I was in New York City, Times Square this past weekend for a Broadway show. Times Square is an entertainment mecca, drawing in millions of visitors every year. Many of those people are visiting the city for the very first time. There is something I’ve seen enough times that I think it’s worth calling it out.
In Times Square, there are these costumed characters that would beckon you to take photos with them. This weekend, I’ve seen Disney’s Olaf from Frozen, Lady Liberty, and a slew of Marvel superheroes.
I am no stranger to paying for photos taken at attractions. The issue here is expectation. The problem with these costumed characters in Times Square is that they would beckon unsuspecting visitors to take pictures, and then get quite aggressive when a tourist doesn’t tip them (or don’t know they needed to).
New York City was aware of the problem and had taken some steps.
New York City’s Response
NYC had received complaints of bad behaviors in the last couple of years and they have since provided additional guidance. According to the Times Square visitor’s website:
This doesn’t stop visitors from being ripped off.
This weekend, while trying to navigate through the crowds, an unsuspecting family took a picture with a costumed character. When they turned to leave, the costumed character pulled on them (effectively preventing them from leaving) and pressured them for a tip by pointing them to the tip bag.
As with most people, they awkwardly dug through their pockets for some loose change to hand over.
Is it a scam? Absolutely not, if the expectations are clear. The costumed characters folks are trying to making a living too, and I am sure some of them are wonderful in their roles.
Still, some of these aggressive moves from the few bad apples really turned me off to most of the costumed characters in NYC.
So, travelers beware.
Have you encounter any aggressive costumed characters in NYC? Sound off below.