"Free" walking tours--what to tip guide

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Jan 28th, 2018, 10:56 PM
  #41
 
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Hamster2008...then itīs not a "free" walking tour and in your business model there are some weaknesses that you have to accept. Iīm a licensed guide that pay my taxes and are fully registered as guide. In Spain most "free" guides are not legally established and are an unfair competition to those that are under the law. If itīs free, then itīs free and you donīt have the right to complain, itīs your choice of a job. If itīs not free, then state it clearly. Visitors have the right to know what they are buying.
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Jan 28th, 2018, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by hamster2008 View Post
Im shocked at some of these comments. I work as a free walking tour guide.

Let me explain to you how it works...

The tour company that you book your free walking tours through has public liability insurance which covers all the tourists that take part in the tours.

The guides have to buy each and every tourist from the tour company - we usually pay a few euros for every tourist the company finds.
We then have to live off the tips that we earn - the guides are self employed, I pay my tax and so do most of my coworkers, this is their full time income and they pay our taxes as otherwise there is no state pension or access to health care.

The worst thing to happen to a guide is to have tourists walk off. Today I had a group of 8 tourists on a 3 hour walking tour. 3 tourists snuck off 10 mins before the end of the tour, they didn't even say goodbye to me, or thanks, but its not for us, ect. They had spent 2.5 hours listening to me explain the city, sampling cake, wine, ect. 1. It meant that I lost money as I had to buy these tourists, 2. It meant that I wasted my time and the rest of the groups time looking for the missing tourists. 3. I did not understand why the run away...did I offend them? were the bored? ddi they just not want to tip? I will never know! It is so rude to run off like that. Lucky my other 5 tourists tipped well and so I made a profit.

I have a BA, MA in History and I have worked as tour guide for 3 years in Canada, before relocating. The city that I guide in, I have studied the history of it at uni for 3 years here, before I became a guide.
Hamster- do you really want someone to interrupt the tour to give you a list of reasons why they want to drop? It could be anything, and they’re still not going to tip you. Most of the “free” tours I’ve taken are an effort for the company to get customer to take their paid tours. Sometimes they’re awesome. Sometimes- it’s a good thing as the guides often note- you can’t ask for your money back because you didn’t pay anything.

I did drop last trip. I almost never do. But it was below freezing, I couldn’t stand the guide, the group was huge, and the actual informative part was lacking. I just can’t imagine raising my hand and saying “dear sir, I can no longer take this torment and I will be accidentally stepping into that coffee shop right there until I’m positive I’ve lost you.” As a tour guide, what do you see as a kind alternative to that?
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Jan 29th, 2018, 02:01 AM
  #43
 
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Originally Posted by mikelg View Post
Hamster2008...then itīs not a "free" walking tour and in your business model there are some weaknesses that you have to accept. Iīm a licensed guide that pay my taxes and are fully registered as guide. In Spain most "free" guides are not legally established and are an unfair competition to those that are under the law. If itīs free, then itīs free and you donīt have the right to complain, itīs your choice of a job. If itīs not free, then state it clearly. Visitors have the right to know what they are buying.
Free as in "exempt from external authority, interference, restriction, etc" but not as in free of cost, maybe
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Jan 29th, 2018, 05:04 AM
  #44
 
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I have a BA, MA in History and I have worked as tour guide for 3 years in Canada, before relocating. The city that I guide in, I have studied the history of it at uni for 3 years here, before I became a guide.
If your credentials are so good, why do you not get a license?

Advertising something as free and then demanding money for it is a form of bait and switch and should be illegal, it is certainly immoral. The people who left early may have left because they weren't enjoying the tour, or because they were not going to "tip" and didn't want to get into an argument.
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Jan 29th, 2018, 09:01 AM
  #45
 
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hamster, are you licensed by the city or not?

I don't feel sorry for you at all. If you don't like it when people walk off or don't pay you, don't work for a company that advertises "free" tours. If it is "free", then people don't have to pay you anything. You have decided this is the way you want to work, for companies that appeal to people who want something "for free".

I have a friend who is a licensed tour guide, otherwise, it is illegal where I live to do something that you are advertising as a tour that supposedly imparts facts about history. And licensed tours charge money.

