Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let the tourist beware

Rule #1: Don't believe everything you're told
New York City purports to welcome tourists with open arms, yet it places the burden of consumer protection squarely on the shoulders of the visitors. A good example is the horse-drawn carriage industry. The Department of Consumer Affairs disregards the common overcharging of tourists by drivers of horse-drawn carriages--and the carriage industry is cash-only. Given free rein to behave badly, this reckless industry takes every advantage.

Look no further than the website of the Horse & Carriage Association of New York. This industry site misleads tourists before they even get on the airplane or step out of the hotel room. It states, "Rides are approximately $34 for a 20-minute ride tour through Central Park." Approximately? Twenty minutes? The law is clear. The legally allowable fare, as written in the Administrative Code (Title 20, Section 380), is $34 for the first half-hour. This is the law, and the rates must be displayed on the carriage (make sure the sign isn't covered up, and do take a look). There is no sales tax on rides!

What gives? The city of New York is not looking out for tourists, a population that apparently is deemed to be an easy target (here for a week, wide-eyed, and then gone, perhaps never to return).

If you have been overcharged for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, call 311 and report the circumstances. Also file a complaint with the DCA. However, given the DCA's apathy around overcharging of tourists, you may wish to make a complaint to the state Attorney General, Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, at 212-416-8345.

Your willingness to file a complaint will be pivotal in making sure that other tourists don't get overcharged. Help make New York City a tourist-friendly destination.
View real-life examples of tourists being overcharged. Forget about $34, most fares are quoted as $50--and many others are much higher! Read recent testimony about blatant overcharging.

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