Our guide was “required” to help us boost the Chinese economy by making sure we had a daily “factory” included in our tour. Our first day’s stop was to see how silk was made.

We were shown the stages of a silk worm’s life, the intricate unwinding of the cocoons, and the massive looms. Then we were hustled into the “Sales Room” and “encouraged” to purchase everything from silken quilt interiors and embroidered coverlets to designed rugs, patterned scarves, intricate wall hangings and story-telling scrolls.

And it was here that I made the one financial mistake of my entire trip.

There was a very beautifully designed rug, about 4’ x 3’ that particularly caught my eye. I examined it carefully, in several different colors. I was quite taken with the darker red one that had two mirror-image gold and green phoenix/dragons. The border had the Chinese symbols for long life and double happiness.

There was no price tag on the rug, so I asked the sales clerk. She answered in RMBs. I did the math myself (divide by 6) then asked them to tell me in dollars how much it cost, and their number and mine matched. But I felt $80 was a lot for me to spend on one item, so I walked away.

I continued “shopping,” but eventually walked back to take another look at the rug. I finally decided it would be my “biggie” souvenir, and the hallmark of my entire trip.

Little did I know…

They gently folded it to fit my suitcase, and whisked away my debit card. When they completed wrapping my purchase to withstand the luggage handlers, I asked, “Don’t I need to sign the slip?” and they said no. And right then and there I blew it by not immediately checking the receipt.

And since the Internet “wifi” looks like it’s connected while the wheel just spins and spins, I couldn’t check my bank account until we got back to Seoul, and by then it was too late. I was charged almost TEN TIMES the amount I should have been charged.

The credit union said my card was “in hand” when the purchase was made, so it’s not fraud. I wrote an email to our guide, explaining the situation, and he told me the factory said they charged me the right price for my “ silk art.” He said I could mail the rug back for a refund, but I worried I would end up with nothing, so I did not mail it back.

I still haven’t hung my “art” on the wall, and I have to keep it safely tucked away so the cats don’t decide to use it for a scratching post. For the price I paid, I need to find a way to hang it without punching holes in it.

Suggestions welcome.