Part two of my unfortunate stories is all about being 骗’d, i.e., pian‘d, cheated, swindled, scammed! Yippeeeeee.
Anyone who isn’t a local is entirely too susceptible to being scammed, and if you’re one who hasn’t been scammed yet, you either already unwittingly have been (just think about it) or you’ve been hiding under a rock—a rock that probably cost you 10x its actual value. I’m 100% sure. Even with a Chinese face like mine.
2 — The Gym
You know, I went into this thinking I was doing it right. Back in September, the first month I officially started settling down, I asked a fellow TV presenter, who, despite being on the chubby side (red flag No. 1), happened to have just signed up for a new gym membership. He offered to accompany me to this place and help me sign up.
So I met him one sweltering afternoon at said gym. Having walked the 30 minutes needed to get there from my former apartment, I was covered in sweat by the time I arrived. Hey, I was signing up for a gym membership. Why take the bus?
At the entrance, one of high school boys, who stand outside for all hours of the day handing out fliers advertising this gym, appeared and directed us to the basement level of this shopping center. Red flag No. 2: Gym in basement; no windows.
We were led to a dark, messy room full of tables for making these membership deals and a treadmill and elliptical for show on the side. Where’s the gym?
At this point, I can’t recall if we were led into this room first or down one more floor to the actual gym, but case in point (red flag No. 3): The entire gym was still under construction, meaning construction workers were literally seen and heard still laying down floors, breaking down walls, whatever they had to do to open this gym…within a week—no joke, it looked like they had just started. And in all likelihood, that was probably true.
The thing is, I couldn’t have escaped from being pian‘d in this situation. Every single person with this gym membership is pian‘d due to how terrible this “gym” is. Even my Chinese coworker—who, for the record, has not been since he signed up—let more than 3,000 yuan flow out of his pocket and into the hands of this gym that was unfinished at the time. It wasn’t until after he helped paid for my one-year membership (my American cards didn’t work) that he told me red flag No. 4: He used to buy gym memberships and never go.
Despite offering to go with him many times, I ended up going alone those first few months. I went often, specifically to take those spin classes, but I didn’t go for all of January and don’t see myself going anymore. Why? Those damn high school boys. In fact, the entire staff is annoying as hell. Even back when I forced myself to ignore them every time I went, I’ve always felt so uncomfortable going, even to go to the Starbucks next door is a hot mission to dodge those boys in neon green shirts. They can have my money. I’m waiting until the weather gets warmer and then running outdoors (in my mask, if necessary). Man, I fucking miss running outdoors, especially around the Charles River.
OH! Mini scam within a scam: While I was running on a treadmill one night, the high school boy who knows I speak English came up to me. Apparently, an old Russian man who knew no Chinese was pulled into the spell of the salesmen and needed to ask some key questions, including whether towels were included (slight sarcasm). I then somehow became his unofficial translator and essentially helped the salesmen convince him into buying a membership. I hate myself for it. What did I get in return, by the way? A bottle of water. LOL I’M SO PATHETIC. I could’ve gotten an extra few months of membership or even a year if I bothered pushing—not that it matters now.
3 — Failed Facial Fuckover, Pt. 1
It always starts off innocently enough. Taikoo Hui is a beautiful high-end shopping mall in Guangzhou’s Tianhe District. It’s also home to Ingrid Millet, a Parisienne beauty brand not unlike Trésor Rare, in that it’s essentially a total scam.
After scrolling through my WeChat history to recall some details and although unfortunately looks like I deleted some of the incriminating evidence of my retelling to my mom, I do remember that I felt like I desperately needed a facial after all the sun exposure from my Southeast Asia trip. So I figured if I were to get a facial, might as well try this one.
As for the actual facial, for only a couple hundred yuan, I absolutely loved it. I bragged to my mom that I had a great conversation in Mandarin to the masseuse about my trip, my boyfriend, and myself. It wasn’t until after the facial that I was THISCLOSE to throwing away tens of thousands of yuan (damn not being able to remember exactly how much, but it was at least a month’s worth of pay), for up to 50 facials. What idiot would buy such a package? THIS IDIOT.
Don’t worry, I titled this FAILED for a reason, because thank God for my American cards not going through. They literally kept swiping nonstop, which made them seem entirely too pathetic and desperate—although I can definitely say the same about myself. Who the fuck needs 50 facials in their lifetime, let alone the year or two I stay here?
The funny thing is, this experience didn’t stop me from having…
4 — Failed Facial Fuckover, Pt. 2
About a month later (why so many damn facials, Sonia), I decided to find another place to get a facial. On a side note, I believe that anyone who finds themselves out of their comfort zone—e.g., foreigners in China—tends to seek something that makes up for that discomfort, whether it’s going to spin classes almost daily just to not feel alone at night, or getting monthly facials.
This time, I was mentally slightly more prepared but still came across as a nervous wreck. I couldn’t stop nervously giggling—a bad habit of mine—and even the staff could tell I was getting fidgety and was entirely too cautious over being pian‘d, as I sat in their office after the facial being told to relax. Relax? I only stayed to not immediately bounce and make them lose face or whatever. But I did need to relax. Those memories from merely a month ago resurfaced, and I knew I couldn’t do this again. Soon, I was off.
This facial wasn’t nearly as nice for a couple reasons. First, whom I assumed was the manager kept walking in and out to check on the masseuse who used weird tools and ointments on my face. They kept asking if the creams burned to prevent allergic reactions. Uh, were they that strong? Their efforts to make it seem like they were careful and to make me feel more at ease did the opposite. Second, I didn’t show off my elementary Mandarin skills nearly as well. Third, the months that followed my skin got worse, i.e., broke out like never before. Not sure if it was because of the new skincare routine I had started on, the weather/pollution, diet—or because of this facial. Could’ve been all those reasons.
The one good thing I remember was that immediately after, I went to dinner and someone remarked that my skin looked particularly radiant. LOL.
Since then, I haven’t gotten another facial. Instead, I got a pleasantly authentic Thai massage recently…maybe that will become my new routine. Heh.
So what have we learned?
That I’m a fucking idiot? Well, I like to believe that these experiences were inevitable. If I didn’t buy that gym membership then, I would’ve blown double that money on another gym, which although would have been better, likely would’ve had its fair share of scam-like qualities. A lot about China feels like a scam, really. Besides, I can now say I’ve made my mistakes and have gained valuable learning experiences—even material for my blog and maybe a book in the future.
It’s true I could do without those not infrequent thoughts of how I’ve indirectly paid for those annoying high schoolers to continue harassing innocent passersby to join a shitty underground gym, how I can’t believe I paid to go to a gym that wasn’t even open or finished construction, how I nearly paid thousands of dollars for 50 useless facials that no one could use in a lifetime…
But it feels both necessary and relieving to finally let this off my chest and out into the blogosphere for readers to judge me on.
CATCH UP WITH #GZBUZZ
⇒ Wet Markets & Phone Shops
⇒ Renter, Love & Care
⇒ Camera, Coffee, Clarity
⇒ The Catch-Up
⇒ Passing By
⇒ The Familiar
⇒ Misfortune, Pt. 1