Friday, 15 June 2012

China holiday trip SCAMS!!! #*($&(#

Although I have not really been actively blogging here, but most of my friends in Facebook should know by now about the recent scam I encountered during my family trip last week. YES. CHINA! URGH! I just feel so infuriated just thinking about it.

 PLEASE READ MY STORY BELOW (extracted from my FB). IT MAY BE LONG, BUT YOU WON'T REGRET IT.




ORIGINAL NOTE POSTED HERE: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=10150978815831252





PLEASE READ AND SHARE IF YOU ARE INTENDING TO TRAVEL TO CHINA FOR A HOLIDAY TRIP. This post may help you if you are heading there with a tour agency. It may be a long post, but you won't regret it because IT CONCERNS YOUR HEALTH AND POTENTIAL RISKS!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Disclaimer: I have no means to offend anyone who is a citizen of China. What you read below are some of my REAL personal encounters during my 10-day trip in Shanghai and Beijing. I'm just sharing the truth out there to prevent us Singaporeans from falling prey to those scam artists in China!CHINA IS NOT A SIMPLE PLACE.


1) Do NOT trust anyone easily, even if its YOUR tour guide.
Our family signed up with a reputable tour agency (I shall not disclose the name for confidential purposes) for a 10-day trip to Shanghai and Beijing. It was only a small tour group of 9 people, and we got along very well.
I believe many of you who had signed with tour agencies before will know that it is inevitable that you will be brought to places that YOU do not wish to go, such as stores that sell silk, jewelleries. Always remember that those are the places that your beloved tour guide will earn your commission from for your purchases.

During our trip to Shanghai, we were brought to this specific "Traditional Chinese Medicine" company called "同仁科技" (Tong Ren Ke Ji) that offered a FREE  foot massage. It was NOT up to us to accept or decline since it was part of the "tour".(The thing with tour agencies is like this. They often leave you with no choice.)
We were brought to one of the professional-looking rooms with large comfy chairs, and asked to sit while their assistants prepared their "specialized" water for our foot massage. (THE WATER WAS SO FREAKING HOT! Even my mum commented that a raw egg could become a boiled one if we were to throw one inside.)

Not soon after, a tall man with spectacles walked into the room and greeted us. He claimed that he is the "director" of the company, and added that it was only recently that he "open" his company for tourists, unlike the past when he only dealt with affiliates.
After his speech, a row of 9 different assistants marched in and started the foot massage session. At the very same time, there were men in white SUITS that resemble a doctor's came in and greeted us. They took and tested our pulses, and went on to blabber on about the health conditions of my family and other tour mates.
The "doctor" that was assigned to my family prescribed a medication for my mum, claiming that she had not been sleeping well. To cut the long story short, my mum believed and she purchased a bottle of their medicine that is supposed to "improve her condition". The SMALL bottle of medicine cost SGD 174, and ITS A FAKE BOTTLE OF MEDICINE. (Please read on to find out. I am not making assumptions)
Two of my other tour mates - a couple - bought SGD 3000 worth of medicine. It was a shocking amount and I just felt something was not right. My tour mate claimed that the doctor had told him that he had "kidney issues" and needed the medication.
At the very same night when I got back to the hotel, I decided to log online and do some research on the company AND the medicine. (Damn, I didn't sleep a wink just to do a whole night of research!)
I requested my mum to hand me the bottle of her medcine that she purchased. There was a seal on the packaging that even has a serial number on it. Looks legit, right? BUT always remember, ANYTHING is possible in China.
I discovered that there was a WEBSITE indicated on the seal, and even ENGRAVED on the bottle cap. It was (www.tongrentang.cc)

My suspicions grew and my heart was throbbing. From what I know, a PROPER ESTABLISHED company wouldn't use a FREE .cc domain. Upon more research, I discovered that the website has already expired  on 12th April 2012!  As I found out more, I realized too that it was supposed to be a COPY of the real deal, www.tongrentang.com ! It is completely a case of mislead.
The real TONG REN TANG (同仁堂) has a long TCM history dated back to the old dynasty period, and has quite a good reputation for hundreds of years. BUT the one we went to was completely NOT them.

