Clash of the Quackers

The Bay Quackers tours were a big duck in a small pond until a bigger flock showed up.

Beyond that, he said he didn't have a good rapport with Scannell. It bothered him that the boss went on frequent business trips and seemed more concerned with making connections abroad than running things at home.

When Adams was told that Scannell had hired a private investigator, his right eyebrow shot up. "About me?" he asked in disbelief. "John's kind of odd. I don't know if he's been watching too many spy movies." He said he understood why it looked suspicious that he had already worked for Ride the Ducks, but was surprised that Scannell would actually believe he was a spy. "He knew me," Adams said. "I'm just not that good."

If anything, Adams said, he had tried to pass on some tips about luring customers to Bay Quackers he had picked up at Ride the Ducks, but Scannell never seemed interested. "I don't think he wants a big business," Adams said. (Scannell says that's all ridiculous.)

Jake Poehls
This summer, another duck tour — Ride the Ducks — migrated to the city.
Jake Poehls
This summer, another duck tour — Ride the Ducks — migrated to the city.

Back aboard Adams' duck in San Francisco Bay, a question loomed of whether we'd pass a Bay Quackers duck. It certainly would have been interesting to see how Adams would react, if at all, but the opportunity never came. On that Friday, Ride the Ducks was the only game in the water; it felt like a glimpse of the future.

Scannell hasn't lost all hope yet, but his financial situation is looking pretty bleak. In his office, he offered his balance sheets for SF Weekly's inspection. Last October, his net income was about $8,000. This October, he says, Bay Quackers profited $91.82. The problem lay in ticket sales, which were down as much as 40 percent. He blamed the overall economy.

But the real money in this industry, Scannell explains, is when you can build your business to about seven ducks. That's when the economies of scale begin working for you. He knows Ride the Ducks has numerous vehicles at the ready; Salmon confirmed that the company has plans to turn San Francisco into a 15-duck city. That's a lot of quacking.

Scannell had hoped to eventually run about 10 ducks, and to be running five or six ducks in San Francisco at this point. Instead, he is running one and a half. He's also had to make some unprecedented changes this winter. He laid off Jiang, his office manager of two years. He also had to temporarily say goodbye to his third captain, so until June it'll just be Olsson and Scannell guiding the tours. Bay Quackers would have lost its office if not for a renegotiation of the rent. "Thank God the property managers are really nice to us here," Scannell said.

There is one thing Scannell is looking forward to for the winter, and that's a Holiday Lights tour aboard the ducks. He believes it'll be a hit with the locals, and apparently he isn't the only one. SF Weekly recently received a press release from Ride the Ducks: "Classic Cable Car Sightseeing is lighting up the holidays with a special holiday lights tour of San Francisco."

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