Tourists love a deal, and free guided walking tours offer a great way for them to explore the sights of a new city. But consumers expect that a tour advertised as “free” will be exactly that: they won’t have to make any payment at any point. So they may not be expecting to be invited to tip the guide at the end of the tour.

If it’s not clear from your advertising that consumers will be invited to make a discretionary payment you may be misleading consumers and putting yourself at risk of complaints to the ASA.

To help you avoid this, here are our top four tips for treading the right side of the line:

If you call it “free”, it must be free!

This may sound obvious, but if there’s any mandatory cost to the consumer at any point (including refundable payments for reserving spaces on a tour), you shouldn’t call the tour “free”.

Tell consumers about discretionary payments – prominently

If your guides invite tips, that should be stated prominently in your advertising. On websites that should be on the homepage. You could use an asterisk to link the “free” claim with information about your tipping culture, but make sure website users don’t have to scroll down the page to find it.

Make clear that discretionary payments are entirely voluntary

Avoid phrases which imply that a payment is required and which therefore contradict a “free” claim. Consumers are likely to understand phrases such as “Pay what you think it’s worth” to mean that they do have to make some level of payment. The same goes for suggestions as to the amount they might wish to tip. Focus instead on phrases like “tips are welcome”.

Tell consumers if the guide doesn’t keep discretionary payments in full

Consumers want to show their appreciation to their guide, and they’re likely to think that the guide will keep, in full, any tips given to them. If they don’t that should be made clear in your ads, and you should avoid using the term “tip” to describe discretionary payments.

Find out more

You can find more detailed advice about how to advertise free guided walking tours in our AdviceOnline article "Free" Walking Tours, or contact our Copy Advice team if you have any questions about specific aspects of your advertising. 

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