post. Safe travels!

    • November 7, 2017


  241. Rhey
    November 18, 2017

    Hello just got scammed yesterday by a person who pretended to be a Taiwanese and he have no money so he sells his iPhone x so that he can go home. After how many hours of talking and checking surprise a fake iPhone X in the box. I lost 400 usd n that one. I still got his picture. I hope karma will get to them , but still i was thinking as long as im safe and money can be earned. But i have a reason now to be rude on them now. hahahahah

    • January 2, 2018

      Ugh, sorry to hear that, Rhey. In these situations, I always try to remind myself that maybe the scammer needed the money more than I did. I hope that’s the case anyway, as it makes it a little easier to process and move on.

  242. rhey
    November 18, 2017

    but its rampant in China, sad to say. I cant trust anyone else and help anyone even they are dying. Im really pissed off. I still got the scammers picture.

    • January 2, 2018

      Yeah, it sucks that when the scams are so prevalent it results in feelings as though you can’t trust anyone. I know that when I return to China, I’ll be on my guard when it comes to any locals who want to talk.

  243. torrent56
    December 7, 2017

    Hi Lauren,
    Sorry to hear about your experience right after you started traveling. What you should have done is just to either refuse to pay and call the police or just pay 100 yuan and leave it at that. They’re betting that people would just silently hand over the money without a protest and if you do call the police chances are you will get a response because the government doesn’t want to lose face by ignoring complaints from foreign tourists.

    I do think though there is still a lot of China that you haven’t seen yet that’s worth seeing and if you do decide to return you could use the high-speed trains to get around the country which in my view is an easier and cheaper way to get around the country.

    • December 7, 2017

      Yes, I know.

  244. Tao
    January 22, 2018

    sorry to hear about your experience in China. come to taiwan!

    • January 23, 2018

      I’ve been to Taiwan four times.

  245. laura
    August 15, 2018

    Good for you! This happened to me in Beijing after just 1 hour of being in the country lol. I don’t think you should feel bad at all – these people should be publically shamed, it’s disgusting behavior and reflects terribly on their culture. – Imagine this happening in the UK – i would be so ashamed, what calibre of people with any sense of pride allow this to happen for all these years? Personally, i was reluctant to go to China at all – they have next to zero animal rights and the dog meat festival thing is just abhorrant, i felt like a real hypocrite arriving in Beijing after all the work I’d put towards petitioning against a lot of these practices in China. But i decided to be open-minded. I’m not angry that this happened to me in China, it just confirmed to me what i already felt pertained to be true; it’s a culture i want nothing to do with and i don’t want to contribute to their economy via tourism. Wanted to see the great wall. Saw it…closely followed by the entrapped pandas at the bottom of the trail. Had enough. I think we’re way too PC these days, especially us Brits, for fear of sounding ignorant we often pander around the truth. But the truth is simple; a culture that treats its animals, it’s people and its tourists in this fashion is vile…

    • August 21, 2018

      It’s important not to tar an entire country with the same brush because that starts veering into racism. Sure, there are scammers in China, but there are scammers in every country around the world. I’ve been scammed in France, the Maldives, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, and Laos! That doesn’t mean that it’s part of Chinese culture to treat tourists terribly. There are obviously far more non-scammers in China than there are scammers. I’m not going to say that French culture is vile because I was naive enough to get scammed.

      And while there are definitely dubious animal ethics in China, I’m certain just as many animals are slaughtered for the meat industry in the U.K. and, well, every country in the world. Once you start refusing to go to China because of how animals are treated, you’re pretty much unable to go to any country if you obey by the same ethics. If you’re outraged about the treatment of pandas and dogs, why don’t you feel the same about the slaughter of chicken and cows and pigs in almost every other country?

