Many foreigners who arrive in Shanghai are aware of the city’s infamous “tea ceremony scams,” but not everyone, including two Japanese students who were recently charged an exorbitant amount of money for a few cups of tea. How did the Shanghai tea house manage to justify the students’ 2,100 yuan ($324) bill? By charging the tea per sip. 48 yuan, per sip.
Yes! While the two unsuspecting students were visiting Yuyuan Garden, they thought about trying some Chinese tea when three strangers they met inside the subway station asked them to help take pictures and afterwards invited them to tea. Keen to practice their Mandarin, the students decided to give the strangers the benefit of the doubt. They were taken to a tea house and shown a menu, agreeing on the price of 48 yuan, which they believed was per person, rather than per sip, Shanghai Daily reports.
After chatting about Chinese culture and history for around half and hour, the bill was served, and the three strangers quickly paid up; however, the students didn’t have enough money on them to cover their portion of the hefty bill. The thieving tea house settled with just taking the 1,000 yuan they were carrying with them — good for around 20 sips of tea.
Following their ordeal, the students were handed decorative knots as souvenirs; however it turns out that the knots were not well-meant gifts, but served as signals for other scammers that the students had already been cheated.
Thankfully, the students later called the police after realizing they had been cheated and their money was given back. And the tea house in question? Well it was was aptly named Yuyuan Teahouse; however, it turned out to be nothing more than a common retail store that provided tea to customers.
Netizens on Weibo were furious over the incident, many asking for severe punishment and labeling the practice as shameful to China.
“Charging tea by the sip? When will rice be charged by the grain?” said @Shiguoxiansenzirannongchang.
“Did the restaurant just rip off only these two people? Are there others who have been cheated here? Are such stores going to exist in the future?” questioned @Mangxiaodao_eve.
Considering, the long history of Shanghai’s tea scams, we would have to assume so. Still, it is not like only foreigners get ripped off in China. Locals are just as likely to rip off Chinese visiting from elsewhere. For instance, earlier this year domestic tourists were charged 38 yuan per prawn and 5,000 yuan per endangered fish.
By Kitty Lai
[Images via CCTV]