The Tea Scam Still Exists!

Too many people we know end up falling for this scam, so it’s always worth it to take a moment and read other people’s stories so that it doesn’t happen to you. Essentially, two or three young women will generally approach foreigners near the Bund, People’s Park, Nanjing Road, etc. and engage in polite conversation. Sometimes their “in” is to ask you to take a photo of them. Then they will ask where you’re from, tell you how handsome, beautiful you are, etc. Then after a few minutes they invite you to chat over tea. They’re friendly, charming, etc, and it’s their job to be. But then you get stuck with a bill from $100-500+ for a few cups of tea and you feel confused, pissed, REALLY angry, and then just sad about humanity.

But plantedinshanghai over on Tumblr just put up the flip side of the story, highlighting the girls who work the racket and their plight as well. Here’s an excerpt, but the whole thing is worth a quick read:

Their names were Rita and Chunlei, both 20 years old. They lurk the Bund 7 days a week, 12+ hours a day, searching for foreigners to lure into their boss’ illegal tea house to convince them to pay ridiculously high prices (between 625RMB and 3000RMB based on their judgement of income) for an overly exaggerated tea performance using poor-quality tea, one highly exploitive of the traditional tea ceremony. If people refuse to pay, they would never use force or threaten them with violence, in order to avoid being shut down by the police. Rita and Chunlei introduced me to their 2 partners in crime, Sue (17) and Sushi (21), who were lurking around The Bund as well. The four of them work for the same boss.

Rita, Chunlei, Sue, and Sushi only get a small percentage of the earnings from each scam, and on days they get no “customers,” they receive no compensation. They had all migrated to Shanghai because of the prosperity and promise for opportunity, mirroring the reasons in the past for migration to America. With little luck finding jobs, they discovered this job online and use the money they make to support their families back home. Sue, sore from walking around all day in high heels (she doesn’t think she’s attractive without them), had come here from Suzhou when her family told her they had found a job for her in Shanghai, and she had no idea the nature of the work would be based on manipulation.

500 euros is an INSANE amount for tea. This is China, and yes, there are teas that expensive you can find, but rest assured this is not the place you’ll be getting fancy or rare tea.

To find out more about tea in China and to visit a wholesale tea market, check out our private Markets Extravaganza tour. 

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