  246. Jessica
    November 16, 2018

    A friend of mine got scammed via a dating site. And I also got scammed on the street being the skinny petite innocent looking girl type. Well, I really hope all these scammers die a horrible death and their families all die too. You hit the girl in the face was the right thing today. I would shoot them up but I do not want to go to jail haha so all I can do is to hope that someone organises a meetup group where a people who got scammed in Shanghai meet once a month to collectively rough up the scammers in Nanjing East Road. Would be fun and people can finally take revenge. Or can someone create a social media group where people post pictures of bars and people who are scammers? Would also help a lot! Thank you sorry i m just super angry. I am still a student traveling and have not much money. Now I will only eat twice a day for the next 3 weeks to earn the money back. life sucks sometimes and now I hate China :( .. cant wait to get back home

  247. Nathalie
    November 22, 2018

    Hello Lauren… read this seven years after you posed it…

    I feel very strongly that you should once again put up the photo of the two girls: a future American or UK tourist could benefit from seeing how these types of girls dress, look, etc.

    Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of how you handled anything! You were taken in by two very real criminals, period.

    I think they should be made VERY public, JMO… but it might help someone!

    Wishing you all the best,


    • November 23, 2018

      I doubt that they’re still scamming people seven years later.

  248. Suman
    December 9, 2018

    Latest….. Scammed by taxi (sorry Airport Staff) at Shanghai.
    Never ever trust anyone at airport who says “they are Airport Staff” with a metal badge reading “Airport Staff” they are all scam/cheaters.

    it was my first visit to China… one person at the elevators approached me … are you looking for taxi? i refused to listen to him… he kept on coming along with me. I even asked a police security on should i go with them? (looks like police are also involved) i asked the guy to leave me alone…
    then the taxi board at airport exit is very tricky!! i could nt find a taxi exit… then came another one… (This is where i made my mistake) may be i was too harsh on them i thought and said lets ride them!! :( I kept on telling meter taxi… he said yes its meter taxi!!
    though he got me to Suzhou hotel.. at the drop off point he was telling the bill is 1500 YUAN… for 130 kms (i know i am being cheated) i was alone and was not very brave to confront him! he did not got my luggage out as well…
    so i paid knowing that i am being cheated and he gave me receipt which was not having any taxi details in it! uuufffffffff….. i didnt get sleep over it!
    next time you cheaters come to me!! (i am ready to face u shanghai cheaters :( )

    • January 8, 2019

      Thanks for sharing!

  249. Phillip
    January 8, 2019

    My partner and I (we are a gay couple) just got scammed in Shanghai at the Bund — by two women our age – well-dressed, friendly, well-spoken. They reeled us in by commenting on our appearance and asking our backgrounds (we are both half-Filipino) and immediately invited us for coffee to practice their English and if we had questions about China. We were already weary, so I say we were open to have coffee at a nearby Starbucks but they were insistent on grabbing Chinese tea. To be *completely* honest, we opened up fast because their stories were so cohesive, they seemed so engaged – even as we walked, so I quickly went along with the idea that they were “safe”.

    We get to a non-descript …. space – I can’t call it a restaurant, but it was masked as a bar/coffee shop but with little decoration aside from world flags on the ceiling and a hodgepodge of images from around the world. I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but we both felt uneasy all over again despite letting our guards down – and flag #1 SHOULD have been a pot of tea costing RMB188.

    Then glasses of whiskey start flying out, we all get deeper into conversation, we let them into our lives, and we seem to all get along! We talk about grabbing a bite to eat after – so drinks are flowing – although it was already said that the night was to be equally shared (perhaps flag #2). At one point, my partner and I whisper that things are genuine with them — admittedly, we both instinctively waited to have any tea until we saw them drink some.

    Then the bill comes for SIX THOUSAND YUAN (USD$800) and I immediately freak out! My partner and I don’t know what to do – at that moment we knew we were scammed — I argued with the waitress that there’s no way in hell what we had was worth that much money. She says it’s because one of the women told her in the beginning of the night to serve the high end whiskey.

    As much as we wanted to walk out, I have to be honest, my partner and I came to China already weary as our families kept on saying we should cancel our trip due to headlines about US citizens being held for no reason leaving the country. But, of course – we believe the best in any situation and still came. I haggled to pay half, as the other women says that friends should split in half although they made no movement or sound upon us initially receiving the bill.

    My credit card company declined the first charge. And as much as I wanted to walk out again, my fear in us being a gay couple in China, us walking out on a bill, etc in light of the headlines our families showed us – I felt obliged to get my partner and I out of a potentially bad situation.

