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&¬e_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.
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:
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.
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!::