Don't Expect an Invitation to Your Cousin's Graduation
Editor's Note: This article is in the form of a letter to the editor from George Levey, a former Parkeon employee and now president of Cale Parking Systems USA. It is in response to an article in PT April titled "We Say Car Park, They Say Parking Lot," which was written by Bob Barnes, VP in charge of France-based Parkeon for the UK and US, and taken with permission from the British Parking Association's Parking News magazine. Our comments on this topic are in "Point of View."
I am not going to quote Shakespeare or the playwright George Bernard Shaw, but I am going to quote and respond to the article "We Say Car Park-They Say Parking Lot."
The title of this article was very well selected, because the clear theme of the article was "they vs. we" -- "they" being all of us Americans and "we" being Bob Barnes and all his European associates.
This response is actually not a shot at Mr. Barnes. I know Bob, and I think he is a nice man, but his message is a clear indication of a man and a company doing business in a foreign country with little regard for the culture and no regard to hiding that fact.
I don't disagree with everything Mr. Barnes had to say. I do agree that multispace metering is a clear asset to any city that moves in that direction, in comparison to the old and outdated technology of single-space metering. I may even agree for the most part that "they" are conservative in nature, in comparison to our "cousins" in Europe. But since when does being conservative have to be so bad?
Yes, American cities want to run trials and, yes, they want to verify the investment is real. When my company is asked to participate in a trial, what gets communicated to me is that the city has begun to develop that first level of trust, and we now have the opportunity to "walk the talk." Yes, it is an investment, and it can take a lengthy period of time, but this is how things are in the US. Welcome to our marketplace; welcome to our country!
To insult the people that manage our parking systems, our cities' methods of doing business and our belief in the democratic process seems to be beyond the norm of common sense for a man and a company that wishes to sell its products and services here.
I have been associated with the parking industry for almost 10 years now, and have experienced many different city environments and city politics. Believe it or not, "they" are not all the same. It takes a company that is willing to understand the culture of the individual city and to develop a short- and long-term plan that will work for all interested parties. ... It goes well beyond landing the order as quickly as possible and moving on!
Mr. Barnes continues: "Our American cousins will get into their cars just to cross the highway." Mr. Barnes, what are you saying -- that we Americans are all lazy? Granted we do utilize our cars quite a bit in this country. ... Hello, Bob, we are in the parking industry -- is this not a good thing? Are we to defend ourselves even on this fact?
With such a cavalier and thoughtless attitude toward your buying public, I have to wonder why, when they get across the highway to park their cars, would they be putting their American coins and currency in your Company's meter, Bob? Are you not happy "they" utilize their cars to the extent "they" do?
The ultimate and most insulting of all was the ending of the article, and quite an ending it was. The message was clear: "Americans have trade shows as an excuse to play golf." I again quote Mr. Barnes: "It is interesting to note that two of the national parking exhibitions have very limited opening hours. Held in resorts such as Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach, the surrounding golf courses seem to play a large part in the way business is conducted."
Now, I have to say, Mr. Barnes himself has a golf handicap in the low teens, and this skill does not get developed overnight. Maybe the challenge today is: Do I invest the time to help American cities develop the parking technology improvements that will help them grow, or do I keep the handicap in the teens?
Mr. Barnes, you clearly went to a different business school than I. On the one hand, you make such overwhelmingly insulting statements and on the other, you're requesting a city to partner with you.
By the way, even though you seem to think that selecting Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach may not be in the best interests of all involved, both of those cities, I am sure, appreciate having these events. And maybe you don't realize this, but both those cities have Parkeon meters installed. Maybe that decision should also be challenged or re-thought by those decision-makers; of course, we'll have to wait for them to finish the back nine.
Mr. Barnes, your American cousins are not happy, and as a result, when they finally reach that graduation day, after all those rounds of golf, the wasted time driving their cars across the highway and the wasted trials to verify that their investment is wise, if I was you, I would not be expecting an invitation to the graduation party. Pip pip and cheerio!
Respectfully and in defense of "The American Way,"
President of Cale Parking Systems USA