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June 13, 2011

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'Fake store with fake TCM' tourist alert

TOURISM authorities are to carry out random inspections of local travel agencies after reports that visitors were taken to a bogus traditional Chinese medicine store to buy fake products.

A Singapore reader, surnamed Ng, told Shanghai Daily that in December she was brought to what has been described as a city branch of Nanjing Tongrentang.

Tongrentang is a 342-year-old Beijing TCM company. Former subsidiary Nanjing Tongrentang is now an independent company.

Ng spent S$2,000 (US$1,617) on two bottles of health products but later had suspicions about the authenticity of the goods.

An official with Nanjing Tongrentang told Shanghai Daily the company had never produced the medicines described by Ng.

"The company has no such expensive medicines and all our products can be found on our website," the official said.

The official said Nanjing Tongrentang would investigate whether the Shanghai store was genuine.

A Shanghai Daily reporter located the store described by Ng on the ground floor of an office building on Qinzhou Road in Minhang District yesterday.

A tour bus from Jiangsu Province was parked outside and boxes labeled "health products" could be seen at counters.

However, several men and women dressed in black stopped the reporter from entering, saying the store was not open to the public.

"It's a restaurant that only serves special guests," said one of the women.

A security guard said the store opened in May last year and sold healthy products worth up to 10,000 yuan (US$1,500), said to be from Nanjing Tongrentang.

The guard, surnamed Zhou, said around a dozen tour buses came to the building every day.

"Foreign visitors from the United States, Japan and South Korea buy medicines here," he said.

A Shanghai Tourism Administration official said it suspected the store was bogus.

"It may be a fake imitating the store's name and conducting illegal business," said Yao Shuoye, an official with the administration.

The administration said it has uncovered several cases in which tourists were forced to buy health products at 10 times their real value.

"Travel agencies take advantage of foreigners' curiosity about traditional Chinese medicine," said Dao Shuming, director of the administration.

Meanwhile, the Beijing Tongrentang faces its own controversies, with reports of tourists being overcharged.


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