Some Good News… For a Change

We celebrated Independence Day this weekend at the Hollywood Bowl along with Sarah Hicks conducting the LA Phil, Smokey Robinson and fantastic fireworks.  It was a perfect evening and an emotional one for me.

First, as usual, we sang the National Anthem. 17,000 people raising their voices in praise of our country, with a little added flair — When the line “bombs bursting in air” came up, firework bombs shot up and it was thrilling.

Later in the program Sarah conducted the marching songs of the five branches of the service (Yes, Coast Guard was included) and she asked veterans of each service to stand when their song was played. The audience cheered each group. Tears streamed down the faces of the vets as we were acknowledged.

Smokey sang his greatest hits, and then introduced his back up singers and band, including one singer who was obviously pregnant — “and Mary and company.”

The evening ended with John Phillip Sousa and Stars and Stripes forever, piccolo chorus and all.

I was thinking as we drove home that America seems under attack from without and within. There are stories everywhere bemoaning our errors and trials.

But here, on our birthday, in the epicenter of complaint and defeatism, a sold out crowd celebrated, cheered, and showed tremendous respect for America, its veterans, and heroes. On the stage an Asian woman conducted one of the world’s great orchestras, a 75 year old black singer celebrated with a baby not yet born, and heroic music and fireworks filled the night air with wonder.

If that doesn’t tell the story of a great country, I don’t know what does.

Happy Birthday America.  Many happy returns.

JVH

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Parking Lot Attendants are Human, too

I drove with family and friends to the Independence Day Celebration at the Hollywood Bowl. As I have commented here before, the Bowl is stack parking on steroids. When you are in your are in until the folks in front of you are out.

As we drove into the lot, attendants were directing the cars to places where they could park. The driver in front of me stopped and began a long speech to the attendant about who he was and where he should park. He was demanding to be put in the front row, rather than the next open space like the rest of us.  This went on for some time until he gave up and parked. When I got to the attendant I said, with a smile, as I pulled in behind the offending driver:  “Hey, I want to park in the front. I drive a fancy car and deserve a better space.” His boss heard me and laughed. He then told the attendant:

“I like this guy, put him down front.”

The attendants escorted us to the front of the line. Put us in a position that we were not blocked and would be among the first one’s out. The offending driver was fuming.

Parking Attendants are human, too. A joke and a little kindness goes a long way. We got home a half hour earlier than normal, thanks to the brilliant parking staff at the Hollywood bowl.

JVH

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Stick it to the Man

Some activists in Brazil gave new meaning to the term “Stick it to the Man.” They weren’t rebelling against authority, but they did put a scofflaw in a sticky situation. According to www.mirror.co.uk, a man who illegally parked in  a handicapped parking spot returned to his car to find it completely covered in blue sticky notes.

The man tried to peel off the stickers and drive away, but couldn’t see out his windshield. Bystanders laughed, took pictures, and filmed his embarrassment. Now he’s famous on Youtube.

According to the article:

It is not clear whether the man faced repercussions for his choice of parking space from police.

It may be that the repercussions he faced were bad enough that he doesn’t need a ticket, as well, to learn his lesson. I for one, would like to see all people who park in handicapped spots illegally treated the same.

Read the article here.

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EMV — Crisis or Boondoggle

I dinner last night with a colleague who told me that she thought that the EMV discussions were in her words, a giant boondoggle, much like Y2k.

For those of you living in caves, Y2K was a huge problem that was going to cause dams to burst, airplanes to fall from the sky and the complete destruction of the American electric grid. The problem was that computers were supposedly not prepared to handle the year 2000 in their rusty innards.  Billions were spent on the problem.  In the end, nothing happened.  It was a nonevent event.

So what about EMV. We are told that if you don’t upgrade your credit card accepting equipment, on October first the liability for fraudulently used cards will enure to you, the merchant and you will be heading for the poor house because of all those chargebacks.

So what are the facts:

Visa cards are moving the liability for only those cards that have been duplicated or counterfeited. MC, Discover, and Amex are also shifting liability for lost of stolen cards.

