Ah, the China Scams that await you in the pearl of the Orient. Masterful, devious plans to fleece you of your money. They'll come unabashed and without remorse but most of all they'll come with stealth and cunning.
I'm an expert because they got me twice and I'd thought that I'd seen it all!
But I figure I got off lucky considering the amount of times per hour that I was approached for fleecing by one of many China Scams.
Shanghai and Beijing are home to more scam artists per inch than rice in the patties. They are both wonderful and fascinating cities. Yet they are the birthplaces of the dreaded China Scams.
China scams are well known to anyone who's lived there for more than a few months. I was there for six months and it was my first 2 weeks when I was most vulnerable. And they know it. It's like they have a sixth sense for the newly arrived.
Two or three females will appear in the fog and clear your vision with their beauty. Single men walking alone are the target. The girls will ask if they can walk with you in order to improve their English.
I had to say yes because I really never understood anything about Chinese people and was anxious to know what they thought about the world and people and everything. Plus they were hot and what better way to hear the story.
We talked and they spoke English well. They invited me for coffee and we went up to a really nice restaurant. Coffee was $4USD but I bought a cup as I was having a nice time. They were telling me stories of the villages they were from and their goals to return home and buy a house one day.
The waitress came and I ordered my coffee and then the 2 girls with me began to speak in Chinese to the waitress. I looked out the big glass window next to me.
It was 8 stories down to the People's Square below. The masses of people looked like ants flowing in organized lines back to their nest. There were so many people and from that height I could get a grasp on the enormity of Shanghai.
Right before I got a taste a a good old China scam.
When I turned back to the table my coffee had arrived. That and 6 plates of food and a bottle of Chivas Regal! I guess I knew that something was up but I could do nothing at that point. So I drank my coffee peacefully and they kept trying to get me to take shots of the whiskey.
I wished that they were just nice girls wanting to get me drunk. All in a big plan to have their way with me. But I knew that wasn't the case. If I even licked the rim of that whiskey bottle, I'd be paying for it.
The air became tense and there were few words exchanged. Just heavy smoking and dried hacking until the bill came. The waitress laid it right before me. I opened it up. It came to the equivalent of $225USD!
I took out my wallet and could feel everyone ease a little. Then I laid out $4USD for my coffee and passed the bill to the girl next to me. All hell broke loose.
"You know in China...Man must pay for woman." The girl next to me screamed and then the waitress screamed and they all had at me. "You no good man!
I was angry but said:
"I have no money." And then a man came over and looked at the waitress and she looked at him. I looked around at all of them. They had done this many times before.
"This man will follow you home. You get the money!" The waitress demanded of me.
I couldn't keep it in. I hated to be backed into a corner and now that a man was involved I felt threatened. I grabbed my bag, checked to see I had paid for my coffee and then just walked.
I pushed the girl sitting next to me out of the way and walked straight for the man blocking my way. I hit into him without raising my fists or scowling angrily and he relented.
From there on I made my way back onto the street with 4 shrieking women screaming in my ear the whole way. All about how much of a terrible, no good man I was. I'll never forget the looks on their faces. Their eyes were filled with such hatred as I'd never seen before.
Anyway, the whole group are in on this China scam. The restaurant pays the girls to bring the people in and then the restaurant overcharges you by a lot.
We all want to be liked and that natural desire is what these girls pray on. I gave up long ago trying to make people like me. Some do and some don't. But still, it was my first day in Shanghai and I thought I'd made some friends.
A few days later those same 2 girls approached me again. They went into the exact same routine as they had before; word for word. They knew it by heart.
"Don't you remember me?" I asked. But they didn't remember me and probably didn't care. They may have scammed so many tourists into paying $200USD for a dinner they never ate, that they we all began to look the same.
This is one of the most common China scams you'll see. Different girls but same routine. All you can do is keep on walking and apologize for not supporting them.
