U.S. Virgin Islands to evict badgering barkers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Selling everything from timeshares to T-shirts, "barkers" have been a constant presence — and nuisance — for tourists visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands.

No more.

As of Aug. 1, the ragtag group of business promoters will be evicted from store fronts and other tourist-friendly areas they have dominated for several decades.

"The problem is that once you look anything like a tourist, you were being bombarded, whether it'd be a timeshare or someone saying, 'You don't want to shop in that store,'" Joe Aubain, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, said Sunday.

Aubain said shoppers and cruise-ship operators complained frequently about barkers verbally abusing tourists if they refused to enter a store, sometimes calling them ugly or criticizing the size of their behinds.

Others refused to be ignored or went to great lengths to call attention to themselves: One barker wore a feather headdress, chaps and a loincloth.

The government tried to polish and professionalize the hawkers' image — requesting that they wear uniforms and stay within designated areas while luring tourists into stores. But the vendors refused, prompting the eviction order.

Aubain said he has not received any feedback on the new law from store owners who employ barkers.

His conclusion? They're probably hoping officials will forget to enforce it.