This covers only those cards that are presented at a terminal, not those numbers that are stolen from Target and used over the phone. You are going to hear about pin preferring cards, signature preferring cards, and more. Its complicated, and depending on who you talk to, even within the card industry, you may get different answers. Oh, and be sure the PARCS vendor you talk to has the proper equipment, the right approvals, and by the way, have they considered PCI implications?

So should I be quivering in my boots?  Should I mortgage the house and put the kids on the street to cover the costs of upgrade?  Did you consider your liability?  In other words, what are the odds that a lost, stolen, or fraudulent card is going to be used at your place of business.

I have been told that the probable liability for our industry is one basis point.  That ‘s one one hundredth of one percent or if you do 1,000,000 in credit card business you liability would be what $100?  I was off the record when I got that info, so I can’t tell you who told me, but if you find me at the IPI show I might slip some hints.

But assume that it was 10 times that, or even 100 times that.  How does that compare to a system upgrade? This is where you have to decide.

I’m in Vegas right now.  Let’s say I’m sitting at the table, the dealer has a 10 showing, and I have a 6,  What are the odds there is a 10, 9, 8, or 7 in his hole card.  Pretty high, so I must hit.  However what are the odds thousands of $10 transactions are going to be fraudulent? That little fact is up to you.

So is now the time to panic, after all, you have know about then for two years but have done nothing?  I would say that you should consider your liability.  Also, will you sleep well at night.

My suggestion — talk to your PARCS vendor. Find out the true cost to upgrade.  Get the facts — compute your liability.  Then make an informed decision.

Want to talk — talk is cheap and I don’t charge.  Come by booth 220, have a water on us, sit and chat. Maybe I will learn something.

JVH

 

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Sad People Get Tickets, Too

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, members of the community are very unhappy about parking tickets they received while attending a funeral, reports minnesota.cbslocal.com.

Vadnais Heights resident Amy Baker said she was devastated by the loss of her 44-year-old friend and neighbor. “He was just a very well-respected community member,” Baker said. The state patrol said there were about 40 or 50 cars parked along the highway, prompting concerned drivers to report that it was creating a safety risk.

Ms. Baker thought it was “malicious and disrespectful” for enforcement officers to ticket her while she was paying her respects to her friend. Police thought she and the other drivers parked on the shoulder of the highway were creating a dangerous situation.

It seems ridiculous to think attending a funeral makes you exempt from the laws of the road. It also seems unwise for law enforcement to 1) not address parking for a funeral that appeared to be drawing greater than usual numbers and 2) to hand out tickets instead. But to me, the responsibility lies with the driver. Expecting the police to take into account your emotional needs when enforcing parking regulations is absolutely foolish. Lashing out at them for doing their jobs is misguided.

As one commentor posted:

Take responsibility for your poor choice of parking. Pay the ticket and move on.

Read the article here.

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I thought Texans were Smarter than This

We live in a society (basically everyone on earth) that believes that parking should be free and also hates everyone connected to the parking industry.  OK an overstatement, but you know what I mean. And along comes this:

A disabled Vet, attending a disabled veteran convention in Dallas, had his handicapped enabled van booted because he was given a parking permit by another disabled vet who was leaving early and had time on the permit. There were no signs that said the permits were not transferable. The original owner of the permit had bought it earlier that day. He noticed that our literal Hero was having trouble with the P and D machine (semi paralyzed hands) so he gave him the permit that had time left on it.

The van was booted and ticketed (illegally?  see below) and cost the Vet $120 to get his vehicle released.

There are so many things wrong with this. Disabled Vet — please, Booted a handicapped enabled van — double please, Didn’t void the fine – Oh come on, Told the Vet “I’m here to run a business” — Yikes.  Of course the operator did not return phone calls.

Is it any wonder we as an industry often leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.  I know for a fact that the operator of that location does wonderful charitable work in the cities where it does business. But all that good PR is erased with one nincompoop who could have turned the situation from a PR disaster to a win for everyone.

Why not tell the Vet “Sorry about the problem you had at the P and D machine. Next time see me and I’ll help you. In the mean time, let me void that ticket and get your car back on the road. Thank you for your service.”

This was the headline:

Paralyzed Veteran Angry After He’s Fined For

Using Fellow Vet’s Unexpired Parking Pass

It could have been

Paralyzed Veteran Happy with Service He Received

At Local Parking Facility. Fine Voided, Assistance Given.

