Customer Complaint Reveals Common Karaoke Bar Scam in China

Customer Complaint Reveals Common Karaoke Bar Scam in China
Apr 21, 2010 Translated by

On April 17th, administrators with the municipal Department of Industry and Commerce decided to check up on a consumer complaint about a karaoke bar in Dongxi Lake district of Wuhan. A customer had called in complaints about consuming only 598 RMB worth of food in a karaoke box but had wound up having to pay 2,200 RMB in total bills at the end.

Mr. Zheng, a manager with a car retail company in Wuhan city had decided to treat four clients to a karaoke night on April 10th at Gecheng KTV (karaoke) bar located in Dongxi Lake district. They had been shown to a karaoke box with the requirements that customers must spend up to 1,480 RMB and more for occupation of the box. Zheng and his guests had then ordered a bottle of red wine (298 yuan), a fruit plate (100 yuan), and other miscellaneous drinks – with the total coming to 598 yuan. When Zheng had finished and had asked for the bill, he was told that they still haven't consumed up to that bottom line listed price of 1,480 yuan and are still some 800 RMB off; Zheng then requested that they perhaps take a few packs of cigarettes to make up for the difference but was told that cigarettes can't be charged toward the required bottom line price.

Zheng then asked to pay the bill anyway and was told that he needs to pay 2,200 RMB in total. As he did not want to look “bad” in front of his VIP guests, Zheng paid the amount as told. But once back in his office, Zheng felt furious as he knew that he had been ripped off and had then proceeded to make complaints to the city Department of Industry and Commerce.

On April 17th, Zheng came with law enforcement officials to check out his complaint with the karaoke bar. They were shown receipts detailing the foods that had been consumed that night. The receipt showed that aside from the 598 yuan that Zheng and his party had actually consumed, there was another bottle of martini (1,200 yuan), twenty cans of beer (400 yuan) tagged on to the total bill. Zheng insisted that he had not ordered any of the items worth 1,600 yuan on the bill and law enforcement officials then checked out the problem with karaoke bar manager Ms. Liu. The waiter that had tended to Zheng and his party that night was brought in for questions and had confirmed that Zheng did not order the martini and the beer.

Ms. Liu then proceeded to explain that their bar has received many well-to-do customers like Mr. Zheng and like Zheng many of them had come to entertain their VIP guests for the evening; and because these well-off customers don't want to look “bad” in front of their guests, many of them end up paying the bill as told. Usually, the lead waiter responsible for a particular karaoke box would then use the money that the customers had failed to spend in according with the bottom line prices to buy liquor – which then ends up as extra tip/commission in their pockets. If the customers would want to take the liquor bought with the extra expenses with them, they can also choose to do so; but many customers do not want to appear like a “cheapskate”, so they rarely make the request. She also added that many upscale and high-end karaoke bars operate under these “unspoken rules”.

Law enforcement officials ruled that shop owners ordering a certain bottom line price of consumption is a direct violation of consumers' right to choice and that using money that consumers had not chosen to spend to buy products for extra commission constitutes fraud. Owner and staff member of the karaoke bar were then ordered to apologize to Mr. Zheng and return the 1,600 yuan they had tagged on his total bill. Officials also ordered the management of the karaoke bar to compensate Mr. Zheng 400 RMB for taking his time off work to sort the incident out, and the establishment was handed a warning slip notifying that they must make changes in their operations or face punishment.



Related links:

13 Common Scams and How to Avoid Them
Common Scams in China (Pt. 3): The Tea Scam
Common Scams in China (Pt. 2): Airport Taxis

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KTV scam in Beijing. It's aimed specifically at tourist who aren't on guard. It happened to me my first night. No good looking girls, no great drinks. Just a really dingy looking bar. Some average looking "students" asked me to join them in one of the rooms. Nothing about this dump was fancy or expensive except the room charge and the so called "french wine" which was fake. I argued the $1000 bill for 1 hour and 4 drinks only to be met by 4 bar tenders who blocked the door. I stood my ground and they let me leave by paying only half the bill without a real fight or arrest. The reason it's a scam is because the place was a dump. The bathroom was outside around the corner with sign reading "pee only" The rooms were terrible, no good looking girls, etc.

I've been to great clubs in Vegas, Hollywood, and Tokyo and have happily paid the bottle service charge which is more like $300 for a nice swanky place that you stand in line for to be seen, etc.

This was not that place. I'm sure there are good clubs that have legitimate bottle / room charges in China. Just beware of the seemingly ordinary, normal, even dumpy looking places that want to rip you off. My advice would be to negotiate the price of the room and the drinks before you ever step in the place. We do this in Hollywood all the time and it works fine, you get what you pay for and there is no misunderstanding at the end of the night.


Oct 20, 2012 07:59 Report Abuse



Some sensible comments here, but still.

Guys. It is a fundamental rule of thumb that good-looking sex-hungry girls do NOT work in bars as hostesses or waitresses.

If you are expecting to go into a bar, drink cheap, good beer and have a multitude of gorgeous, horny babes just drooling for your attention, then you deserve everything you get.

None of this is new, this happens all over the world. Foreigners in every country get ripped off, some worse than others, and each country has it's own way of doing it. Lots of western guys like the look of Asian girls and they know this. So they use it.

Don't blame the scammers, blame your own stupidity for believing in this blatant bullshit.

Feb 07, 2012 19:22 Report Abuse


Lobsang Palden

very kind happly

Aug 07, 2011 22:15 Report Abuse



When it comes to crooks, you have to do the same you would anywheres. Bring a means of defending yourself against those who try to use force or numbers to steal from you.

