Making a Splash in Style
Providing guided tours to hundreds of visitors every day, Boston Duck Tours is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, and a great way to see a lot of Boston in a short time.” It’s a fully narrated, 80-minute tour, 60 minutes on land, 20 minutes in the water,” explains Guest Service Manager Luke Neily. From an amphibious “duck” vehicle, “you get to learn about Boston’s freedom, firsts and fun, or as we like to say, one big splash and the rest is history.” Lands’ End Business is on board too, as Boston Duck Tours’ official uniform clothing supplier.
Since Boston was founded in 1630, there’s a lot to cover on a tour, from Paul Revere’s legendary midnight ride to the Great Molasses Flood of 1919. A Boston Duck tour weaves its way around the city from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill, passing many of Boston’s famous historic sites such as the Old State House, Faneuil Hall and Boston Common. “We take great pride in being able to share the treasures of Boston with visitors from around the world,” says Neily. There’s a tale to be told on almost every street corner in Boston, and the tour guides are adept at bringing to life the stories of the city’s most famous residents from Samuel Adams to JFK, as well as cracking jokes and sharing humorous anecdotes. When two ducks meet while crisscrossing the city, the guides encourage guests to greet the other duck with a loud “quack quack!”—although a few neighborhoods are designated “no-quack” zones. After crossing the bridge to Charlestown and the site of the battle of Bunker Hill, it’s back over to Boston for the boat ride. “You see a lot of Boston and Cambridge from the Charles River when you splash in,” Neily adds.
The ducks themselves are attractions in their own right. With names like Red Sox Nathan, Dorchester Dottie, Molly Molasses and Beantown Betty, the fleet of 28 colorful vehicles can be seen on the streets of Boston daily throughout most of the year, and are also fixtures in the city’s many parades. “They’re replica World War II ducks,” explains CEO Cindy Brown, who has been with Boston Duck Tours from the beginning, when Andy Wilson started the company in 1994. “We’ve made them far more reliable, far more efficient, and they run on biodiesel so we’re trying to be a little more environmentally friendly.”
Nevertheless, there are plenty of nods to the ducks’ military heritage, including the Boston Duck Tours logo featuring the company’s mascot, Kilroy, a bright yellow duck wearing a camouflage army hat. “We’re very proud of our association with veterans,” says Brown. “When we have veterans aboard we ask them to sign the roof. We really value them, and we thank them on board. We’ve had some people who drove ducks in World War II drive them on the Charles River.”
Not surprisingly, Boston Duck Tours operates with almost military precision, and requires a small army of 200 employees in a wide range of roles. “We’ve got service reps, support staff out on the sidewalks, selling tickets, checking tickets, boarding ducks and cleaning ducks. Then we’ve got our office staff who handle hundreds of phone calls every single day,” explains Neily. Behind the scenes at the Boston Duck Tours garage, “an entire crew of mechanics and detailers takes care of the ducks every night to make sure they stay on the road.” Apart from the tour guides, who wear costumes to match their unique characters, everyone is outfitted in logo clothing from Lands’ End Business. “When we decided to move over to Lands’ End Business, they offered the entire line of every single piece of clothing that our employees could conceivably wear,” says Neily.
He adds that different colors are assigned to specific roles. “Lands’ End Business helps us, operationally speaking, with the variety of styles and color choices. It’s easy to tell who is the dispatcher because they’re the one wearing gray, not dark blue or light blue.” The employees also appreciate the durability of the clothing, Neily continues, as well as the consistency of the swing and the fit: “you can be a medium in a polo, you’ll be a medium in a fleece, you’ll be a medium in a Squall. Everybody likes to look good when they come to work. Not only does it improve morale, but it also improves the guest’s perception of the overall Boston Duck Tours experience.”
Switching to Lands’ End, says Brown, “felt good for our employees. If you don’t feel good in what you’re wearing you’re not going to be good at your job. The quality is so much better than what we had before, and as a result they’re happier. They look better but they also feel better, and that’s what makes a good employee after 10 hours, 12 hours in the sun, rain or heat.”
Neily explains that the staff rely on Outrigger® and Squall® jackets as well as ThermaCheck® fleece for cold weather protection. “There’s a saying in New England that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, and it’ll change. Lands’ End Business has really helped our staff roll with the punches, offering gear to keep us in the proper uniform at all times, regardless of the weather.” Working with Lands’ End Business, he adds, “has been a real pleasure due to the relationship we have with our sales rep and pretty much anybody we come into contact with throughout the company. They really are incredibly thoughtful throughout the process of ordering. Lands’ End has been crucial to getting our new hires out on the street and working as quickly as possible”
Despite the tight schedule and unpredictable weather conditions, it’s clear that the Boston Duck Tours staff love what they do and are excited to create a memorable experience for their guests. “We all love making people happy,” says Neily. “That’s what we do.” Brown adds, “We work hard but we play hard. We want to make Boston as good as it can be, and that’s our focus. We want to be a safe, successful, happy operation with employees that love the city and the company as much as we do as managers.” Looking back on her 24-year career at Boston Duck Tours, she smiles: “It’s been a wild ride. Quack quack!”