Beijing con artists: tea scam

Chinese people are some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I've ever encountered, except for the con artists and scammers, of which there are many.

In Beijing, if you are white and traveling alone, you will almost certainly be approached by con artists posing as students studying English. They want to practice their English, they say, and they invite you to join them for tea, and if you're not interested, how about coffee or karaoke?

You'll be taken to a place and be severely overcharged, as much as 3,000 元 for a single pot of tea ($463 USD). If you don't pay, they block the doors with hired muscle, which means you pay.

I've been approached about 15 times during the past week, all around the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. If I didn't know about the scam ahead of time, it would be easy to fall for it, although once you know what's what, it's easy to spot. Some are more aggressive than others. I've had some Chinese people speak to me for a good 15 minutes before casually mentioning a visit to the tea house, or karaoke, or wherever else is on the take.

Just walk away.

The scam always involves young Chinese girls, at least one and sometimes more, occasionally accompanied by guys posing as students and friends. There is also a scam involving art students inviting you to view their art, but instead they take you to an art house with high-pressure sales tactics and poor art at high prices. To be fair, I'm not sure this qualifies as a scam. You know exactly what you're buying and the price. It's really more like gamesmanship, I suppose, although the tea scam is a legit scam, and it's all over the place in Beijing.