Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I'm trying to learn to write about the good and the bad on this weblog, and also stories. So here's a story about me getting gypped out of RMB 200 (USD 25) the other night in downtown Shanghai.

It was one of those "I should have seen it coming" scenarios. You know, the "It'll never happen to me" kind of thing. It also relates to the "complete faith in another human being" quote I put in my recent entry of Murakami quotes. Some people would call it naïveté, but I maintain that the truly innocent would be given opportunities to show grace that may appear to others as tragedies. This is pretty much how a guy wandered away with my backpack in Beijing three years ago. But on with today's story.

I was walkind down Nanjing Dong Lu late at night, maybe eleven PM, looking for a place to sit down with a drink and read my book. Out of the blue, a young fellow approached me; a little shorter than me and a wee bit thinner, he was Chinese and his story of being a student at the Tourism University and just getting off his internship shift at a local hotel sounded plausible. When I told him where I was going, he offered to take me to a bar that had lots of Chinese students where I could speak English and make some friends. To me, that sounded ideal; a bar with students would surely be a cheap place, and probably open late. I followed him a couple major streets off of Nanjing Dong Lu, Shanghai's symbolic, but far from the best, shopping street. As we walked, we made small talk. Probably, the first warning light should have gone off when he asked me if I like girls or guys, and started to intimate that I would meet some nice girls at the bar. Naturally, I waved off his idea, believing that he was simply joking good-naturedly.

The real internal sirens sounded when we walked into the entryway of Platinum, the bar he was taking me to. Instead of the cozy little student dive I had imagined, the walls of the long entry-hall were decorated in brown plaster with Egyptian hieroglyphics and pharaoh-type symbols inscribed. My companion pointed out the "students", girls standing around in slinky black dresses with high slits, and led me to a table. Film of an American girl-band concert played on a large screen next to the plush couches that wrapped around low tables, each possibly seating a dozen people; except that the place was completely empty! Now I was really uncomfortable, especially when we ordered drinks--an orange juice for me, and a "soft drink" that turned out to be some sort of bright blue liquor--and he suggested that we could choose a couple of girls to accompany us.

I really became alarmed when large bowls of expensive-looking nuts, dried squid, and a plate of watermelon sculpture appeared on our table. Yikes! I just wanted an orange juice. But el colmo was when about eight or nine or the bar girls walked over and stood in front of our table, and my friend asked me to choose a couple. It really was true! I was in the middle of a big scam, and it was stinking to high heaven. At that point, I refused to acknowledge the girls and began to remonstrate to this guy for tricking me into coming here. After about two minutes of "this is not what you made me think when you said students", he told the girls that I was not interested--obviously!--and sent them back to the bar. After I tried to make small talk to a cold shoulder for a few minutes while I finished my orange juice--this sortie was obviously a failure, and the guy wanted out--I told him that this was a blatant misunderstanding, this place was not the kind of bar I expected from his description, and that we should stop taking up each others' time.

At that point, the check arrived: RMB 430, about 50 dollars US. Naturally, I examined the tally. My orange juice had been about four dollars, the "soft drink" about eight, a "seating fee" of 6 dollars per person had been applied to the bill, and the remainder was a charge for the snacks. Since it was clear from the menu (that the bouncer(!!) brought over and the female manager held in her hands as he stood aside) that the snacks were not included in the seating fee, so I began to argue over that technicality, that I was not going to pay for the snacks since I had not ordered them nor touched them since they came. Really, at that point I was just anxious to get out of there with as little damage as possible to my wallet. I kept pressing both my friend and the manager, and finally he relented and offered to pay half the bill. That was fine with me, since I was offering to pay for the drinks and seating fee, a fee I probably should have figured out from the menu. So my friend ended up paying for the snacks, I pulled out my money clip and tossed them all RMB 200 that were in it, stood up, grabbed my book (ahh, a faithful friend!) and walked out with the guy.

After a frigid goodbye, we headed our separate ways.

So if you're out on Nanjing Dong Lu late at night, politely turn down any offers to guide you to a bar.

[msittig] http still down, hrumph [msittig] I'm going to write a weblog post about how I got gypped out of 25 bucks the other night in downtown Shanghai. [msittig] But it could have been worse. [cyclotro] lol [cyclotro] how ? [msittig] one of those "hey, I'll show you a place if you buy me a drink" wher ethey bring you a line-up of girls and charge you an obscene cover charge. [msittig] I got away, mostly. [msittig] they still got 25 bucks out of me... live and learn. [msittig] I consider it "tuitiion" [cyclotro] ah well... no free drinks included in cover charge I suppose? [msittig] one 4 dollar orange juice that was part of the 25 [cyclotro] yea and 25buck is cheap for tuition in this life hehe [msittig] free sna [msittig] snacks, but I didn't eat them, and therefore refused to pay for them (I didn't order them, blah) [msittig] yeah, I suppose :)


At May 12, 2006, 9:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said:


I am from Detroit, Michigan and I was visiting a relative that lives in Shanghai last week.

Me and a friend were propositioned by a guy on Nanjing road to have a drink at "the only place that sells alcohol near the strip."

The name of this place is:


The bar was empty and we were sat at a round booth table.

They brought us a menu in ENGLISH and we ordered two beers. Three girls automatically came out and sat inbetween us.

We immediately became suspicious and started slamming our beers so we could leave.

2 beers = 80 Yen ($8.50)

As soon as we said we wanted to leave, they brought us the bill (IN CHINESE) for: 3,870 Yen! ($456 US Dollars)

The waiter claimed that since we "asked" for the girls, we had to pay for their drinks. Since one glass of whiskey = 75 yen, they would have had to drink 14 glasses of whiskey EACH in 5 minutes to equal this price.

We refused payment and the waiter insisted that we pay him. We didn't even have that much money on us. We started to get very upset until we realized that there were 5 guys standing behind the bar carefully watching us argue.

I was afraid of the police being called who most likely did not speak english. I pulled out my wad of money and threw it on the table and started to push the waiter out of my way. They let us leave.

I gave the waiter 1,050 Yen ($126) and left.

When we got back to our hotel, I noticed that I didn't feel right. I looked at my friend and noticed that his pupils were dilated. I immediately realized - THEY DRUGED US! It was becoming difficult to remember what they looked like and I constantly felt like I was repeating myself.

We woke up our relative and his girlfriend (whom lucky for us spoke mandarin).

She called the police and they came to pick all of us up. The police said Nanjing road was a separate police district and we waited for an hour until for THEM to show up and they never did. The police decided to go out of their way and drive us to the bar and call the local police from there. Still they did not show up.
Three more phone calls and an hour and a half later the police finally showed up. We all rushed into the bar and the owner was standing there with my money in his hand.

It became very clear to us;

It took the police 2.5 hours to respond to our phone call?

The bar owner knew we were coming?


I will be writing a letter to the U.S. embassy and consulate in Shanghai.

I just wanted to confirm that this bar is still scamming tourists and add that they ARE DOING IT WITH THE HELP OF THE LOCAL POLICE!



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