GUESS WHAT?

THE OFFICIAL REAL WEBSITE HAS DECLARED THAT WWW.TONGRENTANG.CC IS ILLEGAL, AND THEY ARE IN NO WAY CONNECTED WITH THE COMPANY!
For those who are able to read chinese, you can see the official declaration for yourself (www.tongrentang.cc is located at the 5th row on the list): It's basically a list of blacklisted companies/websites:
http://www.tongrentang.com/news/view_news.php?id=2527



I quickly informed my tour mates who had paid SGD 3000 about it the next morning and they confronted the tour guide, whom of course DENIED it. Eventually, the guide still took their bag of medicine back and assisted them with the refund. I BELIEVE HE KNEW ALL ALONG.

AND...THIS IS NOT THE END!

TO OUR HORROR, WE FOUND OUT THAT THEY ACTUALLY MIXED CHINA CURRENCY WITH VIETNAM CURRENCY AS A CHANGE FOR MY MUM WHEN SHE PAID FOR THEIR MEDICINE.We were blind enough not to have noticed it until we left Shanghai to Beijing. A few of the people in China verified that the Vietnam currency received was worthless and it was only SGD 0.40 cents when converted to SING dollars!
We were completely appalled.

I am determined to lodge a complaint against this issue and seeking a refund. I just felt that this is NOT right. Firstly, they mislead us into thinking that they are connected to the official TONG REN TANG. Secondly, they cheated my mum by using Vietnam currency that are only worth $0.40.

The BOGUS company has since set up another website, at : www.tongrenkeji.com.
EVEN THE LINKS ON THEIR WEBSITE lead back to "www.tongrentang.cc", and NOT the official .comwebsite!
PLEASE REMEMBER, THIS WEBSITE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH www.tongrentang.com, it is supposed to MISLEAD you into thinking they are affiliates because the real deal has a good reputation and they are just USING their name to sell their medicine!

I AM WRITING THIS BECAUSE I DON'T WISH FOR ANYONE TO BE SCAMMED IN FUTURE. If you are travelling to Shanghai WITH tour agencies, there is a possibility that you might be brought into this place. THE WHOLE SHOP LOOKS REAL AND LEGIT, BUT NEVER BELIEVE. FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR HEALTH, PLEASE DO NOT PURCHASE PIRATED MEDICINE. SHARE THIS POST WITH YOUR FRIENDS OR ANYONE WHO HAVE PLANS TO TRAVEL TO SHANGHAI IN FUTURE FOR THEIR BENEFIT. We Singaporeans are not stupid to fall prey to their scams!

P/S: I am not sure if the tour agency I signed up with was involved in this scam as well because I realized that the name of this scam company wasn't stated in our ITINERY! They might deny everything, but I am currently gathering all the evidences I could.


2) Never place your trust easily in people you DO not know, NO MATTER how CREDIBLE their company looks. THEY HAVE ONLY ONE MOTIVE - YOUR MONEY. THE WHOLE COMPANY CAN BE A FAKE.

The second SCAM happened in BOTH Shanghai and Beijing. No, my family didn't get scammed this time, but my other tour mates did and I was asked to do a research for them.
As part of our tour, we were brought to a place that sells JADE. There was a pretty young lady who greeted and served us while she led us around the place. It was beautiful.
We were then led to a room and she started preparing different "jades" for her presentation. It was then that a middle-aged guy (in his late 30's/ early 40s') *COINCIDENTALLY* came in and looked at a piece of jade at a corner.
The lady suddenly stopped and told us that the guy is known as a "lao shi (老师)", as he claimed that he was an educator and even worked in Singapore as chinese lecturer in one of our Universities.
She invited him to sit down and had a chat session with us, which he did. He told us stories about his life, and introduced himself as the "brother" of the boss of the company. He gained our trust slowly by giving us the impression that he was forced into the jade business, and that he was just reluctantly helping his dad to sell off his stuff. (He claimed he has no interest in jades) He went on to talk about other misc. stuff and even shared touching stories about filial piety that made my tour mates CRY. Trust me, his act was so freaking CONVINCING that he even sounded as though he was almost on the verge of tears!

And next... Guess what?

