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Charging' for Parking - Horrors Spam and Winston, Too

By John Van Horn

The other day, a friend of mine, who happens to be in the parking business, went berserk when I told him I didn't mind paying for parking at a local mall. He said he would never enter a mall where he had to pay to park.
I mentioned the inequities of the situation, the fact that folks who come to the mall in some way other than in a private car pay a premium to shop because I want my parking for free. He noted that if a store validates, the store then pays the extra amount.
I countered that the cost of the parking is paid by someone. Either it's part of the rent the store pays or it's paid separately by the store to the mall. In either case, the cost of that parking is paid, ultimately, by the people who shop there. You buy the same watch at Costco as from Tiffany's, but it costs more at Tiffany's partly because the jeweler pays much more in rent than does the big-box store.
Now, if the merchant elects to pay for the parking and absorb it as a cost of doing business, that's OK. However, he will then have to charge a bit more to make the same profit. Everyone pays that additional amount, whether they parked or walked, or whether they drove with someone else.
The other issue is that the true cost of parking then gets blended into the background, and it is difficult to understand exactly what parking costs. It's part of the infrastructure. Many costs go into the garage, including those of the building during construction, overhead, maintenance, operations, security, cleaning, electricity, insurance and the like. Some get lost in the shuffle.
In the end, customers don't understand the true cost of driving and parking their car. They are being subsidized. In New York City, the true cost of parking is charged, and it's that charge that keeps the city from being choked by cars. In Los Angeles, the parking is subsidized a substantial amount, and the freeways are jammed.
My guess is that if the price to park in L.A. were doubled, the income would remain the same, but the number of cars would be reduced, making the place a much more livable city.
***
I was on my high horse and starting blogging last month about spam. I got this comment on my post: "Spam is like the weeds on my lawn! You cannot get rid of it completely but can go crazy with different levels of control!"
But I can't stress the issue enough - if you have a private e-mail address and want only your closest confidants to be in your in-box, then that's fine. However, a business is different. We need to communicate, and there are tools that enable us to do that - e-mail is one of the best. It has its drawbacks, and spam is one. Just don't go nuts trying to remove all the spam and my valid message at the same time.
***
Does anyone see the irony in the following paragraph?
"While it may be difficult to find a parking space in the city of Philadelphia, for one day only it will not cost you a thing. Philadelphia Magazine is sponsoring a Free Parking Celebration in the Best of Philly Day."
You get a free space, if you can find one.
So the "Best of Philly" folks are promoting their event with "free" parking. Assuming that this ploy works - and I'm not convinced that people stay away from events because the parking costs - it means that tons of people will flock to a limited number of spaces and be angry because there is no place to park. Most will be taken by those who are there to set up and staff the event, making it even more difficult to find a space.
This falls in my "if you build it, they will come" department. If the event attracts people (like "Taste of Chicago" or "Concert in the Park" or "Dodgers vs. Angels"), people will come. The cost of parking is not an issue - they will find a way to get there. However, if the event requires such ploys as "free" parking, then the event itself has problems and needs help.
Maybe we need a "Field of Dreams" award to complement our already popular "City by the Bay" award..
***
I used this story the other day - and it's just too precious. It has nothing to do with anything, but it's right-on, by my personal hero. Let's call it Winston Churchill and a socialite:
Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Socialite: My goodness, Mr. Churchill ... Well, I suppose ... we would have to discuss terms, of course ...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?
Socialite: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?
Churchill: Madam, we've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we are simply haggling about the price.

Article Abstract from September, 2006




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