In those first few days in Shanghai, I did a lot of walking. I was looking for work by pounding the pavement and dropping off resumes in various schools around the city. I just love walking the streets of a new city. It's the best way to explore.
Unfortunately, my feet get sore quickly as I have a foot disorder called "Easyfootsorederitous".
I'd seen foot massage places on nearly every block. They have signs out front with doctorish-looking maps of pressure points in the feet. One day, I needed a foot massage badly. I walked into a foot massage place right smack in the middle of Nanjing road. I felt sure that I would get a real foot massage if I stuck to a such a famous road as Nanjing Road.
And then came the second most prevalent China scam I ever saw.
3 Nicely dressed girls greeted me at the front door of the foot massage place. They escorted me into the elevator, smiles all around, and up to the 3rd floor. There they sat me in a nicely decorated room.
"Please wait here. All the masseuses are busy but one will be with you shortly. Would you like anything to drink?" Asked one of the girls.
"I'll have a coffee, please."
The coffee came and I felt wonderful and warm. I looked around and realized the room was set up for Karaoke.
Thats when the 2 bullies walked in the room.
"The masseuse is ready'" one of them said. "First you pay bill for room and drink."
He handed me a bill and I looked at it. $45USD/hr for the room and $12USD for the coffee. Yup. I couldn't believe the audacity of it all. I stared at them in awe. How could they look me in the eyes?
But they did and I was only on my third day in the country.
I refused to pay and another man came in the room with a small police club. The sign outside said 20RMD so, before entering the place I had separated my money. 20RMB in the wallet and the rest in my sock. I opened my wallet and that's what they saw.
I was mugged for it by 3 guys and all I wanted was a foot massage.
The next day the Massage sign was down and the Karaoke sign up. I asked my hotel to help me get the police and they agreed.
They asked me to first write down what had happened and to post it on the bulletin board in the Hostel. I pinned it up, jamming it in between the hundreds of other complaints.
We went to the police and they listened carefully. And they took notes before doing nothing. Next day, I walked past the same foot massage/karaoke place. It was open for massage business as usual. A gang of young men in suits were actively recruiting the men passing on the street for a foot Massage China scam style!
I wanted to tell everyone that they were being scammed but I did nothing. So, if a few people read this then maybe that'll make up for not telling all those other people.
Every single person who approached me on the street; whether in Beijing or Shanghai, had numerous China scams to show me. After a few weeks, I trusted no one who approached me on the streets. Sounds bleak and I hate to hear myself say it but you are better to just keep walking when approached on the streets in China.
Usually this China scam happens at night in crowded areas. To me it always happened when walking through the pedestrian tunnels that go under most of the major roadways in Beijing or Shanghai.
A man came up snug in behind me once as I walked through the pedestrian tunnel under The Bund going to the Yangze Riverside. It is always full of people going in opposite directions.
I just felt the rumble of a zipper being undone on my knapsack. I knew right away what was happening. But I can see how people get taken by it. Brazen in the broad daylight in a tunnel packed with people.
As the metal clips gave way and my zipper was opened, I turned around and gave the guy a push. He wobbled as he fell backwards down the stairs. He ran in the opposite direction and I kept on walking. Pick-pockets will attempt to get your things when you are unaware, usually near the tourist sites. They are good.
But I found that they wanted to rob me without being noticed. I mean to say that even though it's another China Scam, none of them ever deteriorated into a physical scuffle. They don't mug you even if they give you that "You'd better pay or I'll kill you" look.
If you get trapped in a corner by them, just walk on past them and keep your focus on getting out of there. It worked for me every time and I never heard of anyone getting into a struggle with anyone. They just hope that you'll pay through the intimidation they give off.
Don't pay. Just say nothing; keep calm and walk out the door.
Good luck with it all and as with any advice about China scams, just keep your eyes open and trust people less than you would a prisoner in the Bangkok Hilton.
Leave the soap on the prison shower floor. Although, I couldn't classify that as one of the many China Scams there are.
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