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Tour guides, commission from sales

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Wodonga, Australia
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Tour guides, commission from sales

I was handed the following from a shop keeper in Jerusalem and thought it worthwile passing on to other visitors.

Association of Holy Land Merchants /^J\ /^\^^\ i^-Lill ,^-blj^l aL^tl^ ,U?

of Handicrafts and Souvenirs [ jJjB^^^^feh ) <L5j-iJI

East Jerusalem

Dear Visitor

Welcome to Jerusalem and the fascinating, unique shops of the Old City, many of them family businesses, which have been serving visitors and pilgrims to this area for several hundred years.

You may have been warned not to go shopping by yourself in the Old City but to be escorted to special shops by your TOUR GUIDE. The reason for this is that * 35%* of any of your purchases in these shops will be commission for the TOUR GUIDE. In order for the TOUR GUIDE to earn such an extraordinarily high commission, you will be paying at least double the price charged in the ordinary shops of the Old City.

Christian, Jewish and Muslim small shopkeepers are suffering badly from the fact that visitors to Jerusalem are herded in groups and directed to a few businesses that monopolize tourist spending. The TOUR GUIDES exploit and play on people's fears to ensure visitors only buy from shops 'recommended' by the TOUR GUIDE and with whom they have arranged these special rates of commission.

Despite what your TOUR GUIDE may have told you, the Old City is actually one of the safest planes to shop and visit. It is monitored 24 hours by CCTV cameras operated by the Israeli police. Shopping in Jerusalem's Old City and talking to the locals should be part of the pleasure and experience of your visit. Don't let your TOUR GUIDE be the only person you meet and trust.

We invite you to visit ALL the shops before you purchase gifts and compare the variety and prices with those offered in the places you are taken into by your TOUR GUIDE. By looking in different shops of YOUR CHOICE not only will you be helping a wider range of shopkeepers of all faiths, you will also save yourself money.

Wishing you an enjoyable visit to Jerusalem.

israel
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for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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1. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

Nice letter, I suppose it has some truth too. The point is that when you want to buy something you are quoted a price, and in most cases you get it, after bargaining for half the quoted price. As a matter of fact you never know if what you paid is the "price" or you were ripped off. Maybe those from this letter should place a notice on their shops indicating their prices are final and fair, no bargaining, and stick to it. This may bring back the customers like me.

Edited: 2:26 am, October 06, 2012
Jerusalem, Israel
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2. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

I have had first hand experience of tourists going into a shop alone and paying exhorbitant prices for an item that could have been purchased for much less. A wise tourist looks around and does not buy the first item they see. Prices are as flexible as the shopper is varied. A reputable tour guide will ensure that their tourist is not ripped off and receives a good product for a fair price.

Edited: 3:24 am, October 06, 2012
Washington State
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3. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

I think what it says is mostly true. Yes, every tour guide that takes a group into a store gets a commission (as do bus drivers, taxi drivers, etc). To be fair, many sellers all over the world pay for marketing to get customers and sales. I used to live in Battle Creek, Michigan and I found out from Kellogg’s’ cereal employees that $1 of a $3 box of cereal went for advertising and marketing. This method is simply more direct.

What bothers me is that these shopping stops often take valuable time away from touring. And yes, the prices are almost always higher than what you would get if you are a good negotiator working stores in the Old City. But, my experience is that prices are not 50% cheaper; more in the line of 35%. I tell this to every group I bring on a tour.

There are also plenty of Old City merchants who know how to get top dollar from you. It’s their life. And some that will shamelessly rip you off if they can. In general, I find a much greater charm in shopping in the Old City, but also get tired of running the gauntlet of people beckoning me into their store.

I will also say that if you are on a tour and have any problem with something you purchased, your guide and the tour company’s local provider is expected to work with the store to get it resolved. They are also a safer bet to give a credit card to. I only pay cash when shopping in the Old City.

Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Pennsylvania
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4. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

I have been on a number of tours throughout the world. It is not unique to Israel for guides to get a commission by taking groups to specific shops. However, it is still your decision to you buy something or not at a shop whether it is one your guide takes you to or one you find on your own.

Because I do like to bring items home to remind me of the places that I have visited, I usually research prior to the trip what items interest me and their approximate price. I often come to a country with a list of shops (from guide books, recommended on travel forums, etc.) that I visit on my own during free time. That is not to say that I don't also make some spontaneous purchases.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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for Israel
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5. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

I have seen this flyer, and appreciate its fair warning.

