How I got My Mojo Back
June, 2010Once in a while I lose my “mojo” and think that maybe all this auditing isn’t really required. After all, we have technology, we have computers, we have PARCS. Maybe I am obsolete. Then I have an experience like I had last week in a city in the mid-South. I was brought in by ownership to look at two garages. When it was over, my mojo was back.
I asked to see the tickets for the most recent month; when I counted them, I found that 26% of them were missing. These folks counted the tickets every day. They took the tickets out of the cash drawer and counted them.
They had no clue how many had been issued. They had no starting or ending numbers. The garage manager told me that he didn’t think it was important. My head was beginning to ache.
I checked the previous month and, sure enough, 26% were missing. They cleared the pay-on-foot machine once a month and put the money in the bank. That was it. My projection was that they were losing $618,000 a year just on the dailies.
Now let’s talk monthlies. The garage manager turns the monthly cards on and off. The card holders pay their fees to a lock box belonging to the garage owner. The garage manager has never seen a reconciliation of the money paid. I asked for a card list. He didn’t know how to run one.
The equipment was fairly new. It seemed adequate for the task. The problem is that of the myriad reports available, none had ever been run. Certainly no audit had ever been taken. For whatever reason, the garage manager had simply been dropped in the location and left alone.
Everyone, including the owner, simply felt that if the gates went up and down and there were no complaints, all was right with the world. The manager told me that he had learned more in the three days I was there than in all the time he had been in the parking business.
The other garage I was called in to look at not only had its own customers, but also provided parking space for a nearby hotel. I asked to see the records of the hotel parking. I was told there weren’t any. After all, they got no money from the hotel so why keep any records? Sigh.
The hotel valets parked cars in the garage. They used what I call an “attendant” card, which enabled them to come and go at will, without concern for anti-passback. I stood there and watched a hotel valet pull a ticket and enter the garage. He parked the car on a lower level. On the way out, he stopped by the exit booth and had a chat with the cashier.
One can only surmise as to the topic of that conversation, but I would guess that it may have had something to do with the ticket he just pulled.
For the uninitiated out there, consider this. Someone comes into the garage at 8 a.m. He stays all day. When he leaves, he owes $10. He hands his ticket to the cashier. The cashier displays the amount due ($10 on the fee indicator) and collects the money. She then cancels the first ticket, quickly runs another transaction using the ticket given her by the valet. Its value – $2. The cashier and the valet split the $8. Not a bad deal if you do that 20 or 30 times a day. And no real problem either, particularly if it’s a fairly active garage.
Let’s change the topic to “affinity” cards. These are given out by parking companies to attract customers. They usually give a discount on the parking that can vary from city to city, lot to lot. They can be a good marketing tool.
If three different companies operate parking locations on three corners of an intersection, affinity cards can make a difference as to where people park. However, if you have a location, say, on the edge of town where you are the only parking facility and no other parking is available, why allow the cards to be used? Except for great PR for the operator, they are simply a drain directly on your bottom line.
Another issue: Keep your records. Keep your tickets. Keep hard copies of the documents. They may take a bit of space, but they are great backup when the auditor comes calling. At the garage I audited above, I took two months and extrapolated the loss out for the past 12 months. They kept the records only 60 days.
What if the problem was for just the month I audited? Perhaps a new employee came on board and decided to make himself a partner. If there were no records, there would be no way to tell.
The garage was closed for the month of February due to snow. No income. Well my loss estimate didn’t take that into consideration. Those records protect the operator as well as the owner.