I Paint With Too Broad a Brush, So They Say...
August, 2003The editor of PT told me that he was in a meeting last week where one of those present mentioned that I was not well-liked by parking operators. He said he thought it over and then realized that the reason must be my rather poignant prose concerning many of the problems in garages. Often, those problems could have been fixed if the operator in question had done their job correctly. And no one likes to be told they aren't doing a good job.
My editor pointed out that sometimes I paint with a very wide brush. Sheesh. I only tell 'em like I see 'em.
But let's be fair. Parking operators have an almost impossible job. They are asked to do more and more, and at the same time lower the fees. Asset and Building managers tell them that they must maintain high standards then balk when it's pointed out that to do so, they will have to charge more.
They are told they can't have the extra staff needed to properly run the facility, but then have to shoulder the complaints from both owners and patrons when a lane is slow or things back up. The owners want more management supervision, but then won't sign a contract that includes part of the area or city manager's expenses. "That should be part of your fee." That's the same fee that was driven down in the last paragraph.
"How can you expect someone who is being paid $25,000 a year to be able to manage a complex business like a parking facility," I complain. You need some college graduates in there to make things happen.
The answer is OK, we will hire only college graduates. Of course we have to promote them quickly and get them on up the salary scale or we will lose them. That means that every six months or year I have a new manager, and it starts all over again.
All that having been said, there are some excellent parking operators out there. I know of a location where I was stunned to find that they had a turnover of 3,000 to 4,000 cars a day and no, that's NO lost tickets. There are garages in Chicago, New York, L.A. and S.F. (and other cities, too) that are so clean you could eat off the floor. The equipment is spotless and runs perfectly, the revenue can withstand the closest audit. These places are the tops.
It is also true that they are all run by different operators, some run by the largest, some by the smallest. What does that mean?
I have discovered that it's not the name that's over the door of a garage that makes it great; it's the name that's on the pocket of the manager, on the card of his boss. It's these guys in the trenches that make a difference. If they are good at their job, care, and work hard, the garage is a well-oiled machine. If they are not, it isn't.
It makes no difference what the CEO of the parking company or the VP in charge of seven western states has to say, when you reach a certain level in the management chain, there isn't much one can do to affect the service in an individual garage. My guess is that those people "on top" in organizations both large and small that really make a difference spend their days in their customer's garages. They set high standards, and then personally ensure they are met.
I don't think there is any other way.
Now just to show you I haven't caved to criticism, here are a few notes from the past few audits.
Whoops. I'm at the bottom of the page. More audit notes next month.