If there is anyone planning on going to Shanghai, you should beware if you are planning on Mongering.
1. Do not follow someone who are getting in a taxi or private car with someone, or even follow them down the street which you do not know.
2. There are no “special” tea houses.
3. The club they want to bring you to does not have cheaper beer.
4. The Private bar with girls has girls, you may even get sex, even if you didn’t really want it, but, your pocket will also be emptied, by force if needed.
If you are a foreigner you are immediately targeted by many people, women, men, old, middle aged, well dressed, poorly dressed, all varieties. Their sole purpose is to get you to come with them to some place with a promise of something that you may or may not get, but it will not be what you thought. You will be forced to relieve yourself of your money and possibly more.
The following is an example for your reference. The protagonist’s name is John who is one of my friend, “John” is not his real name.
John stepped out of the hotel to go find something to eat. He was immediately confronted with hordes of people asking him if he was looking for a bar, looking for sex or an escort in Shanghai. This was enough to scare him a bit and he returned to the hotel and told me about what happened. I explained to him that it was best tell the Doorman what kind of food he was looking for and call him a taxi. He did so and the Doorman sent him on his way to a shopping and food court area that is quite well know in Shanghai, all seemed fine.
Upon arrival, John stepped out of the taxi and was immediately confronted with hordes of people, once again asking him what he wanted, food, drink, girls, all telling him that they knew of the best places and cheaper prices. John thought about this and remembered what had happened in front of the hotel so he simply pushed his way past everyone and went into the court yard to find a restaurant.
He ate his fairly over priced meal and had a large beer. Being full and slightly intoxicated, he was feeling relaxed and courageous. A person next to him struck up a conversation, “why are you here, do you like Shanghai, what have you done, where have you been, all which eventually lead to this stranger asking if John was looking for sex to which, after having talked to this guy for a bit of time and a few beers later, John said, “Yes”. The guy said he had personal experience with a local bar where there were many girls to choose from, the beer was cheaper then the hotels and sex with a girl was only $600RMB. So off he went with this guy leading John passed all the people trying to get John to go with them in the first place, which, by the way, John is quite sure he saw the equivalent of High 5′s and complaints from others to this guy having snagged a patsy.
The casual conversation continued while John and this guys drove along in the taxi. John started to get concerned because the meter was starting to rack up but the guy told him, “No problem, the taxi is on me”. They continued along, turned a corner and started to slow down near a very nice looking and large bar on a corner but the taxi continued around the other side and let them out. They got out of the taxi and John started to walk back towards the large bar but the guy put his arm around John and lead him across the street to what literally looks like some kind of an entrance into a little shop in the middle of a block of little shops. This made John start to hesitate but the guy literally lead him, with near force, to come inside.
After entering immediately John saw many girls, some very cute, some so-so, sitting in chairs near the entrance, after seeing John, all got up and followed behind John into a small room at the end of a hallway. Inside was an extremely poor version of a Karaoke room. There are two small couches, a TV and a coffee table. John was ushered over to the end couch and the girls lined up in front of him. Mammasan asked him to pick 1 to 3 girls, all the same price and he saw one girl he really had his eye on. So, just 1 girl, the rest left and the two of them began to get to know each other, inside and out.
After a bit, the girl started to press John for how much he will tip. How much will increase the things she will let him do. She suggests $500 and can have 2 pops. John was suggested to pay her $200 tip, pay the joint and go back to his hotel. They girls refuse and said that police/hotel will stop them because that is illegal. John proceed to suggest to go somewhere else, anywhere else so finally the girl got more aggressive, started to undress more and opening up John’s pants. he finally agreed to the $500 and to have sex right there on one of the couches in the room. Even after John complained that he did not feel comfortable there and the girl continually saying it was OK, all through their very short escapade they girl keep telling him to “Hurry, don’t want anyone to know, need to hurry”, which is ironic (explain latter).