Jun 28, 2011 15:48 Report Abuse



It is easy for newbies to China to get scammed. After you have been in a city for a while you learn where the legitimate and non-legitimate KTV is. In some places it is even free ( at some cafes and restauraunts ) and you pay nothing ( as long as you buy 15 ot 20 rmb in food or drink )

NEVER go to one of these places alone. Go with your students or some Chinese teachers, especially if you are new to China.

Jun 27, 2011 18:54 Report Abuse


Ng Hen Hoong

My first visit to one of the Beijing KTV to have some drinks was a nightmare..After some drinks,about 10 wine glasses of liquer,4 small bottles of Tsingtao and 2 plates of tits bids.The bill come to a whopping 8 thousands Rmb. The one lady fees who keep me company and the mummy fee does not include in the bill. Can someone advice me where shall I lodge the complaint

Jun 27, 2011 03:23 Report Abuse



8,000 yuan?
That's what happens when you bid for tits my friend.

Jun 28, 2011 22:29 Report Abuse



Some of these KTV's can be extremely dangerous places. You can usually spot the signs of dodgy establishments... no customers, an urgency to get you sat down and locked into one of these small rooms. Me and a friend were directed by a taxi driver in Hangzhou to a KTV in the Hangzhou train station... and oddly the taxi driver escorted us up to the KTV on the 4th floor ( possibly so that he could be identified and collect his fee for bringing naive foreigners to this KTV)
Same story, before we'd even sat down, beer, drinks and several scanky and over friendly girls joined us. We tried to leave immediately but were surrounded by very intimidating bad ass looking dudes. We ended up with a 2300 bill!! Sure we were conned and had feelings of extreme anger and hate. Yet there was little we could do. The consequences of not paying that bill would have meant either a very bad beating or in the extreme case we could have been killed. Complaining to the Hangzhou police was of no use as they are intricately connected to the gangs which operate these KTV's. We were so angry we could have returned and burnt the place to the ground that evening, but sensibility got the better of me and we took this as an expensive lesson. Keep your head on your shoulders at all times.

Mar 24, 2011 22:07 Report Abuse



Rule of Thumb#1: Any place selling girls for sex or company is going to be dodgy.

May 24, 2017 18:19 Report Abuse



told that cigarettes can't be charged toward the required bottom line price. READ AGAIN, IDIOT!!

Jun 02, 2010 21:04 Report Abuse



The cigarettes aren't the issue. The mysterious bottle of Martini and 20 cans of beer that were "tagged on" the bill seem to be the point of contention.
In my view, it was a scam.
In the view of law enforcement, it was fraud and a violation of consumers right of choice.
My life is now complete.

Apr 29, 2012 19:08 Report Abuse



RMB 2200 consists of RMB 1480 minimum charge plus cigarette of RM 720

Jun 02, 2010 20:59 Report Abuse



You dolt! They charged for other things not ordered and not consumed. And the LAW saw it as fraud. Hey, how about you come to my joint and I charge you for stuff you did not order? Let's see how you'll like it then.

Mar 21, 2011 01:37 Report Abuse



A few years ago on my first time in China my friend and I wanted a drink at a bar. Little did we know that the "Cocktails " sign did not mean it was a bar and we had no clue what a KTV was. We asked the lady for a Jack and Coke at the bar but looking around we saw no bar and we were ushered into a 5x5m room with a big screen and a coffee table. All of a sudden a half gallon of Jack Daniels was opened and a giant fruit platter appeared on the table ,before my friend and I could discuss what was happening in comes 12 stunning beauties ,now it was hard to not look but one that caught my eye soon sat down with me after just eye contact. We then said hey whoa we just wanted a drink at the bar and how much for a Jack Coke ? 1300 they said so we said just give us a couple beers and we will be on our way. So we end up getting 2-12 ounce buds(wisers) and 4 glasses so we didnt even get a good drink. We then proceeded to get up and leave and we were presented an outrageous bill, 600 for the room 1300 for the 1/2 gallon 300 each for 2 girls 100 for the fruit and 80 for 2 beers total 2680 rmb for not even a half glass of beer. I looked at the bill and saw the beer was 80 gave them a 100 rmb note and headed for the elevator where we were confronted by about 20 people some with walki talkis.,they blocked 1 elevator and just as soon as we were gonna get clobbered the other elevator opened and we held off several security guys until the doors closed ,we were on the 5th floor. When we got to the bottom some more security dudes saw us and they had walkis so they start chasing us, . We outran them thanks to a crowded street and a well placed bus. Several blocks later we stopped running and I noticed quite a few policemen headed in that direction,one cop spotted my blond hair and made a u-turn bee line right for us but he got cut off and we got a cab to take us way out of shenzhen quickly. I hate to think what would have happened to us if we had got caight.

May 31, 2010 13:08 Report Abuse



I suggest you read the article again. The cover charge was RMB1480, goods less than that value were consumed/purchased. But the bill was RMB2200. A prosecution followed and so the law considers there was indeed a scam. Again I suggest you read articles in full before going off half cocked.

May 31, 2010 01:34 Report Abuse



It is not a scam. In the west, when it is clearly stated that the minimum cost is RMB1480, one has to pay RMB1480 even if one did not make any selections or drink anything. Similarly, department store sales rules may state that cosmetics, fragrances, etc do not qualify for the 40% discount, etc. Rules are rules!

May 30, 2010 07:59 Report Abuse



You need to read the article again.

Mar 21, 2011 01:31 Report Abuse