He suddenly made a change in topic and told us that there was supposed to be an event in Hong Kong where the jades in his company would go on display. He said he wanted to show us.

Turning to one of the salesladies near him, he said, "Bring me the sets of jades that are for H.K display please!"

As such, he soon told everyone that he was willing to give 90% OFF the jades, just for us! The sales lady beside him (pretended) to be worried and told him " But the prices..." Even the salespeople acted alongside with him and gave unhappy faces as though they were offended.
He cut her off, and said "Not to worry. They are all my friends. I'll  absorb part of the money and be responsible for everything , OK?"
There were times when the saleslady pretended to keep back the boxes of jades and he gave her a stern look.
"Can you please WAIT? Let them see first then keep, OK?!"

He told us that we could purchase those jades back and that we were only allowed "one set each", not more than that.

Of course, anyone who witness this sight would think that he is someone who can be a friend.
NOT.
One of my tour mates purchased a jade from him for SGD 2000. The price tag was initially 10x much higher. She thought she snagged a good deal, but... ...

I managed to expose the scam through the research of different personal encounters by other tour groups. MANY of them had the same encounters! The sequence and everything that happened were almost the same, with a guy suddenly entering the room and sharing their life stories. They will claim that it was "fate" to have bumped into your tour group and attempt to sell you their stuff at discounted prices. They can even give you a discount of $4000- $5000 off! I AM TALKING ABOUT SINGAPORE DOLLARS HERE. HOW CAN IT BE POSSIBLE?

(THE SAME BUSINESS TACTIC WAS USED IN BEIJING TOO, WITH A GUY CLAIMING TO BE THE BOSS COMING INTO THE ROOM "SUDDENLY", and EVEN GAVE EACH OF US A CHEAPO JADE NECKLACE AS A GIFT TO GAIN OUR TRUST. He then went on to convince you that his main motive was not to promote or talk about his business with you, etc... ... The stories are always changing, with the same scam artist using different identities to scam unsuspecting tour groups!)

PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THIS COMPANY'S NAME. "上海天脉博览艺术中心". It would be best if you are travelling with a friend who is able to read chinese. BEING ABLE TO READ CHINESE IS CRUCIAL IN CHINA! They are often misleading you with the same name and tricking you into thinking they are OR connected to the real deal.

IF IN DOUBT, ALWAYS DO RESEARCH USING GOOGLE OR BAIDU.COM. You will be surprised at the results you can find because many other tour groups share the same encounters as well!

:: If you are a victim of such encounters, do feel free to share them with me as well. We can't let them continue resorting to such dishonest acts!::


40 comments:

  1. Hi
    Did you manage to get back the money?

    JL

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi JL,

    I'll have to wait till August to find out if I can get it back. My tour mates had already gotten back theirs, so I am keeping my fingers crossed! >_<

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,
    Can tel me how you can complain? Me and my mum experienced a same incident in shanghai ( jade shop). we follow dynasty travel package, my mum purchased ard $2K jade bangle
    Btw my name is silvia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Silvia,

      Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear that you experienced the same thing as well. Those con men are indeed cunning!
      You may consider lodging the complaint to your tour agency. I tried my luck complaining to mine as well,and they promised to help me as much as they can. Two tour mates of ours managed to get back their money (around $3K!) There's nothing much we can do when we are back in Singapore except to go down to the agency's place and tell them about it. (They will be willing to help you for reputation's sake!)

      I do hope and pray hard that your mum will be able to get back her money successfully! Would love to hear from you again!

      Delete
    2. Hi,

      I ll try my luck. Will update you if i manage to get the refund.

      Delete
    3. Well my tour agency did help us but want us to send the bangle to china ourselves and refund back once they recv the bangle. But i m not going to do it since it is risky.

      Delete
    4. Hi, I received your reply regarding the update! (but somehow your comment didn't show up here, not sure if you have deleted it.) Anyway, I do agree with you that it is a risk to send the jade back to China yourselves. (I highly doubt they will refund after returning it!)
      Your agency shouldn't have pushed it to handle it yourselves, its such a shirk of responsibility! But since they aren't willing to help with the transaction, then I guess there's nothing much that can be done too. :( My agency hasn't gotten back to me as well as promised (its already September). I guess we just have to treat this as a lesson learned! :(

      Delete
  4. Hi babe! My friends and I just returned from our Shanghai trip and we were scammed (jade scam) the exact way as you.