Paris has a good model for this, they have licensed guides who can work freelance, if they want. But each one develops its own itinerary and niche, and then they advertise in the local entertainment guides, which they are legally allowed to do. So on any given day if you want a tour, you look at the guide and see what it on offer at 10 am, 2 pm, etc.. You pay when you show up, generally they only charge around 10-12 euro per tour, and they last around 2 hours. The guide collects at the beginning. None of this tipping rubbish. It seems to me it would be better for a licensed tour guide to operate that way, instead of paying the company to find them customers, basically (there is a name for that).
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Jun 12th, 2018, 06:42 AM
  #46
 
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I have found this thread by chance while googling, and I have registered especially to comment how shocked I am with some (well, actually most) of the comments against the "free" tours here. I don't know if it is an American thing (I have the feeling that most of the thread contributors come from the US) or just an anger from licenced guides...but it really surprises me.

Of course "free" tours are not "for free", and it has been always made clearly in the beginning of every tour I have taken in every city. But it is "free to decide" how much you want to pay for it.
Also, I like to see these tours as "free demo" versions of what you can visit, and then I usually go and explore some of the attractions I have seen on the way more in details (and of course, pay the entrance fees).

Second thing I don't understand is the anger about "licenses" and being "uninsured". What insurance are we talking about actually -- their own insurance (which should be their problem and not a reason for hate) or some insurance for me as a tourist tourists (which should be my own problem).
In fact the "free guides" help you as a tourist to get information that you can anyway get for free (internet) and walk the streets/see attractions that you also can do for free. The gratitude you decide to pay them is between me and them and is not hurting the municipality in any way. Cities have entrance fees on attractions, sometimes "tourist fee" per night per person, not to mention all the cash the tourists leave behind while visiting the city, so there is no harm there.
I even don't believe that there is loss of business for the high-priced "official" travel agencies, because I believe that they target different customer base. The more wealthy will prefer an "official" guide no matter the price, and if there is no "free tour" in the cities I visit I will end up just walking by myself and browsing internet, instead of hiring somebody.

I like the "free tours" because so far every time I have taken one it has been guided by an enthusiastic young person and their style is quite informal, bringing you the essence and the flavor of the city.So please don't judge them and don't judge us who use them.
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Jun 12th, 2018, 09:32 AM
  #47
 
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Of course "free" tours are not "for free", and it has been always made clearly in the beginning of every tour I have taken in every city. But it is "free to decide" how much you want to pay for it.
Perhaps English is not your first language? "Free" means that you do not have to pay. Period.
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Jun 12th, 2018, 12:22 PM
  #48
 
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Licenses are a way to tax businesses, making them legal, controlled and within the law of the country. If not, they are illegal and therefore should not be offered. Free means free in every language I know. Iīd love to have a "free" lawyer, plumber, mason, cook...in every town I visit, even "free" restaurants without a license to sell food so I can pay them whatever I want. Also, "free" taxis and "free" airplane fares, so I can take a trip first and then decide if I want to come back. And of course, pay them a tip.

Definitely, the world should be a "freer" place where we all could pay whatever we wanted accepting any kind of service offered.

English is not my first language, maybe I donīt get the meaning of "free". In Spanish, itīs "gratis", that means "free" and you donīt pay anything.
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Jun 12th, 2018, 01:59 PM
  #49
 
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The "something for nothing" crowd

Bad advice is also given freely, especially on the internet, but now that Net Neutrality is a thing of the past in some places, you may have to pay for that bad advice.

And of course, some people a just cheap, the "something for nothing" crowd.
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Jun 12th, 2018, 11:59 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Perhaps English is not your first language? "Free" means that you do not have to pay. Period.
Your observation is correct, it is not my first language. But is this the only argument you have before the "period"? Does it mean you don't have anything against the nature of the tours, and only against the naming?
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Jun 13th, 2018, 03:53 AM
  #51
 
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I object to fraud. The people running these tours are practicising a form of fraud.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 07:10 AM
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Also, if I am going to pay for a service, I prefer to use professionals.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by mikelg View Post
Licenses are a way to tax businesses, making them legal, controlled and within the law of the country. If not, they are illegal and therefore should not be offered. Free means free in every language I know. Iīd love to have a "free" lawyer, plumber, mason, cook...in every town I visit, even "free" restaurants without a license to sell food so I can pay them whatever I want. Also, "free" taxis and "free" airplane fares, so I can take a trip first and then decide if I want to come back. And of course, pay them a tip.

