About Me

My photo
Welcome My name is Tess. I'm a 9-5 New Yorker and traveler. My hobbies include destroying suitcases, photo-bombing tourists in Times Square, and taking long romantic ADHD walks around the globe. Welcome!

Jan 20, 2012

How Did You Get That Job Anyway?

These African immigrants don't let  English hold them
back in NYC..

Vendors talk fast and get that cash!

 In the city that never sleeps, “sightseeing” bus tours are considered a quintessential part of the tourist experience. These buses hit every popular tourist attraction. From the Empire State building in Manhattan, the Apollo in Harlem and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Brooklyn to name a few. And all trips originate in Times Square

Need a bus ticket? Not a problem! Just look for the African man in a yellow or red jacket.
Sounds horrible? Not really, because African immigrants have in fact cornered the market on the ticket vendor jobs for tour bus operators. On every corner between 42cd & 50th streets these guys conduct more transactions than a "street pharmacist."

Abdul shows tourists where to hop on the tour bus
 Still, I am always baffled when I see tourists trying to communicate with these vendors who often times speak even less English than they do. Actually It’s quite comical to hear a Swede and a Nigerian making English - it's like plucking unwanted body hair - just painful.

The fact that the seller has an even thicker accent than the buyer just doesn't seem fair? Like, how the hell did you get that job if you can’t speak English?
So what's the story with these African guys and why do they seem to be the only ones working these positions when there are so many unemployed English speaking New Yorkers?
This job is nothing short of a hustle.

Louis, a native from Ghana who has lived in the states for seven years explained it like this, "When the first African man came to the city, they go to the tour company for a job." Louis's family from Ghana has since joined him in the states.  And while his story sounds a bit folklore-ish he's made me curious. 

With 53 countries on the continent of Africa, the ticket agents inform me that most workers are from Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria & Burkina Faso. “Some don't even speak good English," says Louis. “But whenever there is a new arrival, there is someone to help him.”
Not bad, considering most Americans I know would just point you in the direction of the nearest homeless shelter.  Louis's coworker then offers his sentiments, "It's the culture. We eat together, help with families, we share everything it's the culture we're from,"

Tourists gather around as the tour packages are explained

At 6ft 3in, Abdul cannot be missed in his yellow City Sights jacket. He is from Guinea and has been here for nine years with his brother. He tells me that 99% of the ticket sellers are African.  "When I come here a friend asks if you need a job.  You have to go through the training then they [tour company] give you working papers."

Training you say? Well, after a quick Google search I found that these positions are not listed on the Grayline employment page.  And CitySights employment page lists no open positions – why come? Who knows if these are commissioned positions or salaried. But something tells me that these African guys have the inside track nonetheless.  

You would have to be willing to brave the brutal & beautiful weather

No comments:

Post a Comment

spill your guts here