The NYPD is currently passing out flyers in Times Square advising tourists of their rights: "Photos with costumed characters are free. Tipping is optional." The flyer comes in five different languages but omits the fact that refusing to tip a worker in a costume all but guarantees a confrontation.

According to an NYPD release, police are handing out the literature with the help of the Times Square Alliance, the group that wants to make the characters obtain a license before working the streets.

If I'm a tourist, this flyer is confusing. The language is simple but the meaning is vague. The photos are free? Who is paying for them? Why should I have to tip for a free photo? And what's with the menacing black and white Elmo & Minnie?

Like police warnings on ATM skimming and Chinatown con artists [PDF], these flyers should explain reality, not the contextless letter of the law: Costumed characters cannot legally charge you to take a photo, but they make a living off tips. They will expect a tip.

Some tourists might wonder why people living in the Greatest City In The World would choose to don a sweltering suit to essentially beg for dollar bills. That will require a larger pamphlet.