Definitely, the world should be a "freer" place where we all could pay whatever we wanted accepting any kind of service offered.

English is not my first language, maybe I donīt get the meaning of "free". In Spanish, itīs "gratis", that means "free" and you donīt pay anything.
As I tried to explain in my previous reply, I don't want to debate about the word itself. In every case when I have taken part in such tour it was explicitly mentioned that the guides would welcome a tip and this is their only earning from that (they get no salary). Even in some cases (for example my trip to London) the tour was advertised as a "name-your-own-price tour". Also, technically, after such tour you are allowed to walk away without giving anything. Nobody will have any right to demand payment. If you don't mind being a prick, such tours can be indeed for free.

But it is not the point. You mention about taxes and being legal. The fact is however that all the pay-as-you wish tours have websites, contacts, usually also offices. Very often the same organizations offer also paid/fixed fee tours (which, I guess makes them legal?). There is nothing hidden or underground, and it makes me believe that the local regulations (whatever they are in the specific place) are followed and the city can easily react in cases in case of irregularities. But the cities earn from tourists (hotels, restaurants, transportation), and those tours bring additional tourists, so I don't see a reason for the cities to complain in general. The only one that can complain are the established touristic agencies. I personally see it as a different market niche, but if they want to compte, they need to do is offer increased flexibility and competitive pricing. I, as a customer, will welcome that.

Also, you mention that You'd like free lawyers and free plumbers. I don't see how this is an argument. The fact that there are no free plumbers means only that this business model does not work for this specific type of service doesn't mean that there is anything wrong to be used for another.
(And, by the way, the pay-as-you wish concept exists for restaurants. If you are interested, google it the next time you plan a trip )
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Jun 13th, 2018, 05:34 PM
  #54
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When there are laws that regulate tours and tour guides -- as there are in Spain -- I don't understand why someone would promote violating those laws. Sure, people want "free" things, whether that means truly free or free + a tip, but if people are going to take "free" guided tours (with or without tipping) in places where such tours are against the law, I think they should recognize that they might face negative responses for doing so. JMO.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 11:58 PM
  #55
 
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welcome a tip and this is their only earning from that (they get no salary)
That is illegal in Europe we have a thing called minimum salary. The amount varies from one country to another.

those tours bring additional tourists
Prove of that?

In response to your PWYW suggestion. Perhaps read this.
It is a vastly different concept and there is no mention of them begin allowed to escape regulations put there to protect the customer. Things like insurance, hygiene standards, paying various bills, paying staff a wage and more.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 04:30 AM
  #56
 
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These tours bring additional tourists, so I don't see a reason for the cities to complain in general.
Seems highly unlikely. Are you seriously suggesting that tourists choose their destinations based on whether there are "free" tours? In any case, places like Barcelona are trying to reduce the number of tourists.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
That is illegal in Europe we have a thing called minimum salary. The amount varies from one country to another.
What exactly is illegal in Europe? Pay-as-you-wish tours or earning from tips? I can imagine that in some places (Spain was mentioned above) there could be some very specific regulations (like, for example, "if you are not licensed, it is forbidden to show any attractions to foreign tourists"), and in these case I can agree, but it is not a Europe-wide thing. I would be curious if you can show me otherwise.

The minimum salary is not a problem here. The regulations can be easily met as I can imagine that most of the tour guides are self-employed, part-timers or with additional income.


Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
Prove of that?
(Also as an answer to the other question if I really believe that the pay-as-you-wish trips attract additional tourists. This board limits to two responses a day, so I have to combine posts..)

Sure nobody will come for the "free tours" alone. But planning a trip to a certain destination involves a lot of questions: transportation to the city (flights, trains, convenient transfers), choice of accommodations, choice of attractions. In that sense those tours are one more thing that the city can offer, and especially if you are with limited time and/or flexibility is really important for you, it can be a decisive factor.



