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To investigate the claims about the tour buses’ conduct, I went to Hollywood Boulevard on Tuesday afternoon to try to book a star homes tour. I showed my press credentials and told companies I was writing a story about the tour bus industry. Several companies east of Vine Street offered me a seat for $20 — bargained down from the usual price of $35 — and, after shopping around, I booked a one-hour tour on a Hollywood Sightseeing open-top bus. The salesman said the bus would leave in “a few minutes.”
The bus was ready to leave about 20 minutes later, when salesmen on the boulevard had recruited enough passengers to fill up the seats. When we were about to set off, the company owner said the tour would last two hours. Immediately, I got off the bus, asking for a refund, because I had been sold an hour-long tour, and brandished my receipt. The owner, who refused to identify himself, said I couldn’t get a refund, and physically pushed me when I, in turn, refused to move away from the bus’s doors.
As I stood on the sidewalk, one of the salesmen, who identified himself as Jonathan but refused to give a last name, advised me to go on the tour.
“With these people, you’re never going to get your money back,” he said.
When I spoke to the salesman who had sold me the ticket, he said he never told me the tour would last one hour. The receipt included the price I’d paid, but not the length of time the tour was supposed to last.
Only when I threatened to call the police and report a bait-and-switch did the company refund my money.
After the incident, Jonathan said he’d worked for Hollywood Sightseeing for the last month, and makes 25 percent commission on every ticket he sells. Working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., that works out to anywhere from $100 to $400 dollars a day. In the fall, he plans to go back to school.
“Incidents like this happen quite frequently,” he said. “But it’s just part of [the business]. A lot of people don’t know the customs. It’s a fourteen-passenger van, and people pay twenty to thirty bucks for a tour. They have to fill the van up, pay the driver fifty bucks a trip. You make the bulk of your money during tourist season. If you’re a small mom-and-pop business owner, that’s a lot of stress.”
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