Wu Jingmin, a senior tour guide in Shenzhen city of China, recently published a book called How Can I Not Cheat You? In the book Mr. Wu exposes many shady deals in the tourist service profession, disclosing how tour agencies, guide and tour attractions conspire together to cheat the customer. Mr. Wu lost his job recently for exposing these shady deals.
The goods in tour shops are low quality and fake with artificially inflated prices
The Modern Express reported that Mr. Wu said all the goods in tour shops have three characteristics: low quality, false representation and artificially inflated prices. Take tea leafs for example: low quality would mean that they sell low quality tea as top quality tea, false would mean even selling leafs that are not tea leafs at all, and the price is unbelievably inflated.
Mr. Wu said once he guided a group of tourists from Taiwan, a sales person guided one tourist into their VIP lounge and showed him a jade bracelet. The asking price for the bracelet was HK$10,000 (about $1,289 US), the tourist didn’t want it at that price and said, “it is not that valuable, how about HK$1,000 (about $128)?” After negotiating with the shop’s lead sales person, the supervisor, manager and director, the tourist bought that jade bracelet for HK$1,000. Even for this HK$1,000, the tour shop has to give the tour agency 40% commission and commission for the sales person and sales guides.
Mr. Wu asks the question, “How could it be possible that tourist shops all over the country have pure jade for sale? Most are cheaper colored Bashan jade. The reason that all the tour shops sell jade and not TVs is that everyone knows a TV’s normal price, and not many people know the price for jade.”
Handicapped Tourists Must be Carried into the Tourist Shop
A tour shop is the place that makes the most money off tourists. Mr. Wu said in order to motivate tour agencies and tour guides to bring tourists to the store, the tour shops often offer high commissions.
“Normally the tour shops offer 40-50% commissions, of which tour guides would take 10% and the remaining goes to the tour agencies. In addition to the commissions, the tour shops also have to pay a parking fee (that means someone is paying you money because you park there, not in the normal sense of parking fee,) and tourist head count fee. For example, as long as I bring tourists into your store, the shop has to pay the tour agency fees for each person I bring in; as long as my tour bus parks on your parking lot, the store has to pay a parking fee to us.”
Mr. Wu said once he guided a group of handicapped tourists. After arriving at a tour shop, he called the tour agency and asked if he could save the time of shopping since it was extremely hard to carry the handicapped persons up and down the stairs of the tour bus. The agency said, “No.” They said if Mr. Wu did not carry the tourists into the store, the agency would lose the tourist fee of 100 yuan per person, and they told Mr. Wu he would have to pay the fee if he did not carry the tourists into the store.
The Incentives behind Lower Tour Package Prices
The tour agencies these days are offering tour packages at lower and lower prices in order to compete. How can they afford such low prices?
Mr. Wu took a four day, three night Hong Kong tour package as an example. The local Hong Kong agency’s profit margin is negative 300 yuan (that means 300 yuan in debt) per tourist, which means the local agency has to pay the Beijing agency who organized the tour group 300 yuan per tourist. How could the local tour agencies make money but by cheating and forcing the tourists to buy things they did not want to?
Tourists Are the “Merchandise” of Tour Agencies
Mr. Wu said most tour guides do not receive any salary, benefits or other compensation from the tour agencies. In the past, tour guides could receive 50 yuan compensation a day, but in competition, some tour guides voluntarily reduced their compensation to 30 yuan and then to zero. Some guides even pay the tour agencies for the opportunity to guide a tour group. The only way for these guides to make money is to cheat the tourists by all means.
Wu Loses his Job for Exposing Shady Deals in the Profession
Mr. Wu was not the top performing tour guide since he often did not want to cheat the tourists. In January 2006 during an annual audit and training for Shenzhen city tour guides, Mr. Wu spoke on stage, calling for all the guides to work together in purifying the tourism market and for protecting tour guides’ rights. He lost his job for this.
The Southern Metropolitan Daily reported that Mr. Wu Bin, Vice Chairman of Shenzhen City Tourism Association and Director of the new tour attractions division in the Shenzhen branch of China International Travel Service Co. Ltd., said, “What Mr. Wu exposed is common across the country, not just in Shenzhen city.”