Tourist information booths called "misleading" in Charleston

By Nicole Johnson  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It may have happened to you on the streets of downtown Charleston, salespeople offering what seems to be great tourist information, deals, or free maps. Some city leaders say what they're really doing is a trick, to lure you to buy a time share.

The signs for tourist information, free maps, and discounts can be seen all up and down Market Street, Charleston City Councilman Tim Mallard says visitor beware.

"They're acting as a visitor information center, giving out maps, selling tickets for carriage rides, or museum homes, but what they're really doing is luring a tourist to sit down for a presentation to sell them time share," Mallard said.

He says after multiple complaints from visitors getting roped into one of the sales pitches, city council could regulate on the practice with a new ordinance to make it clear these companies are selling time shares.

"What it should say is time share real estate sales and it doesn't say that. The vendors, if you will, are very disruptive on the street, grabbing people, and bringing them in, and trying to sell them on a presentation," Mallard said.

Tourists say it's a similar practice to what they've seen at other popular destinations across the globe, but they won't let it ruin their visit to Charleston.

"People are trying to make a living and promote their product or time share. It leaves it up to the person to make that choice, please, I don't want to be bothered and then go about their day," visitor from Seattle, Larry Costello said.

A manager at one of these companies didn't want to be identified, but he told Live 5 his company provides an important service to the city and to tourists when asked about allegations of false advertising. Another man told us he wasn't allowed to talk to the media, and another man walked away from his booth as soon as Live 5 approached him.

The visitor information center selling times shares ordinance will be taken up tonight for the first time at city council chambers. That meeting started at 5 p.m.

©2011 WCSC. All rights reserved.