Auditors — Your Business is Changing
I noted that my experience has been that theft isn’t the main problem.
He concurred, saying that with the advent of alternative payment methods (credit and debit cards, bank transfers, electronic purses, bitcoin), losses by theft have been greatly reduced.
However, he noted that even in the pre-credit card days, theft wasn’t the main area of loss that he and his auditors found. The losses came from the inability of personnel all up and down the line – from cashier to garage manager, from asset manager to garage owner – to properly track the many different products sold in garages and ensure that the money is actually collected.
He told me that garages are moving from a “service” business – that is, a business of parking cars – to a “revenue transaction” business – that is, the business of conducting a monetary transaction. He noted that parking really had been that way since horses were being parked, but that often garage staff stress the service industry part of the business and neglect the financial transaction part.
I concurred. As garages have become more automated, the interface of garage personnel and the parking public has become less and less. I pointed out that I couldn’t remember when I actually saw a live person in a garage helping my boss park.
The other parking auditor stressed certain areas where parking operations could review their procedures to be sure that the financial transaction was being properly tended to.
1. Monthly parkers – Are 1,000 cards active in the system but only 800 active accounts paying? Are the other 200 legitimate “freebies,” or are they simply parking for free?
2. Neighborhood valet operations – Does the restaurant across the street that uses your garage for valet operations pay you for all the cars that are parked?
3. Validations – Are validations properly charged and tracked?
4. Monthly contracts – Are “time-limited” deals, cut by real estate brokers to offer reduced-rate parking for a period of time to sweeten a lease agreement, raised when that deal is up?
5. Monthly contracts – Likewise, are “escalation” (cost of living) clauses in monthly contracts properly executed?
6. Daily rates – Are daily parking rates adjusted to meet market demands?
7. “Freebies” – Are parkers who actually owe for the parking let out for free when they complain? Plus, how many contract cards are given out by owners to be accommodating?
My auditor friend noted that these are only a few of the myriad issues that auditors need to review when they visit parking operations.
He and his staff also were looking closely at the reports and programs that are produced by technology. Just because a report or printout says so much should have been collected, is the report right?
A periodic transaction-by-transaction audit is a good idea to confirm that the machines are not making mistakes or dropping transactions here and there. It happens,
Technology, it seems, sometimes makes lives more complicated, not less.