    You mentioned that two of your group members managed to get back the their money. How did they do it?

    My group members are facing many problems in retrieving the money.

    Hope to hear from you soon! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charmaine!

      Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear about your experience during your Shanghai trip too. It's really a shame that this scam is still circulating around in China despite being exposed by many.

      Two of my group members actually got back their money by confronting our China tour guide BEFORE departure. We believe he had a part to play in this. (I actually found out about the scam the night before and told them about it the next day, and it was still not too late for them to confront the guide.)
      The tour guide was reluctant at first, but finally promised to help them settle the issue (Guilty, I guess?) and they kept in touch even when they came back to Singapore. For the sake of the agency's reputation, the money was eventually returned and credited to their original bank account. They were probably the few lucky ones.

      I suggest the only way is to confront the local agency that you registered the tour with. If possible, you can try printing and showing them the evidence you find online to support your claims. It will surely not be easy in retrieving the money once we are back in Singapore, but you can still try!

      Best of luck and do feel free to keep me updated of how things turn out on your side soon!!

      Delete
  5. Yea. My agency actually just ignore my email afte tat. I actually posted a feedback in their facebook webpage to warn others but they keep on deleting my comment.
    I also wondering why my comment doesnt show up

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How irresponsible of the agency! It sure sounds suspicious from the way they behaved. I am sure they know about the scam, if not they wouldn't try to hide the truth from others by preventing you from posting.
      If it were me, I would try to threaten them with an attempt to take legal actions. Do spread around to warn others against them. They probably don't need their reputation anymore anyway! Lol.

      Delete
    2. I m so angry with them. On the top of deleting my comment. They even block my id from posting in their fb page. I created new fb acct to post now. Such a shame how irresponsible is this so call reputable travel agency

      Delete
  6. The problem is with the local travel agencies in China and would probably explain why tours to China is cheap. Some travel agencies charged premium for China tours but there are no additional tours or shopping stops.

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  7. Hi guys,

    Guess, what, I got scammed in Shanghai, just two days ago on Dec 28th, at both the Jade store and the Chinese Medicine store. Luckily, I can speak Chinese. I called the Chinese local contact person, she told me to send the merchandise back to her agency, and she would handle from there. I also called my credit card company to dispute the transactions. My credit card company said as long as the transactions are within 60 days, they could get the money back. SG, After reading your blog, I realized the local Chinese agency must have handled similar complaints before. It is amazing that the contact person with whom I have spoken to, acted like she had never heard of such thing. Thank you for taking the time to write the blog. It had confirmed my suspicions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, may i know did u manage to claim back the amount that you havr paid? Thanks.

      Delete
  8. Hi

    Oh my god, thanks to your blog i found out the truth about these shops i went in Shanghai from 4-5 Jan 2013.
    I was on a "free tour to Shanghai" and 2/3 of the times they brought us to scam shops where the exact same story happened " especially the part where the "Boss" appeared at one corner then joined to chat with us. After hearing his bullshit stories we offered to take a picture with him but was declined. Similar plot, he gave us 90% and allowed only to purchase 1 set. Best part he said he only comes to the shop 4 times a year and dont really like Shanghai.

    He claimed to be closed to our officials but i didnt see any evidence at all. After all these loopholes sadly there were still people from my tour group got conned around 8888 RMB! Best part my tour guide pretended not to know anything and even scolded us for spending so much time at the Jade Shop. "She only appeared after all the transactions were done" where we spent 1 and half hours there when it was supposed to be only 45 mins.

    The TCM shop i believed is the same shop. The exact scenario appeared as you mentioned but luckily none of us bought anything.

