How Airlines Decide Where to Fly, and Falling for the Chinese Tea Ceremony Scam

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. it’s not about falling for the “chinese” tea ceremony scam, but the notion of a tea ceremony is already a scam.

    A ceremony should be about something that is worthy to be ceremonious, or that taking the extra time would improve the final product. Creating a flower display needs time to take through the pieces and how it fits, so the extra time is needed. You need time to simmer some food dishes. Your hairdresser needs time if you’re asking for a complex cut you can’t get at SuperCuts.

    Even a mixologist’s action of grinding mint leaves improve the taste versus just throwing the leaves in. Does making tea so slowly actually improve the taste of the tea ?

  2. @ Gary — We have actually fallen for this scam. It is one of our greatest travel memories ever. The bill presented was $200, but we paid only 200 RMB (or about $27 in 2008) after negotiating. My husband insisted that all he had was 200 RMB, and once they agreed to the payment, he pulled out a roll of about 3,000 RMB and counted out the 200 for them bill-by-bill. Priceless.

  3. The Chinese Tea Ceremony Scam is almost as old as the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge. The TripAdvisor Shanghai Forum has been warning of it for well over a decade on its front page. There are many other scams of the same ilk.

    The only universal advice we can give is: “Never follow any stranger anywhere.” If you must “trust” someone, ask for their country ID (which they must carry) and take a picture of it.

  4. @SoBoSparky — Yeah, I NEVER let anyone distract me from my plan anymore. That applies everywhere, including at home. I especially hate going down the street to buy a gallon of milk and being harassed by homeless people. I did not go to the store to be harassed by homeless people…

  5. @Gene
    I agree. The homeless will take care of themselves. Or maybe AOC will, (with other people’s money, of course).

  6. On my first trip to shanghai i was approached three times in an hour with this tea house scam. Really surprised the Chinese government doesn’t crack down on this garbage. Guess they are too busy oppressing free speech advocates instead.

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