Flimflammed in Beijing

Posted By on November 10, 2007

Rich and I are in Beijing, China on a business trip. He’s head of corporate PR for Wyndham Hotel Group. I write about hotels in my daytime life. We’re here to check out Super 8s, Ramadas, Days Inns and Wyndhams in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xiamen. But that isn’t what this is about.

We get to the Days Inn Forbidden City after a 15.5-hour flight, splash some water on our tired faces and meet in the lobby for a brief walk before we’re to go out to dinner with a phalanx of Chinese Wyndham people. We walk into a cool, pop cashmere store where I might return to buy gifts; construction workers—at least 20—stare at us. Then we walk into the Forbidden City area and these girls approach us and strike up a conversation. We fall in with them, they ask would we like to have some tea with them? We agree.

Ten minutes later, we’re in the American Tea House in a private room. I’m sitting next to Mary, Rich next to Angela. Angela is “directing.” We sample eight different teas four ways, complete with explanations and a ton of ritual. We get the bill: 1,245 RMB, or about $167. Expensive for less than two full glasses of tea. I protest; Rich forks over 400 RMB, me 300. The girls seems flustered, maybe caught out; Angela pulls out a credit card and says they’ll cover the rest. She disappears with the “waitress” who served us our exotica. They come back, we leave, they walk us back to our hotel (we are so lost in so foreign a place, it’s not funny) and we wish them luck with their “student” careers. We’ve been flimflammed. It can only go up from here. It’s a souring opening to a stay in an amazing city. More about that soon.


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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff