June 28, 2014

"This is a strike against the professionalism of the industry... Now, anyone can get up off their couch and say, 'I’m a tour guide.'"

Said a licensed Washington D.C. tour guide after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the city's licensing requirement on free speech grounds.

Under the now-defunct requirement, to be a tour guide, you had to pay $200 and get at least 70 question out of 100 right in a test on 14 categories of information about the city:
architecture; dates; government; historical events; landmark buildings; locations; monuments and memorials; museums and art galleries; parks, gardens, zoos, and aquariums; presidents; sculptures and statues; universities; pictures; and regulations.
The court didn't see how restricting tours to guides who could pass that test served a compelling governmental interest, especially since the private businesses on their own would compete to provide quality tours.

You might think the market wouldn't work so well in the tourism industry, because it lures newcomers to the city to do something they'll probably only do once. It they get a bad tour, they've already bought it and they won't affect the market anymore. But the court noted the function of Yelp and TripAdvisor.
"One need only peruse such websites to sample the expressed outrage and contempt that would likely befall a less than scrupulous tour guide."

34 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Interesting- there is a similar regulation in Philly.

The Godfather said...

I lived in DC for for 35 years and rarely took a tour (residents don't), but I did hear tales of gross information passed on by (presumably) licensed tour guides. My favorite was that the Netherlands Carillon was a gift from the Dutch queen in honor of Caroline Kennedy.

Michael said...

Presumably the guides can still run a certification program and prevent people from falsely claiming to be certified. That should suffice, and not just in this case.

Bob R said...

Awww, come on Court of Appeals, "government" is just a word for the things we do together to ensure that current businesses have no competition.

Amexpat said...

I've worked in the tour business since the 80's in Scandinavia and I'm all in favor of letting the customer decide whether to choose licensed or unlicensed city guides. I've seen some horrible guides in the former and some great ones in the latter.

I say this as a licensed city guide in Oslo.

Phil 3:14 said...

Which brings up the question:

Is this an accredited blog?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Doubtless that quiz included questions about whether you were for smaller government, lower taxes or less regulation. An affirmative answer was an instant disqualifier.

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

Hop inside, my friend, hop inside! Anyone can drive you past monuments, but me, I will show you the real city. First we will go and park across from the junior high school sports field and watch the girls in morning gym class exercise on the grass, I know which class-time has the best girls, all young and very flexible, it is great fun to watch. Then, my friend, we will go and park in front of the yoga studio with the big glass windows in front, it is what wealthy women do now, they put on thin tight clothing and stretch into sexy positions, I don't know how they get their legs to do some of those things, the fabric is very stretchy, especially on the buttocks. After that we will park behind the strip club and watch the girls on break smoke their cigarettes, they are very sexy, my friend, very sexy, then for lunch we will eat at the mall at the food court by the escalators, you can look up the girls' dresses and have a Fanta, it is very civilized. Finally, we will drive past the Catholic High School and follow some of the girls as they walk home after school, they wear the sexy skirts and it is very special, maybe we ask one of them if she wants a ride in our van: I will leave that up to you, my friend.

Edward Lunny said...

Despite the teeth gnashing and moaning, the majority of these licensing schemes are less about protecting or benefitting the public and more about using government offices to quash competition for the licensees. Be it tour guides, interior decorators, taxi cab companies, etc, it's all about quashing competition, crony capitalism.

Michael K said...

The best tour guide I have ever had was a retired London policeman named Mr Clark. In 1977, you could still tour the House of Parliament and the guides were dependent on tips. We were standing in line Saturday morning when this tall older man came up and told us to go to the head of the line. He told us to wait there and we eventually figured out that he was collecting everyone in line speaking English.

He then took us through the building pointing out details I had never heard of. At the door to Commons, he pointed out where Churchill had stood the morning after the House of Commons was bombed in the Blitz. Then he added, "I stood there." He had been assigned to the building during the war.

After the tour, he asked us to tip him what we thought he was worth. There was no charge. Most gave him 50p but I had already been to the antique market at Portobello Road that morning and thought it less than anticipated. I gave him 5 pounds. He asked us to stop as we walked away and told me, after he had collected his other tips, that I had made a mistake. I had given him too much. I answered that his tour was the highlight of London for me so far.

That was his supplement to his pension. I told others to find him if they went to London. A few years later the IRA ended his tours.

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

When we follow the Catholic schoolgirls home we are very discreet, you don't want to come off as creepy -- we are citizens, my friend. For instance, when we pull alongside one of them we do not ask if she is wearing underpants, that is not appropriate. Do you know how to tie any knots? No? That's okay, I will show you.

T Rellis said...

If only there were an invention whereby you could get info as to good and bad tours immediately, it also would be great if the invention would fit into the Palm of your hands.

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

I have found that the best first question to ask is if they ever dream of going to Paris: it is an easy question, all sexy Catholic schoolgirls want to go to Paris. Then I tell them about the model of the Eiffel Tower that I have in the back of the van, I made it myself, they can see it if they want. I am proud of my model of the Eiffel Tower, I spent a lot of care to make it look just right and it is sturdy enough to handcuff someone to it.

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

My friend, we tell the sexy Catholic schoolgirls that we are professional photographers: I keep a stack of Vogue magazines in the back, bookmarked to show the photos I've said I've taken. We have worked with professional models, some have had their pictures taken in the back of this very van, right by the model of the Eiffel Tower, some of them naked, all professional models get their pictures taken naked. There are a lot of sexy Catholic schoolgirls that want to be professional models.

John Rambow said...

The headline, "A Good Day to be a Washington Tour Guide, Thanks to the D.C. Circuit," is odd, since it's only a good day for those who aren't already tour guides. The current ones wouldn't be looking forward to the extra competition.

It would be interesting to see what sorts of questions are being asked -- I wonder how much of the knowledge is about things that people actually care about. For instance, regulations.

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

You do not want to scare a sexy Catholic schoolgirl that wants to be a professional model. You need to approach her gently: of course she can keep her skirt on, in fact it is sexier that way, that look is what all the major magazines want now. I almost forgot: I will need your name and address for when I send the photos to Vogue in case they need to contact you for legal reasons. Do your parents ever take vacations and leave you home alone?

Ambrose said...

I can see an argument for the test - but why a $200 fee. Everything is about the revenue.

The Drill SGT said...

Classic regulatory capture by the Travel Guild...

Anonymous said...

Tour Guy in a Windowless White Van says:

I make sure to pay the sexy Catholic schoolgirls twenty-five dollars: it is a modeling fee, and they have now made money modeling, they are now a professional model -- this makes them happy, or at least less ashamed. I then post the photos to my website, I have many subscribers. Access to the bondage photos is an extra two dollars a month.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Oh really. "Now anyone can get up off their couch"?

Look, people, you can keep your credentialization. I mean that in two senses.

You can still have a credentializing process, fees and all; it's just that the work of people without the credential will not be literally illegal. You think the credentialed are better than the uncredentialed? Fine. Now, go prove it.

As for the second sense -- well, personally I think most credentials belong in a certain dark, cramped, and smelly space. Watching my husband move from a private school (no credentials required but word of mouth and demonstrated performance) to the credential-obsessed public-school meat grinder has been, well, a mite dispiriting.

THOMASt WREN said...

And, you should not be required to take a test to be a CPA or a Lawyer; the market will sort it out.

Kirk Parker said...

"Watching my husband move from a private school (no credentials required but word of mouth and demonstrated performance) to the credential-obsessed public-school meat grinder has been, well, a mite dispiriting."

No kidding!

My wife made that transition a couple years ago, and at this point is really better off (though that's very fact- and situation-specific and I wouldn't dream of claiming that was the norm, or even common, on those types of transitions.)

Another other things she endured was a rare, illegal, and contentious teachers' strike where the walkout of teachers occurred on the 2nd or 3rd day of class. Oy.

Edward Lunny said...

" test to be a CPA or a Lawyer; " Hm. I thought that the education and skill set made one a CPA or a lawyer. The test verified the ability of the applicant to learn and the institution to educate.
Also interesting that you equate a CPA or lawyer, or I daresay a doctor, to a tour guide or interior designer. That I label asinine. Try again.

Joe said...

My best guided tour was of Jerusalem while on a business trip. Most of us on the bus were there on business with a few retired couples. The guide asked if any of us were religious. Nobody raised their hand.

"Good," he said. "I'll give you the irreverent tour of Jerusalem."

And he did.

(To give an example, when walking through old Jerusalem, he said; Many guides and religions will tell you this is where Jesus walked. Nonsense; there's over twenty feet of rubble between the original streets and here and they likely don't line up anyway.)

fivewheels said...

What are the racial pass rates on that test? Is there a disparate impact? Hard to believe a test could be rigidly applied for tour guides but not at the University of Michigan.

fivewheels said...

In any case, I don't see why the government would argue that they should define "tour guide" more strictly, carefully and specifically than, say, "married couple."

William said...

They decided this case based on freedom of speech?

What would stop me from providing legal advice – even though I'm not a lawyer – based on the same premise.

This was an absurd ruling, but anyone who enters the District of Columbia and expects straight talk or accuracy on ANY subject is delusional.

It's a cultural thang, y'all.

n.n said...

There is no cause to restrict this particular field with certification. This ruling opens the field to market certification.

From Inwood said...

As the saying goes: You can fool all of the people some of the time & some of the people all of the time & 2 otta 3 ain't bad.

I took one of those water taxis from The river café to the west side one day a few years ago & found that I was the only American on board. When we stopped at Red Hook I started giving an ad hoc tour.

As our boat passed the air vent for the B'klyn-Battery tunnel (now named after Hugh Carey), which looks like an occupied building, someone wanted to know what it was. When I told her, she didn't believe me & thought I was being an Inwood wiseass or something. I could see that if only I'd been imaginative, I could've made her happy.

Later as we approached the Chelsea piers with the four story chain link fence for the golf driving rangers & before we could see the golfers she asked what the fence was for. I told her it was an adjunct to GITMO for POWs from the NYC area. She was not amused when we passed it & saw the golfers.

A few years ago, the NYT wrote up a new tour of Inwood, including the new boat house off Sherman's Creek. I don't know if the guide had the required NYC license, but at the end of the tour, most people, all NYC residents or former ones like me, were quite vociferously unhappy with the supposed history lesson.

NB: Nothing he said was wrong it's what he didn't say.

Last story. About 30 yrs ago I went on a tour of Hoboken, having not been there since I had stopped trucking liquor.

Everybody on the tour was a yuppie looking for cheap digs except two superannuated bobbysoxers, who wanted to see where Frankie had been born & raised, & moi.

The poor guide (this was before license requirement in NYC & anyway was in Jersey) was a young grad student reading from notes & was quite serious, beginning in 1909 with Henry H sailing up the Hudson & The Rich living in splendor until the turn of the Century (1899, that is). No one cared. When he got to the 20th century where low-life like moi had actually worked on the docks until containerization in the early 60s, he skipped right to the then current 1980s.

I went home & rented the movie (before YouTube) so that I could see what it was like. Went there again last fall & felt old. (Did not wear my trousers rolled, tho.)

BTW, the Hoboken RR station, which is a wonder, was lost on him & the yuppies. Philistines!

So in ever-changing NYC, like professors with students' ratings, not all tourists are going to be satisfied even with a licensed guide.

Alex said...

As usual liberals don't understand the concept of private certification. it must be government or the sky will fall!

Alex said...

William - It's actually a freedom of economic activity issue more than free speech.

I have the right to say I'm a tour guide, and you have a right to see my private certification. You then have the right to allow me to show you the sights or ditch me for a more reputable tour guide.

But of course the busybodies in D.C. would interfere with this transaction.

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes: You can fool all of the people some of the time & some of the people all of the time

A saying usually attributed to some unprofessional shyster who was admitted to the Illinois bar without ever taking an exam.

Chris Lopes said...

"What would stop me from providing legal advice – even though I'm not a lawyer – based on the same premise."

Let's see, the consequences of not really knowing much about the DC area, but pretending you do is possibly getting the tour lost. The consequences of not really knowing anything about the law but pretending to do is possibly someone ending up on death row. Yup, the same exact thing.

Peter said...

Well, it is caveat emptor. Although one can use TripAdvisor and similar sites to obtain some information about services sold to tourists.

Tourists, especially older ones, often want to see a Broadway musical when they come to New York City. And, they often choose badly. BUT no one would dare try to license Broadway musicals, or prohibit the performance of unlicensed ones.

And it's a good thing, too, for if government had that authority, could it not also prohibit the sale of "inaccurate" histories and other works of non-fiction?