But hey, its only one incident. Who cares?

JVH

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So feel free to ignore them. Oh Brother

Here’s the deal — a blogger in LA wrote a story about parkers being cited when they park at an honor box lot and not paying.  The fellow who got the ticket readily admitted he didn’t pay, but thought the operation looked “dodgy”.  Read about it here.

The writer discovered that only government agencies  (In California) can write parking tickets. So therefore the parking lot owner who writes tickets is doing so illegally so “Feel free to ignore them.”  Which means like our “dodgy” hero above, everyone could just park their cars and not pay at honor lots.

But here’s the rub. Lot owners can “tow” cars that are not paid. So what would you rather do, pay a $50 ticket or $250 to get your towed car back.  Of course its not really that simple.

Writing a ticket is relatively easy.  If you are high tech, you just hook a printer to your smart phone,download an app, and you are off into the ticket writing sunset. To tow, you have to stand there and wait for the two truck to be sure the right car is towed. Maybe the parker will return before the towing company arrives and you will have one ticked off tow truck driver. And if there are five cars that haven’t paid, you simply ticket five cars. Towing them could take hours.

I wonder about where people’s heads are.  You park, knowing that there is a fee, but don’t pay and then when you are caught, boom, you are incensed that you actually have to pay a fine. Whats that all about?

I love this comment from one of the readers of the blog:

What makes the ticket from the city any more “real?” The fact that they have the guns to enforce them? I would rather pay a private property owner the fine if I violated their terms than pay the city to prevent the eventuality of them pulling me over, trying to take my property, and likely injuring, imprisoning, or even murdering me if I try to defend it. No private parking lot owner is going to do that. Not one that will be in business for very long, anyway.

Maybe “murdering” is a bit over the top but I can understand where she is coming from.

Perhaps its time to change the laws a bit so private lot owners can write tickets if necessary. We have private firms working for the city writing tickets, and know that often they don’t do exactly the best job. What’s the harm?

JVH

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A Pope’s Perspective in Parking

I guess a Pope gets to talk about whatever he wants. In a recently released paper, Pope Francis addresses a need for changes in urban planning, including architecture and parking, reports The Washington Post.

His overall message is that a city and the way it functions have a huge impact on their residents’ quality of the life.

In other words: Architects, designers and urban planners have a moral obligation to care about more than what their creations look like. Their decisions determine how the poor live, how communities interact, how cities tax the environment.

From my point of view, it’s revolutionary for a religious figure to be so specific about a matter as secular as parking and public transit. His perspective, as a leader of souls, and not a representative of government or a member of the marketplace, adds weight to his opinion, but doesn’t disguise his idealism.

Money is usually the deciding factor in decisions that apply to the development of cities. So much money has been spent and earned on our current infrastructure, it seems impossible to imagine a different approach. If Pope Francis’ views could be applied in the smallest amount, tangible changes would occur. And that’s the trick. There’s no sense going all utopian about it, because that’s not reality. Reality is compromise, gradual alterations and an intent to do good as much as possible.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Jurassic World

This is a big, blockbuster, wildride type of movie. Lots of great CGI (computer generated imagery for you non-Hollywood types), good guys and bad guys, and good clean gory fun.

It seems that big business had built a new theme park on the site of the original Jurassic Park. The problem is that people are becoming bored with dinosaurs and always want something bigger, meaner, and more cruel. Science goes awry and mixes a number of critters to make a T-Rex type lizard, only bigger, meaner and unfortunately smarter. Its name: Indominus Rex.

Our hero, Owen, played by  Chris Pratt,  has been able to train four raptors to sort of ‘obey’ him much like a lion tamer, but don’t turn your back. However evil militarist  Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) has other ideas. (Did you ever notice that the good guys go by first names but the bad guys by their surname?) He wants to ‘weaponise’ the raptors and use them as killing machines in battle.

Jurassic World has built a special enclosure for their their I REX, and when Chris visits the big guy tricks the keepers into thinking it has escaped, then really escapes, and goes on a dino killing spree.  At one point it catches the nephews of the  park’s senior manager, Clair (Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron’s Daughter) in a really neat clear sphere and…. Well you really should see this movie.  Naturally, Clair and Owen have to team up to save the day.