That all being said: I realize that this thread has been started for Barcelona specifically. In the context that the city really tries to reduce the tourists (this is the case as far as I am aware also for other cities in Spain and in Europe), then I absolutely agree that any measures are fine: raising taxes and prices for attractions, imposing limitations of what tourists are allowed to do, and also reducing the freedom of tour guides.
But I do not agree with the general accusations that the pay-as-you-wish tours are "fraud". From my personal experience in several European cities, the guides has always been enthusiastic and knowledgeable young people, and I never could have any complaints against their work.
Also, I sense a negative attitude towards the tourists who take these tours. If your preference is not to use such and prefer to pay higher price as an assurance for quality - fine, that's your choice, but please accept that other people value different factors. Some might be really on a budget and some value the flexibility this model is built on.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 08:57 AM
  #58
 
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It is odd that you picked on my response, when there are two guides that have respond to you. I am not a tourist guide.
Back to your questions:
An employer has to pay minimum wages. So anything else is illegal

Here the story about tour guides in BCN
https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel...Barcelona.html

You will find that the same all over Spain. Tour guides have to be licenced to operate. I have come in contact with some unlicensed thus untrained guides. IMHO they are not very good.
To run a business, in any sector in Spain there are many things you have to do and have. If free tours are not registered as a company then they cannot abide by the National laws. It is not us on this forum that write the laws.
I like a lot of others hate companies or persons not abiding by laws. You get the odd one on this forum complaining about a speeding fine. They too do not get any sympathy. That is just one example, AirBnB lodgers can also get a shrift answer if the property is not abiding by the law.
To have a functioning society we need (amongst other things) to have laws, regulations and taxes to be paid.
This forum is free, but the owners do hope you purchase a guide book or two. Have you done that yet???
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Jun 15th, 2018, 03:19 AM
  #59
 
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Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
It is odd that you picked on my response, when there are two guides that have respond to you. I am not a tourist guide.
Well, you were one of the persons that has engaged in a conversation with me, so I replied.. In fact, I am trying to respond to more than one opinion in a post due to the limited amounts of posts allowed per day.

I am not a tourist guide either, and I am not looking specially for guides' advice. Just engaging in a discussion on a public forum where everybody is free to contribute.

Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
Back to your questions:
An employer has to pay minimum wages. So anything else is illegal
And I don't disagree with you, if it wasn't clear in my post. But I have no reason to believe that the companies, offering the pay-as-you-wish tours break that rule.


Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
Here the story about tour guides in BCN


You will find that the same all over Spain. Tour guides have to be licenced to operate.
Thank you for the link, it is a nice summary. What made me impression is that it is not allowed to "to explain inside certain museums and sites" if you are not licensed. Still, "[i]f, on the other hand, you don't want to visit the interior of these sites or prefer to do it on your own time, you can choose among a much bigger variety of tour guides." And this is, as far as I understand from the article, is not an illegal activity per se.

So far I have used "free tours" 4 times, and the walk around never included visits inside of a certain site. In fact, this is one of the things I like about those tours -- they are great way to get a "summary" or a "preview" of the city. And then I like to explore some parts of it later in more details.

Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
I have come in contact with some unlicensed thus untrained guides. IMHO they are not very good.
Thanks for your opinion - I will have that in mind next time I visit Spain.


Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
To run a business, in any sector in Spain there are many things you have to do and have. If free tours are not registered as a company then they cannot abide by the National laws. It is not us on this forum that write the laws.
I like a lot of others hate companies or persons not abiding by laws. You get the odd one on this forum complaining about a speeding fine. They too do not get any sympathy. That is just one example, AirBnB lodgers can also get a shrift answer if the property is not abiding by the law.
To have a functioning society we need (amongst other things) to have laws, regulations and taxes to be paid.
I don't know why it comes out that I like, defend and encourage breaking laws.. What I do defend is the business model as general and I do not like the overall attitude here towards the guides and the tourists.
As with your example of AirBnB, some hosts can break the law, and it is right to complain about it, but it doesn't mean that the whole concept is a fraud.

Originally Posted by ribeirasacra View Post
This forum is free, but the owners do hope you purchase a guide book or two. Have you done that yet???
No, and I don't intend to. Does it mean that my presence is unwanted here in this case?
If yes, then I will leave, knowing that there is at least one contribute-as-you-wish concept that people here accept and don't label as breaking the law or as fraud.
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