Magazine

Parking Vs. Pop Culture

‘Office Space,’ and Reserved Parking

By Isaiah Mouw and Ben Bronsink

Parking vs. Pop Culture is a series of articles dedicated to significant parking references found in pop culture. The winner, either Parking or Pop Culture, will be determined by whether the parking ended as a positive or negative experience in the particular pop culture reference. This issue’s parking reference is taken from the 1999 movie “Office Space.”
Have you ever had such an appalling Monday morning clearly written all over your face that a colleague can’t help but say, “Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays”?
Have you ever felt an impulsive urge to take a Louisville Slugger to your office copy machine after receiving a hundred paper-jam error messages? Or have you ever been annoyed with your boss so much that all you want to do is scream at the top of your lungs?
If so, you probably have seen the comedy film “Office Space.” The movie was written and directed by Mike Judge (“King of the Hill,” “Extract”) about U.S. office workers, co-workers and bosses. Although considered a box-office bomb when it opened in theaters in 1999, it’s now considered to have reached cult-classic status.
Following the protagonist Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) and how he deals with life in the workplace, “Office Space” is one of the most quotable movies of all time, with some of the most memorable characters of all time.
Remember Supervisor Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) and his annoyingly familiar request: “Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow [Saturday]. So if you could be here around 9, that would be great, mmmk ... Oh, oh, and I almost forgot, ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too, ‘kay?
Lumbergh gets a lot out of his workers. He also gets a lot of perks. At the very least, he doesn’t have to work the weekends. And as the film points out, he also gets his own reserved parking space.
Nowadays, reserved spaces seem to be disappearing from parking facilities across the country. Even Google, which is consistently voted one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” does not offer typical reserved parking for employees.
In an article earlier this year in Bloomberg Businessweek, “Company Perks: Reserved Parking is So Yesteryear,” Joel Stein discusses why reserved parking is on the decline. He cites reasons such as managers’ recent need for anonymity during these tough economic times and reserved parking being a poor allocation of funds.
Reserved parking was not on the decline in “Office Space,” which premiered in 1999 during the heyday of reserved parking at the office.
Gibbons eventually rebels against his company and begins parking in his manager’s reserved parking space. The manager decides to park in the next available spot, a handicap-permit parking space, causing his car to be towed away.
Here lies one of the classic problems of reserved parking – the “domino effect.” When a violator is parked in someone’s reserved parking space, the reserved parker will often become a violator by finding the next available parking spot, whether it be a handicap space, fire lane or someone else’s reserved parking space, which often creates a domino effect of illegal parking.
This also could be one of the many reasons that reserved parking at the office is on the decline. Barbara Chance of Chance Management Advisors and Jon Frederick, Director of Parking and Transportation for the city of Portsmouth, NH, explain several others.
“Everyone wants to maximize the potential for revenue these days, and unless the price is right, a reserved space doesn’t do that,” Chance says. “The cost of installing and maintaining signage and the idea of allocating public property to certain individuals are some of my concerns.”
“And then enforcing against violators poses its own problems – we would be at the permitted parker’s beck and call,” Frederick adds.
And let’s not forget the egalitarian approach of “equality to all” that many companies are adopting. As author Robert Townsend suggested, in his book “Up the Organization,” if you want to park next to the office door, then get to work early. “Besides,” he said, “you meet the nicest people in your company’s parking lot.
With all of the faults and shortcomings of reserved parking spaces, there are just as many positives, in our opinion.
Chance goes on to point out a few: “You can command a premium price – if you bother to figure out what the space would have made under other circumstances. As an operator or manager, you also are providing a certain customer service, although it is typically to only a few.”
Many companies, apparently not Google, also use reserved parking spaces to increase employee morale by offering one to the “employee of the month.” But the goal, as Chance pointed out, is to know the price to set for reserved parking spaces.
If parking professionals set the right price, then reserved parking spaces can be a success for your operation, because people will always want reserved parking spaces. As Chuck Cullen, Senior Associate with The Integrity Group, puts it, “Reserved parking is this country’s version of royalty. This makes perfect sense in a nation where the car is king.”
The movie “Office Space,” with all of its hilarious quotes, quirky characters and memorable office moments, does teach reinforce one fundament lesson about parking: Don’t park in a handicap-permit parking space unless you have the proper credentials.
Because of this fundamental and valuable lesson in parking protocol, Parking wins over Pop Culture, but who’s keeping track anyway?
Isaiah Mouw, who works for Republic Parking System, can be contacted at imow@republicparking.com. Ben Bronsink, Co-Founder of snobbyreviews.com, can be reached at ben@snobbyreviews.com.

Article Abstract from July, 2011




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