And I HATE being dragged into shops by tour guides.

Douglas Duckett

israel
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for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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6. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

One is dragged into shops by owners too offering tea or suggesting that you "just look" at his stuff. Don't go in if you don't want to be pestered and even insulted. Still people want to buy souvenirs. Try to check prices and compare, or buy in "regular" shops in the city like on Ben-Yehuda street or in some other shops that were mentioned on the forum. Maybe rdglady will give her list when she gets online.

Israel
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for Israel
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7. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

This is a very delicate issue and actually falls into a number of categories.

If you are touring privately with a guide, the guide should never "drag" you into any shops. If you have established a good relationship and good communications, then the guide will help you find a good place to get what you want, and only if you want to shop.

I have never come across any shop that pays a guide 35% commission - this is all hype. These signs and flyers started to appear about a year and a half ago and caused a lot of unpleasantness as some (and I emphasize, only a few) shopkeepers accosted guides and tourists and started yelling at the tourists that the guide was ripping them off.

The issue becomes exacerbated when you are touring with a group and there is an agent involved. Often the agent will include a shopping stop and will determine where that stop will be. The guide has NO leeway - he must take his group where the agent sends him. Sometimes, the upside of this is that the agent has an arrangement with the shop that will guarantee the right to return purchases and will guarantee "quality of goods" so that if you find something was mis-labeled, the agent will make sure you get your money back.

Most guides will tell you that in these situations this is the least favorite part of their day. Most would gladly skip these enforced shopping stops, but the agent is the boss. And as Shoshi already noted, you can easily get dragged into a shop by a pushy vendor with the offer of a a cup of tea or "just look" and the high pressure sale will be just as bad - and BTW, even if there is no guide getting a commission, the price will not be any better.

There are shops that we can recommend that have set prices regardless.

Let us know where you are (what city) and what you want to buy and we can help you avoid some of the tension.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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for Israel
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8. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

Oreet, thanks for the elaboration and clarification. And yes, I used the wrong word "dragged." No one "drags" me anywhere I don't want to go. And I sometimes shop; I have done so with Madeleine Lavine. But usually I suggest it. And if she does, and I don't indicate interest, that's the end of it.

That's the way it needs to be.

Douglas Duckett

NYC/Israel
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for Israel
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9. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

First--since Shoshi promised. My favorite shop for gifts and memories is a place called GANS Gifts--located at 8 Rivlin Street. ( new city) Rivlin intersects Jaffa--near Mike's Bar and Village Green. Everything in the store is Israeli made--they will give you info about the artist, they speak fluent English, prices are set--on the items but cheaper than anyplace else that may have some of the same stuff and they participate in the VAT refund if you spend 400NIS ( minimum amount per the government)

Now for my 2cents worth...

I can't imagine anyone who is traveling with a private guide

being taken into a shop against their will. I do understand that stops are part of the itinerary of group trips. Not only do agents put tours together BUT sometimes people on the trip are not comfortable going on their own. --there IS a reason why some people will only take big bus tours.

In terms of the original flyer. I have seen plenty of people ripped off big time in the old city. I would imagine the guide prevents that ( even if they are getting a commission) I think what is important for the tourist is that they pay less where they shop than they would in any other store. Most people do not care if the shop gets the $$ or the guide, as long as it is the lowest price possible.

I have also never heard a guide tell people they wouldn't be safe. ( I have a tendency to eavesdrop as I wander places alone. I am always curious as to what the guides are telling their tourists.

Two years ago I took the free walking tour. ( Just to see what it was about) I did not tell anyone anything about myself, my background, my knowledge level etc etc. A women came up to me at the end and shared a purchase she had made. She was very proud of herself and felt she had gotten a great price. She was asking people if we agreed. I told her very nice--but what I should have said was she probably paid 250% of its' worth. ( no point in upsetting her)

Washington State
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10. Re: Tour guides, commission from sales

One other consideration:

One of my favorite things to do when in the Old City and want to take a break is just to sit by the Jaffa Gate. Literally, the whole world passes through there. But when doing so I also would watch the men who transport stuff into the Old City lanes in those little carts.

I noticed that box after box was from China. A lot of the stuff you buy in the Old City comes from China (just like it does in the USA). For many things, it may not matter. But if you intend to buy things made in Israel (or perhaps the PA, like Hebron glass or olivewood), there is some “buyer beware” that should be exercised.