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The Final Confession Of A Chicago Tour Guide

My final confession is this: There isn't a single story in this series that I have not, at one time or another, told to my customers. Why? Because I enjoyed it? No. "Because Poor Training."

This includes documented cases where the tour company chooses to train new docents into telling tall tales "Because Ticket Sales." Real News: Sometimes customers actually complain when you don't sling the shit. They know Mrs. O'Leary's cow is "bullshit" (see what I did there?!), they just want to hear it anyway.

It all comes down to training. And leadership.

At one time in the mid-Aughts, I was working for a now-defunct Hop On-Hop Off downtown bus tour (tours where you can hop off at any of a set of tourist/shopping destinations, then hop back on and back around to where you started) for a company operating under an internationally recognized brand.

Like: Ever been to a particularly shitty McDonald's?

When the local owners leasing the brand just want the money and are willing to hurt the brand image, this is the result. I can attest personally that these owners did not give a flying fuck about you once they got your dollar, and the backlog of complaints made to the Chicago branch of the Illinois Office for Tourism for those years will back that up.

This company's overall service was so bad, in fact, that I realized to merely save my skin I had to give the best tour possible or quit. I chose the former. I took responsibility for training myself properly and set about to do so. And over time, that became easier to do "Because The Internet."

The result: A decade later, and for the last three consecutive years, companies I work for have been awarded the highest accolades by TripAdvisor, arguably the leading trade publication in the industry. Shoreline Sightseeing's Architectural River Cruise was named Most Popular Tour in the U.S. & 2nd only to the Vatican Worldwide for two years straight, 2018-19, and this year Inside Chicago Walking Tours was named Customer's Choice for 2020 and ranked in the Top 10% of Attractions Worldwide.

Even as Navy Pier closed for the season on September 8th, most of the architectural tour boat cruises will remain in operation for as long as you will show up, and, this year, will likely cater mostly to local Stay-cationers. This Means You!

Of course, not every guide at every company is going to appeal to your taste, but I have seen that an emphasis on excellence in training has resulted in excellence in service overall at companies where the Real News prevails over the Fake. And you can always find them in advance with a little digital legwork.

So in the end, let me say: Forgive me my sins, look for the best and don't take any wooden nickels.

* Confessions Of A Tour Guide Part 1: Busting The Myths Of Chicago Architecture.

* Confessions Of A Chicago Tour Guide Part 2: Myths Of The Mob.

* Confessions Of A Chicago Tour Guide Part 3: The Post Office's Gyro Copters, Marina City's Flying Cars & Navy Pier's Planes.


See also:

* Kogan: Poet J.J. Tindall Finds Freedom In Guiding Boat Tours.

* J.J. Tindall's Chicagoetry.

* Tindall: Ballots From The Dead.

* Tindall Music.

* Tindall: Interpretive Jazz Dance 1: The Match Game Theme.


Comments welcome.


Posted on October 5, 2020

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SPORTS - Cubs Screwing FO - And Themselves.

BOOKS - How Comics Make Sounds.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Illinois Caverns Reopening After 10 Years.

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