I had dinner last night with a parking auditor. His company finds money in parking operations that should be in the bank, and tells owners and operators how to be sure that it gets there. I noted that my experience has been that theft isn’t the main problem.
He concurred, saying that with the advent of alternate payment methods (credit and debit cards, bank transfers, electronic purses, bitcoin?) losses by theft have greatly reduced.
However, he noted that even in the post credit card days theft wasn’t the main area of loss he and his auditors found. The losses came from the inability of personnel all up and down the line, from cashier to garage manager, from asset manager to garage owner to properly track the many different products that are sold in garages and ensure that the money is actually sold.
He told me that garages are moving from a ‘service’ business, that is a business of parking cars, to a ‘revenue transaction’ business, that is the business of conducting a monetary transaction. He noted that really parking had been that since horses were being parked, but that often garage staff stress the ‘service industry’ portion of the business and neglect the ‘financial transaction portion.”
I concurred. As garages have become more automated, the interface of garage personnel and the parking public has become less and less. I pointed out that I couldn’t remember when I actually saw a live person in a garage helping me to park.
He stressed certain areas where parking operations could review their procedures to be sure that the ‘financial transaction’ was being properly tended to.
1. Monthly parkers — are there 1000 cards active in the system but only 800 active accounts paying. Are the other 200 legitimate ‘freebies’ or are they simply parking for free.
2. Neighborhood valet operations – Does the restaurant across the street that uses your garage for valet operations pay you for all the cars that are parked?
3. Validations – Are validations properly charged and tracked.
4. Monthly contracts – Are ‘time limited’ deals cut by real estate brokers to offer reduced rate parking for a period of time to sweeten a lease agreement raised when that deal is up.
5. Monthly contracts — Likewise, are escalation (cost of living) clauses in monthly contracts properly executed.
6. Daily rates — Are daily parking rates adjusted to meet market demands.
7. Freebies – Are parkers who actually owe for the parking let out for free when then ‘complain?” Plus how many contract cards are given out by owners to be accommodating?
My friend noted that these are only a few of the myriad of issues that auditors need to review when they visit parking operations. He said that he and his staff were also looking closely at the reports and programs that are produced by technology. Just because a report or printout says so much should have been collected, is the report right? A periodic transaction by transaction audit is a good idea to confirm that the machines are not making mistakes or dropping transactions here and there. It happens you know.
Technology, it seems, makes lives more complicated, not less.