I Kid You Not … A Broom Handle
May, 2009I have been auditing garages for donkey’s years, and frankly I thought I had seen everything. But this garage in the Midwest took the cake. It was a 550-car structure with a pay-on-exit system. It had a proximity card system for monthlies. So far, so good.
When I audit a garage, the first thing I do is survey the garage before they even know I am around. I drive through the garage and walk through the garage, and then present myself to the garage manager and begin the formal audit.
This time, the drive through was illuminating.
I drove up to the cashier and gave her my ticket. She computed the fee, which was free because I had been in the garage, I assumed, less than the grace period. She then grabbed what appeared to be a stick and shook it out the window of the booth. The gate opened, and so did my mouth. I was so stunned I could barely drive out of the lot.
I parked around the corner and walked back to watch the next exit. Sure enough: The fee was collected, the cashier waved a stick out the booth window, the gate opened, and the parker proceeded out of the lot.
Had I been in Witch Country or had it been near Halloween, I could have perhaps thought that the cashier was fending off evil spirits, but this was just a fine summer day.
I got the manager and asked if he knew the cashier was waving sticks at his customers. He looked at me a minute, then started to laugh. We walked out to the booth and he proceeded to show me, I kid you not, a cut-off broom handle with a proximity card taped to the end.
“We have had a problem with the cashier terminal for a few days and have been unable to get it fixed, “ the manager said. “So we programmed a card to be an ‘attendant’ card and to disregard the anti-passback feature. Then we taped it to the broom handle so the cashier wouldn’t have to walk outside for each exit to open the gate.”
He was quite proud of his solution. He even told me that he could count the number of transactions with the card and compare them to cash transactions and keep his cashier honest.
I politely asked why he just didn’t get it fixed. He told me they were concerned about the maintenance budget and he was waiting until a number of items needed to be fixed before he called the technician. I then found out that the garage had been operating this way for six weeks.
I knew the audit was going to show more with this wizard in charge, and sure enough …
His ticket report showed he issued exactly the same number of tickets as he had cash transactions each day. Now we all know it is impossible to have a perfect record, so I asked how he came up with the number of tickets issued. He told me that the software in the cashier terminal gave him the number. You know, the number of total daily transactions.
No, I said, I wanted to know the number of tickets issued at the dispenser. He reiterated that the number of transactions had to be the number. It was right there, and there was a ticket for each transaction.
I started to ask about perhaps taking beginning and ending ticket numbers each day and then subtracting them to get the number of tickets issued, but I wasn’t sure he could comprehend what I was saying.
I then discovered that if parkers “forgot” their monthly cards, they could simply write their card number on the back of the ticket and they would be let out. I also found out it was common knowledge that all the cards were numbered between 1001 and 2000. Strangely enough, it also turned out that few tickets were ever processed through the register for more than four hours (full daily max). All those, of course, had numbers on the back between 1001 and 2000.
It didn’t take long for me to determine that for the five consecutive days I audited, at least 75 daily max tickets were processed that had card numbers on them that had been used that day. These tickets were rated at “$0.00” but actually should have been charged at the full daily rate of $7.50.That’s more than $500 a day that was being stolen from this garage. That’s nearly $150,000 a year.
I would have thought this cashier would have at least gotten off her rear and walked to the card reader to let the cars out for that kind of pay.
It’s no wonder the owner didn’t like to pay maintenance. He was losing a ton of money out of the garage every day. And not a person in sight could see there was any problem at all.