Trips to China are routine to me, but this hot August of 2018 was something special. Never before did I have such a feeling of hopelessness and despair, as when I found myself without money, transport and ability to order food.
My first encounter with cruel WeChat Pay antifraud system happened in the very first day when using Didi from
WeChat went somehow wrong. My WeChat Pay got blocked. And there was a handsome sum there. Of course, I didn’t have any cash, who needs that, right? Of course, Visa and MasterCard are not accepted. The nearest proper bank ATM where I could withdraw cash was
several km away. Even if you can get a taxi, you can’t pay for it. Same goes for public transport. So here you go.
When we got to ATM and finally withdraw yuans, our difficult times were not yet over. Actually, far from it. When sitting down in the nearby cafe, there was no paper menu, only a QR-code sticker on the table. You are supposed to scan it with either WeChat
or Alipay, that opens menu web-page, you make up the order and pay for it within before it places the order to kitchen online. Oh that fright and confusion when I asked to order by voice, and pay with cash.
Taxi trips usually finished with scared driver: “Oh, but i cannot give you change, I have no cash!” At some point to our disbelief Didi allowed to link a Russian-issued card to it, and actually got to withdraw from it. This saved us in the trips to come.
Not always though. Some cars can't support such payment, and require either WeChat or Alipay. You can’t pay for them, but you can call for them. :)
There were times when Chinese taxi drivers were making a fool of me. Now it was the time I was making a fool of them, when they rushed away saying "The payment will go through, that’s okay”, while I was trying to give them cash. Interesting fact, when you
message taxi driver using word "cash", trying to get them paid, the message does not go through. At all. I tried multiple phrasing until found out, it is this word that is not allowed in conversation. Cash — a word flagged by the censorship.
In the Shanghai international airport that thousands of foreigners pass through every day there were at least two places (to much of my luck) where neither Visa, MasterCard, nor ApplePay, SamsungPay worked. Contrary to logos displayed in front of you, and
visible modern POS with support for all. It seems cashiers just don’t know how to operate card payment anymore.
Surely enough, you may get by in this country without WeChat Pay or Alipay. It’s going to be a bit painful, you are going to use a few foreigner tricks here and there. But honestly, the only way to feel yourself in touch with this reality in China, you HAVE
to use them. Welcome to the new age.