Deed is done, far too quick, girl gets up, asks for her tip and says she will go wash up. Immediately the mammasan comes in and says, “Now you must pay $500 to me, my tip”. So John, starting to realize that something odd is going on, says, “What else, will I be asked for more”? To which she replies, “You still need to pay the bar”. John asks, “How much to pay to the bar”? The mammasan says, “I don’t know, that is up to them”. So John insisted to speak to the manager who eventually comes in, hair spiked, lots of tattoos and brass knuckles on one hand, tells John, “Your total bill, besides the tips, will be $6000 RMB.
Of course, there is a lot of arguing back and forth, John refusing, the guy insisting, while another dude stands blocking the door. The “manager”, then says that if John refuses then he can talk to the Big Boss and see if price can be reduced. John says, “Yes”, that guy leaves and then another young guy comes in who claims to be the owners son. This guy then proceeds to explain how what happened is illegal, this kind of money has to be paid to allow this place not to be closed by police, why did John agree to go with a stranger, stranger gave him price but why didn’t he ask the price in the bar when he arrived (he did by the way) and on and on. This banter went on for a long time and it seemed clear to John that he was not going to be let go without either paying up or getting beat up, or worse. So, he called me.
Fortunately I have some experience about these kinds of places. I took a cab there, making sure not to have ID, money, or credit cards on me other than what I needed for a taxi.
I arrived, went in and found John sweating bullets in a room with goons. I went with the “owners son” into another room and listened to his babble about, illegal, cop pay off, can go down the easy way or hard way, $6000 RMB. I told him I needed to speak to John and enlighten him, could I have a moment with him. They let me in the room with John and closed the door with no less than 3 goons standing guard outside. I sat very close to John, making sure to block with my back the camera in the corner, and asked him to give me his wallet. I removed his credit card and all but $2000 RMB from his wallet. Gave it back to him and told him to stay quite. I then called for the owner and told him I had explained everything to John but I needed to use the rest room. I went into the bathroom and carefully hid John’s money and credit cards. I then came out and told the owner, let’s go in and talk to John.
From this moment on, I took control of the conversation and turned every point the “owner” made into a direction I wanted it to go. We don’t want to involve police, do we? We don’t want to have violence, do we? We want everyone to be happy, right? All leading to me telling the owner that John did not have $6000, I had no money and was not afraid to admit that I had done so on purpose, to which I took out my wallet and showed him, “I am not about to go out in the middle of the night in Shanghai with lots of cash and credit cards”. This made him laugh and said I was a smart man. I then explained to him that John also had no credit cards on him as I had told him earlier not to carry them, only enough cash for dinner, some drinks and a little fun. So I told him that John and I agreed that John will relinquish any and all cash he has on him. The owner said, “lets see how much”. He took out his wallet and showed the, actually, $2231 RMB. This obviously did not make this guy happy and he tried to convince us to go back to our hotel and get more. I told him, “you and I both know once we are back to the hotel this is over, you will never see us again”. Lots of complaining, more chastising but finally he agreed and even said John could keep $100 for taxi.
Why did I make it over $2000, well, because I know this will subdue them, and is not that big of a deal for John, he did get 1 pop off anyhow, even if it was rather forced and uncomfortable. He admitted the girl was really hot also, if it was the one he pointed out on our way out, she was. Anyway, the point is, I knew this could be accepted in the end and would provide enough to stop them from taking more action. I actually carried on quite awhile with this kid, talked about where he is from, how he learned English, got into sports, he brought in more beer for us to drink together, for free, made him feel comfortable in the situation and defused all the tension. By the time we were done, he wants to make plans to hook up with me in Shenzhen and go bar hopping. That is not going to happen but the plan worked anyhow.
In Shanghai, this is common practice which happens all the time. Do not trust anyone you do not know. There are 14 million people in Shanghai and there seem to be many more than in other cities that know how to speak English. Unfortunately, they use this to try and make you feel more comfortable and approach you, to rob you blind. This may be the same scenario in other cities for Chinese travelers. Be wary, be afraid, keep up your guard, use common sense.
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