    I emptied my wallet for 1700 RMB and the rest on my card. And even after, the two women had nerve to say they would “treat us to dinner after” for the trouble.

    And as soon as we got back to the hotel, I got into bed on the verge of tears for being so stupid – but oddly enough, reading your post and the barrage of comments makes me feel better that we weren’t the only ones.

    I am hoping the bank will give me some leeway but now I know that this is a major lesson learned.

  250. denton
    January 8, 2019

    I’m glad you edited your post and took down the pictures. Scammers are everywhere and in every country. I went to Spain (Europe) and nearly got scammed by a taxi driver. Luckily for me I did my homework and learnt some it of spanish and had an app to check taxi fares.

  251. Mint
    January 16, 2019

    Chinese scammers are everywhere, not only in China. If it is too good to be true, that a pretty girl befriended you, let the alarm bells be set off. Am telling this true story of a friend who got scammed by a China student in Tokyo. She is working illegally on student visa as bar hostess and used apps Wechat to befriend my friend. Then come the sob story and invitation to help her check out her new work place. How could a guy reject a pretty face? End of story that is one expensive ‘friendship’ which costs usd 500-1000 every time she insisted he visit her at the bar she is working. The bills racked up to over usd10,000 just to pay her to drink with him, her shopping etc. So beware, this will not just happened in China. And if some lady try to befriend you using some apps and entice you to start spending on her, have some common sense.

  252. Li
    May 22, 2019

    This is the reason why I —– having grown up in China —— feel it hard to let my guard down and put any trust on strangers. I would never be able to freely mix with locals at ease like my American colleagues do. It is sad but scams targeting tourists, domestic and foreign, have been prevalent for decades. At least now future travellers have a better chance dodging them by doing an online search.
    If you do intend to visit China again, don’t be afraid to seek help from the police —— as far as I know, they are pretty willing to help foreign travellers in distress.

  253. Sara
    July 18, 2019

    I had exactly same experience, but I took pictures of them too.

  254. Thomas
    December 13, 2019

    Where is the revenge? Just a small punch? These girls need to be beaten enough that they require plastic surgery, and lose all the money they stole and more.

  255. February 26, 2020

    What a valuable story to share. Where ever foreigners are in abundance beware.
    In 1997 while traveling in Macau a woman came up at put her arm around me and I pushed her away immediately and yelled no. Two days later, however, while trying to figure out the bus system in Guangzhou a young man walked up to me speaking broken English asking if he could help. I told him I was looking for a bus heading downtown. When he pointed out which one, and I explained I would never be able to find my return bus, he called someone on his cell phone, and then says, “we go to have fun.” He spent the day with me, showing me things he would do for fun. He made sure I wasn’t ripped off at the restaurants we ate at. This was before the arrival of many western tourists, so the odds of him being a scam artist were very low.

  256. BC
    July 15, 2020

    I live in China and have been traveling there on and off for over 20 years. I don’t recall ever being scammed though I’m sure I have probably paid too much for stuff at times. I have followed “art students” to look at their art but never bought anything. People have attempted to scam me in the US as well.

    I think there is a mindset that we all need to have no matter where we are in the world to protect ourselves physically, financially and psychologically. Unfortunately I don’t think this mindset comes easily to everyone. I’m a very logical and skeptical person so it has come easy to me. This doesn’t make me superior, it’s just how my mind happens to work which also has drawbacks. One thing that I think can help many people develop a mindset of realizing when they are being manipulated is reading a book I read for a college class called Influence by Robert Cialdini. It’s a fairly short and entertaining read and it opened my eyes as to how humans are manipulated daily in all kinds of situations. A really valuable read for anyone.

  257. Bob N
    November 19, 2021

    Your punch seemed fitting. No need to be ashamed of it now. I almost fell for it, but I’d heard about the tea scam ahead of time, so when two cheerful Chinese girls were taking pictures near me, and asked me to take one of them, and fell into easy conversation with me, I was enchanted. We talked for a while, and then came the invitation to a tea ceremony, which they were on their way to. “Come join us. You’ll get to talk to two Chinese girls and experience China.” They actually said this, pandering to what they knew the lure would be to an American. But having heard about the scam, I nicely told them no, and said I had places to go, while they begged and begged. I walked away.