The one comment that has made headlines concerning Jurassic World is just how in hell could Clair out run raptors and an I Rex in high heels? Ah the magic of movies.

Just as Jurassic Park, this movie is an allegory of “don’t mess with mother nature.” Its hard to believe that someone smart enough to splice genes could be so stupid as to follow to the letter a memo sent down by corporate. But there you go.

Jurassic World is derivative of its predecessor, Jurassic Park, with a number of scenes if not copied directly, certainly in the director’s mind when the scene was shot. One that comes to mind is the scene in Jurassic Park when the driver looks in his rear view mirror and sees the TRex bearing down on him.  Another might be the scene where the tech who is stealing the DNA samples gets trapped in a car with a raptor. This reference to history only adds to the fun and provides some comic relief to the mayhem.

All that having been said, this is a good movie, the acting is journeyman quality, and the scale would make Cecil B DeMille proud.

Go make a deposit in Steven Spielberg’s bank account and  have a great time visiting Jurassic World.

JVH

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The Morality of a Bribe — Can you say “Portland” or now “Chicago”

Just as the bribee in Portland begins his prison sentence for taking money to send a lucrative contract to a certain parking equipment vendor, it comes out that a similar activity may have happened in Chicago, perhaps involving the same briber. Read about it here.

I was talking about this with a friend who said that he could see no moral problem with ‘offering’ a bribe, but his moral compass would not allow him to take one. The obvious inconsistency here got me to thinking.

In some cultures a “kickback” or “backhand” or ‘fee’ paid to the buyer by the seller is part of doing business.  It is so prevalent that it is built into many transactions. Many Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures find this perfectly acceptable, and in many cases necessary to do business.

Of course the problem is that is negatively affects the free enterprise system. Prices are affected, quality may be stressed, and of course, playing fields aren’t in any way level. People buy products based on what compensation they receive personally, not what the product will do for their organization or what fits best for their operation.

Bribery may ‘oil’ the process and make it run smoother, but does it also mean that there isn’t as much rebar in that bridge, or the inspection of the electrical system is not complete, or that the equipment warranty runs out too soon? Will the service be what you expect? Will the paint curl two years sooner?  Remember, the money for that bribe has to come from somewhere.

When people take bribes they think that the money comes from the manufacturer. Nope! It comes from them. If the manufacturer can afford $90K for a bribe, doesn’t that mean that the equipment cost $90K more than it needed to? When a purchasing agent takes a bribe, they are stealing money from the organization for whom they work, NOT from the manufacturer.

All the money in the process comes from only one place, the consumer, not the supplier.

In the end, a bribe is theft. It is money stolen from your company or organization, be it university, city, airport, or development. The briber is a conduit. Taking money from an organization with one hand and giving it back to someone within that organization with the other.

There is another type of bribe — its called paying for access. One of our largest parking organizations holds a meeting once a year where all its managers come in to be exposed to products the industry has to sell. To be allowed to attend this meeting, the organization charges the vendors big bucks.  Vendors are then allowed to make presentations, meet the regional managers, and be put on lists the managers use when selecting products or services.  Is this a bribe?

You are paying for access.  Everybody does it, so you sign up.  You raise your prices a bit, maybe just for that organization, and then you go to the meeting, pay the fee, and give your pitch. When you sell them a product, it costs a bit more than it might have. The money comes from the same place.

Now about my friend and his moral compass. Remember he wasn’t opposed to giving a bribe but was opposed to taking one. Giving was OK, but taking was morally repugnant to him. This man is a very independent cuss. He wouldn’t take a bribe because he would feel that in doing so he would be giving up his ability to make certain decisions.  He would be forced to act a certain way.  He would not put himself in that position. He would lose control.

My friend’s decision has little to do with right or wrong, but with control. My guess is that at least in this issue, his moral compass is spinning.

How can we affect any change, anywhere, if we don’t reflect that change in what we do and how we act? Both the bribee and the briber are equally immoral, equally thieves, equally responsible. If we want to fix the problem, we must first clean up our own act, on both sides of the process.

JVH

 

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