    To add in, we were brought in to this tea leave shop to drink traditional Chinese tea. Before sampling, they told us they just want to promote their culture and no hard selling. But after all the sampling, they starting selling the products as it was a healthy drink, all of us bought something "to the amount we required" yet they keep insisting to buy more. When we refused to purchase more, the main saleslady even begged us to help them as they failed to hit their sales quota and they will not be able to return to their homeland. "Best part, when all these drama started, my tour guide was nowhere near us. I managed to sneaked out of the sales room to find my tour guide but only managed to find the intern tour guide that was attached to us during the tour and told him to bring us out. He told me he will go and check with our tour guide. From there i spotted her in another room drinking tea."

    The question is, my group are planning to lodge an official complaint of these cases and i did not enjoy this "free Shanghai tour" at all. It was a complementary tour from my Korea trip.

    What are the responses we will get from the Tour agency pertaining to the incidents happened at Shanghai?

    Sorry for the super long post. Was kind of fuming when i am typing this.

    DL

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    Replies
    1. Hi DL,

      Thanks for dropping by my blog and sharing your experience with us! Gosh, it sure was an unpleasant trip from the way you described it - and its infuriating that they are still using the same tactic to trick tourists like us!
      Yes, it is advisable to lodge a complaint regarding this issue - just as I did when I decided to go back to the tour agency to seek refund. Honestly, I had felt that chances were slim as it was possible that the tour agency may not take responsibility for the refunds. Fortunately, the manager of agency came out to resolve the issue and helped us to write a statement while he collected the medicine from us back. He told us that there was no promises that there would be a 100% money-return guarantee, but he would try his best to help us. We waited for more than 2-3 months and finally, we got a reply from the agency informing us that the refund was successful, but it was only a 85% money-return. (Meaning that we did not get back the full amount. But it was certainly good enough for us because there was NO way that we would consume the medicine now that we knew it was a bogus!)

      I guess it has to depend on the tour agency you signed up the package with. I have heard of tour agencies - probably those with low or no reputation - who don't usually take responsibility. The one I went to was quite reputable, so I guess they have to do it for the sake of maintaining their reputation.
      Still, I strongly suggest that you can go back to the tour agency (best is together with your tour mates) and let them know the series of incidents that happened. It doesn't hurt to try ; afterall all of you had wasted so much time and money to go through all these undeserving shit. It's right that they should at least listen and assist you guys with the issues.

      I hope that everything will go well for you and your tour mates after seeking the tour agency! Do feel free to update us how it turns out. :)

      Delete
  9. These scam tactics were used for many many years already...in 2009 when I was a tourist to Shanghai, our local tour company in Malaysia, Globalite Travel, brings us to some Medicine Institute for 'check-ups' and everyone seems to have at least a liver problems, medicine were sold from few hundreds to thousands, and I see pity old peoples get cheated

    The Jade 'your lucky day offer' trick were common in China, and usually the 'boss' (i think he is just another worker pretending) or 'sifu' (very very lucky to meet him, in fact it was actually your bad luck to see him) would offer one time huge 90% discount because it is your luckiest day, and then they sell you useless rocks

    We should unite and take legal action against local tour agencies who are part of the scam for long long time, please don't tell me they are innocent

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. local tour agencies = your own agencies in your country (they are crooks)

      Delete
  10. I was one of the victims of such scams as well when I go for a Jiangnan Tour organised by a local tour agency with my wife about 5 years ago. Stupidly, I bought a few bottles home. Maybe I was too happy that I totally forget about the importance of credibility. When I reached back to Singapore, I continue taking the Chinese medication that they prescribed. They also told me about some kidney problem etc...

    Then one day, I don't know what comes over me, I suddenly realized that these medicines are made in China and did not go through our Health Science Authority (HSA). I decided to threw away all the medicines as I do not know what would happen to me if I continue with the medicines. Although during the short time that I took the medicines, nothing happens to me but you would never know what is the long term consequences of taking such medicines which are not approved by the Singapore's Authority.

