I’m in Israel with my parents, and we’re having a really great time. I can’t believe it took me so long to get here, but this truly is an incredible destination. I’ll have more on our time here soon, but in the meantime I wanted to share a quick story from our sightseeing today, as I’m curious what you guys make of this situation.
Today we decided to do some independent sightseeing. We had some specific sights we wanted to see, so this morning we got in a taxi to our first destination. The driver spoke great English and was friendly, and sort of poo-pooed the places my mom wanted to go, but at least he made some good suggestions. He convinced my mom that he should be our “tour guide” for the day.
He would charge a reasonable(ish) amount, and would drive us to all the places we wanted to go and explain things along the way. He was incredibly knowledgable, at first came across as a nice guy, and had a nice car, so we figured why not. After all, having someone always waiting for us is better than having to hail a different taxi every time.
Eventually the guy started getting on my nerves a bit:
- He started talking about US politics, and about how Obama is really Muslim because his middle name is Hussein (and this was a conversation he started, not me)
- There are specific things my mom wanted to see, and he basically refused to go to some of them and suggested they weren’t worth seeing; while I appreciate when a local gives advice, I wanted to make sure my mom saw what was important to her, and there’s a difference between making a recommendation and outright dictating where your customers should and shouldn’t go
- My mom is Christian, and I thought it was a bit rude when he started dropping us places and simply saying “these are more Jesus things,” followed by him rolling his eyes; for the record, the driver said he wasn’t religious
During this trip my mom wanted to pick up a couple of things that someone had asked her to bring back to the US (specifically, a mezuzah and shofar), so she asked the guy if he knew of a good place to buy these. She was looking more for general recommendations than anything else. My assumption was that these things would be easy to find on our own, but the guy said “I know of a good place, I will take you there.”
At this point I jumped in. “I really think we can do it on our own.” “This is the best place, I can easily take you there.” Up until this point the guy had given good recommendations, so I said “okay, but this isn’t a place only full of tourists? I don’t want to go out of our way to go to a tourist trap shop.” “No, I only take you to good places.”
It was a 15 minute drive to get there (which is pretty far in Jerusalem), and it was a ways outside the old city. As we pull up there were two huge tour buses there, full of tourists from the US and Philippines. I couldn’t help myself, and said what came to my mind. I’m not sure I would have said anything if he had otherwise been incredible, but leading up to this a few other things got on my nerves (as I outlined above), so I guess I felt I was justified in at least sharing my opinion on this.
“Oh come on, you take us to a shop full of tour buses where you get a commission? I specifically said we didn’t want to go to a place like this.”
He was angry. He put the car in reverse right away, and said “I can take you to your hotel right now. You think I do this for a commission? This is the best place!”
“Yeah, but I specifically asked for a place that wasn’t full of tourists. We didn’t ask you to bring us here, and you specifically said you knew of a great place.”
We went in anyway. It was as you’d expect. Prices were in USD. There was a buffet there for the tour buses. When they quoted the prices, they were giving a “special 20% discount” on everything. We bought what we needed to since it was convenient.
Of course our driver tried to hide that he was getting a commission. When we were done shopping he walked out with us, got in the car, then got out of the car and pretended he needed something out of the trunk, at which point the guy from the shop walked up to the trunk and handed him money. He then got back in the car, and slipped the money in his pocket.
Previously we hadn’t discussed that this would be the end of the tour, but I guess he had made up his mind that he was taking us to our hotel. While his driving was great up until this point, he now drove like a total maniac. He swerved around cars and honked his horn constantly. As we drove back he said to me “you are just a kid and know nothing. You should know when to shut your lips.”
I wasn’t going to respond to that specifically. Little did he know that I was the one taking my parents on the trip and paying for the tour. I simply said “I wasn’t trying to be mean, but I’ve been all over the world, and I’ve seen these tourist markets everywhere. That’s not what we were looking for, and I explained that before we went. I was hoping you had a more local place you could bring us. I’m sorry if I didn’t communicate that well.”
“You want local? You will pay a lot more.”
“Well we don’t mind paying more if it’s good quality.”
“I brought you to the best there is.”
“Okay, so you’re saying the locals get worse deals than the tourists, and pay more for worse quality?”
“I take people there every day and they have no problems. It is only you.”
“Okay, I’m sorry…”
I still paid and tipped as I would have before the whole incident, and he really made me feel guilty for a brief moment.
Now I’m not sure how to feel. Was I off base for voicing my opinion? Should I have just thanked him for bringing us to this hidden gem?