Just down the road we came across a quiet café/bar and said we’ll just have 1 beer as we haven’t got that much money to spend. Although 4 euros isn’t much for a beer in England, it’s pretty expensive here. After getting to know them a bit better, snacks were brought through and we chatted a bit more. “More beer they asked?” “No thanks” we said. After 20 minutes or so (they had ordered themselves a few juices in between, no more alcohol for them after they had had only 1 beer, they weren’t on a budget, odd?) they asked if we’d like to try a pot of Jasmine tea. Craig and I hadn’t sampled that particular tradition yet, and how expensive could a pot of tea shared between 4 people be? So we said yeah, why not.
After a bit more chatting they expressed their interest in Karaoke and how well they could sing. Come and watch they said. So we were lead off to a Karaoke room where after we refused red wine, they sung song after song, always wanting us to join in. Craig and I looked at each other as I signalled the money sign to him, we both knew we were in the middle of some sort of scam. I suppose we had subconsciously known all along by refusing the drinks. We just didn’t know how to walk away once we had been roped in.
We made some excuse about needing to get back to our hotel, and would like to pay up. “would you like to go for dinner later then?” they asked. Nope. We wanted to see what this little adventure had cost us. For a pot of tea, 4 beers, 2 juices, 2 “snacks” (peanuts) and the use of the Karaoke machine (which was never explained to us) the total came to 1400 yuan, about £155…this was over about 30 minutes or so. That would mean mine and Craig’s beers cost us £38.75 each!
Knowing it was a scam thoughts came into my head like, will they lock the door and not let us out, who are they calling every time they got their mobiles out, and will there be 5 guys with baseball bats waiting to ‘escort’ us to an ATM? We got into a slightly heated conversation about how it wasn’t explained that every single item brought through had an extortionate price attached to it. Eventually I started getting up and looking as though I was leaving after explaining this isn’t what we agreed to. We settled on paying 100yuan between us. About 15yuan more than we had originally wanted to pay for the 1 beer, so we were only out of pocket 1 euro or so.
We handed over the cash and hastily made our getaway, noticing the two guys sitting just inside the doorway dressed in all black leathers.
After this scam had happened and we’re luckily talked our way out of a 1400yuan bill, we have been approached again by 3 or 4 more women. Some on their own, some in pairs. All start out with the phrase “where you from?” – a little bit more streetwise we ignored their approaches.
As I write this I feel a bit stupid, it seems so obvious on paper. But when you’re out there, on your second day in a strange country, it’s very easy to get sucked into.
After reading up on the internet, both of these are very common scams, something Craig and I didn’t do any research on. The only reason why we had alarm bells ringing on scam no2 was because of the TV show, The Real Hustle.