Scammed in China – Shanghai You SUCK
Their names are William and Penny and they are scammers.
I truly believe in the goodness of others. I easily place trust in strangers depend on their inherent goodness. This day in Shanghai left me feeling deflated and shaken, that those core values of trust and goodness have been scattered. I’m irritated at having been mistreated, but I’m furious with having my belief in others taken advantage of. This story may be harsh, but being truly honest – I am hurt by the events that transpired.
Shanghai why do you have to be so awful to foreigners? I just don’t get it. You have a bad rep for being an overpopulated and polluted city already. You don’t have much in the way of tourist sights besides the Bund, which isn’t all that entertaining to begin with, and worse, it is crawling with scammers waiting to prey on the tourists that try to overlook your bad reputation and enjoy your city. But no, you couldn’t leave us be could you Shanghai? No, you had to go and be a terrible representative for your country and tarnish its reputation further. You suck Shanghai.
I was walking along the Bund all willy-nilly having no plans for my day in Shanghai. I had no plans because plans are hard to make for a city such as Shanghai. I was staying near the people’s square and the night previous had an incredible time ordering soup from a local stall and communicating entirely through sign language and smiles. I had a great start to my 24 hours in Shanghai. That was until I made it to the Bund the next day.
William and Penny (their English names) asked me to take their photo while I was wandering aimlessly around the Bund. I had no plans other than to meander and enjoy the atmosphere. But encountering these two turned an uneventful day into a memorable one, if only for the mistrust of locals it instilled in me. We started speaking after I snapped their photo. Their English was clear and delightfully pleasant for me. I knew most locals felt uncomfortable conversing in English and my Mandarin is non-existent so I had expected a day of introspective silence, which means I make jokes in my head and laugh out loud labelling myself as the crazy foreigner to the locals. I’m always ok with being alone while travelling. Today I wished I’d had another to help me avoid the scammers because apparently my internal danger warnings were on holidays. I was about to be scammed. You suck Shanghai.
But William and Penny were friendly and inquisitive of my being in Shanghai. Penny was an out of town cousin of William’s visiting Shanghai for the week. After 5 minutes of chitter chatter, they said they were heading to a tea ceremony and immediately extended the invitation to me. I was reluctant at first, I didn’t really WANT to go, so I asked how much it would cost and they seemed to avoid the question and I wasn’t thinking I was being scammed so just put it off as them not understanding my question. But I had no plans and these two seemed friendly (don’t all scammers?) so I joined in. Off we went, left turn, right turn, down side streets and into the ‘real Shanghai’, as William called it: Bicycles and carts filling the lanes, laundry hanging from above. Any presence of English labelled street signs disappeared; I was lost in the back streets. You suck Shanghai.
And just as quickly we came to a stop in front of a non-descript building. Nothing, to my untrained eye, could distinguish thing building from the one next. This REALLY should of set off some bells in my head, but I figured all the best places were always non-descript on the exterior making their interior so much more appealing. So I entered, against my now slightly tingling alarm bells. No obvious sign labelled this building as a location for a traditional tea ceremony, but as the door was slid sideways and we were ushered in my girls in red satin shirts (who’s plaid undershirt and jeans I could see). I should of listened more carefully to my gut instinct that all wasn’t what it was trying to seem. What respectable tea ceremony lets their non-traditional clothes show underneath? You suck Shanghai.
A young girl entered our undecorated side room and began the ceremony. It was presented in Mandarin, but during the breaks in speech William translated for me – she could have been talking to them about how much money they’d take from me. Jerks. Three small teacups (and by small I mean miniature) were placed on the table and washed with boiling water. I thought the cups appeared utterly small, but I figured that was just part of the traditional ceremony – tiny sips right? Or in reality – another way to scam me. You suck Shanghai.
Blah blah blah, the ceremony continued. Pouring tea from up high, explanations of Chinese history, tea attributes, and some pumpkin seeds. Then the bill arrived. When I asked the price prior to accepting the invitation and didn’t get an answer I expected it to cost about $10 tops. My bowl of soup the night before had cost less than 5 RMB ($1). But no, being scammed doesn’t come that cheap – and they charged me over RMB 500. Are you kidding. I saw the bill and scoffed! I started at William and Penny in disbelief – telling them I didn’t carry that kind of money in Shanghai! They both ordered tea for themselves and tried to get me to buy some but I wasn’t having it. $60 for a tea ceremony and then $50 for a tiny tin of tea? I’m not THAT completely duped I charged my visa cause I didn’t have that kind of cash for a 24 hour trip to Shanghai. I glared incredulously at these two seemingly nice locals who were blatantly scamming me. I was furious but didn’t say anything outwardly because I just don’t have it in me to make such an accusation without full knowledge I was being scammed. I still wasn’t POSITIVE I was being scammed, maybe this stuff just costs more than I’d EVER be willing to spend on it? You suck Shanghai.
They walked me back to the main street of Nanjing and said our fair wells. If only I’d known I had just been scammed I would of overcome my internal fury and start screaming on the streets. But no, I walked away feeling furious and upset with myself for every agreeing to such an activity without first knowing the price. Not until I returned to my hostel and told the receptionist of my day did she inform me it was all a scam and I was fortunate to not of lost more money. Where were the signs in the hostel? Why hadn’t I been warmed IMMEDIATELY upon arrival at my reception of such activities?
I’m sad to say how much this negative experience ruined my thoughts on China as a country I want to explore. Before arriving I was thinking about when I could return to China to explore the South and East of the country, but now I’ve scratched China off completely. I hope to never return and it makes me terribly sad to realize how negatively I’ve taken this, but I can’t help it, I just have.