2 scams to avoid in Beijing
By melinchina on Nov 15, 2006
I should preface this by saying that most local people in Beijing are honest and hard-working and if they offer to help you they are sincere. They take very good care of their foreign guests and if you're ever lost or have a problem, you can be sure there will be a local Chinese person close-by who will be glad to help you out.
But like any other big city, there are some scams out there in Beijing. Here are 2 you can avoid.
Scam #1: "I'd like to practice my English. Can we go have tea somewhere?"
You are: A Caucasian man standing around a subway station or hotel, looking like you're not too busy.
Your would-be scammer is: A really pretty local woman, possibly with a friend.
The scam: She asks if you would mind practicing English with her for a while. She will probably offer to practice Mandarin with you too if you want. Her English is pretty good. If you agree, she suggests you go into a local tea house, where you'll be served tea from these little-bitty cups. The cup is so small that once you take a sip from it, a waiter or waitress will come to re-fill it. "Great service", you might think to yourself.
Likely outcome: When it's time to go you'll be presented with a bill for your tea and that of your conversation partner(s). It will be astronomical, as high as 300RMB per person (about US$36). If you protest then some big guys might come out from behind the restaurant and persuade you to pay.
Outcome now that you've read this article: Calmly tell them that you never agreed to this price up front. If the big guys come out then you threaten to call the police. Note: If the situation starts to get edgy then I do recommend paying the bill and getting out of there, might as well live to fight another day.
Scam #2: "Would you like to see some of my art work at a local gallery?"
You are: A 40+ Caucasian woman, standing around Tiananmen Square.
Your would-be scammer is: A young local guy.
The scam: He tells you he's an art student and asks if you'd like to see some of his work, which is hanging in a nearby gallery. You go with him and the short tour can end up taking hours, as he walks you from one gallery to the next, always offering to let you buy some of the pieces at exorbitant prices. At some point he'll point to some of the work and say it's his. However if you ask him a couple of questions about the artwork it will be obvious he has no connection to it other than that he's seen it hanging on the wall.
Likely outcome: You'll spend hours and hours with this sweet guy, but don't get to all the touristy things you wanted to do that day. You might spend a lot on art, which of course is worth the price you paid for it if you like it.
Outcome now that you've read this article: I recommend saying no to the guy up front. If you're interested in art then visit the galleries described in a book like The Insider's Guide to Beijing . You don't need the "art student".