A Direct Quote, and the 'Dirty Little Secret'
August, 2004I have a couple of stories this month that you will find illuminating. First, just to prove that I am not the only one who sniffs out problems in parking facilities, here's a direct quote from a friend who is currently auditing parking lots for a major city in the U.S. (if you want to know who it is, email my editor and he can put you in touch):
"PT, just a note to make you smile and you can print this. I was on a 20-space surface lot last Friday. After spending a few minutes talking with the attendant about starting ticket numbers and total tickets for the day, I said I needed to count the cars. It was a small lot, so I just turned and started counting. The attendant stopped me and said don't count that car as it was his. I did a double-take and said which one is yours; he proudly pointed to the new black Mercedes SUV. This lot was small, but it did turn about four times per day. I left and went to the next lot. It had 85 ticketed cars, 32 of which had duplicate tickets. I was afraid to ask that attendant which car was his. I got in my Hyundai rental car and left. I could duplicate those stories 100 times just from my past few months' experience here in this city."
Thanks for the input. I know that operators cringe when I tell these stories. In fact, the president of a major operator asked my editor why we didn't print more "nice things" about operators in PT. I don't know about him, but I think that if you shine the light of day on problems, it can only make things better. It's the "dirty little secret" that there are problems in parking operations, and most have to do with poor supervision, poor management and lack of training. Plus, a good audit once in a while wouldn't hurt either.
I will add my standard disclaimer. There are good parking operations and bad parking operations. The good ones stand out and can easily withstand my audit. The bad ones ... well, from my experience, they are the majority. Come on, operators, prove me wrong. Send me some "nice" info, and I will happily slink back to my dog house and admit the errors of my ways.
In the meantime, here's another little tidbit.
I was asked to help "bring up" a complex parking control system replacement at a 3,500-car facility in a major metropolitan area. The new operator was anxious to get his hands on the equipment and begin to solve the problems that had existed in this place since it was used for parking horses.
We arranged to send the manager of the facility and his assistants to the factory for extensive training, and then prepared, I thought, for the handover.
I was shocked, SHOCKED -- well, not really -- at the fact that the planning to do this turnover was nonexistent. I was brought in late in the activity, and to my chagrin, I didn't go into detail as to what was going to be done.
On the day the new system was to be turned on, the existing customers were given no notice. They just had to "fight" their way through the entry gates, and then go to the office to exchange their control cards. It was chaos. I then discovered that many of the parkers "stored" their cars in this facility during the week and used them only on weekends. Wow, talk about a mess on Friday afternoons when literally hundreds of people tried to exit but, of course, had no cards and were let out manually.
The operator was running the garage on "parking lite." That is, none of the checks for the monthly parkers that the new system included in its software were turned on. No anti-passback. No checks for cards that were unpaid (this system had a feature that turned off cards automatically when it hadn't been paid). And the important nesting feature that required people who paid less to park in less desirable places was not activated.
I worked for the owner. When I reported this, he told me to turn on the control features and let the chips fall where they may. I did and they did. Talk about an ordeal by fire ...
The lack of preparation by this management company and their lack of understanding of how to run this complex facility was mind-blowing. I could go on and on, but I have been instructed by my editor to be nice.
I will tell you that I have seen many locations where such changeovers have gone extremely smoothly. The truth is, it probably does in the majority of locations.
Remember: You can't plan enough, train enough,
prepare enough or send out enough information to your customers.