    From that day onward, I decided not to go to other countries via tour agencies. They are more interested in earning the commission than the welfare of their tourists. Free and Easy is the way that I would go in the future if language is not a barrier.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi, i think i've got scammed too!!! I just came back from my tour which included the free 3 days Shanghai tour, and my case is similar to what happened to you guys! So regret that i didn't stop my parents from purchasing the medicine!!!!! We ended up spending SGD1k plus at the tong ren tang and SGD190 plus at the jade store!!! I'm so troubled now! Please advice what should i do!!! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Heya! I think I encountered the same experience as you did while touring in Beijing. I didn't know I just encountered a scam until I read your experience!
    The tour did bring us to the same medical hall that you did,and they gave me whole family each a 'health analysis'. Then proceeded to prescribe some medication that is said to be helpful to health conditions like my brother and his white hair. It's a good thing we didn't buy those costly medicine and I spent about SGD$200+ at the jade shop after a supposedly $1000 plus discount! I think it wasn't too bad because I got it checked out in Singapore and they said it's about this price as well,so it's not too bad I guess.

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  13. Thank you for highlighting this...hope others will beware. I visited Beijing, Xian and a few other places donkey years ago before China started making fake food and using gutter oil.

    I doubt I will ever find a reason to revisit China again.

    Hope you get your money back.

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  14. We just got back from China tour and realised we got cheated of SGDd4000 at a jade factory in Nanjing. :(wonder if our agency will be willing to help us though they had already reminded us not to purchase any jade accessories.

    Same tactic was used - "Not to worry. They are all my friends. I'll absorb part of the money and be responsible for everything , OK?"

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  15. after reading these, i have realised i have been jade scammed! arrrggghhh.... i was uncomfortable initially while in Chengdu. I love jade, we didnt have much time there and the act was exactly as narrated in so many of these blogs sharing their experience. We havent been to china for a while now, we knew about the TCM scams...We went with Dynasty as well, spoke to my tour leader, she is dissuading me....What do i do? Demand or suck the SGD8K up

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  16. I just came back from Beijing and was scammed of RMB 5,000 for a set of 12 zodiac pendents set at Beijing FTYA and RMB 1,000 for TCM medicine at International Department for Beijing Tibetan Hospital. How can I get the refund ?
    P/s I should have check the net before the trip.

    ReplyDelete
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  19. Oh my god! I just realized my family and I have been scammed by the jade shop that our tour guide brought us. The shop name is called Dibao. We have been scammed by over 4000 sgd. I am so so that I did not managed to read your blog before I went for the trip. How can I get my money back?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Li Whee,
      did u manage to get back your money???

      Delete
  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. We just came back from korea and shanghai trip organise by CS tour agency
    We when to shanghai jade shop
    Same senario happen there
    We bought $3100 of stuff inclued 12 pcs of zodiac jade pedant and a bangle
    We didnt read your blog until today we found out that we r scam.
    How can we get our money back
    Please advised

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. Hi Jimmy,
    We also got scam from Shanghai jade shop abt RMB38,200 on 21 May 2014 and managed to get back all the refunds through Travel Agency's help these few days, so pls contact ur agency asap personally to seek help... Anything u wan to know can contact me by veronleecy@hotmail.com

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  24. I just return from chengdu thru Dynasty Travel. Same Jade Con Artist. I spend over 12,000SGD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have informed Dynasty & seek CASE advise. Anyone can offer more advise?

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  25. Hi, just curious. How did you know it is fake ? I also bought a jade pendant cost RMB1600 from Tianmai Jadeite. The shop gave a certificate of precious stone identification from Peking University. Just wonder how to verify it is real or fake.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Johnny,
    Don't trust those so called "certificate"... it can printed by anyone who claim theirs is genuine...
    We also got certificate but it turned out juz cheap stones, not jades... :(
    We went to Chinatown a few renowned goldsmith shops to verify... why not u pay a visit there & check ur jade pendant?

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    ReplyDelete
  28. Sigh... I came back from Shanghai 2 weeks ago. I spent few thousand SGD on stuffs fron all the shops. The medicine, jade and tea shop. Unfortunately i have realised now that i have been cheated and conned. I regret not reading and finding out the scam before my trip. PLEASE never ever buy anything from the shop just becos your tour guide brings you there. Learn your lesson from my bitter and costly experience!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I just returned from Chengdu from dynasty travel... also got con few thousand in a jade store...DonTan, did you manage to get back your money? To think your scam incident only happen in june. What is dynasty travel doing??? Their service is bad too. Intending to make a CASE report...

    ReplyDelete