I Never Thought of That
December, 2009The boss finally got home, and after getting reacquainted, we talked about his adventures in Manila. One story caught my attention.
The largest shopping center in Asia is across the street from the hall where the seminar at which he spoke was held. He walked over to take a look at the parking operation. At entry, there was a booth where a woman issued a parking ticket by entering a code in a computer. She then gave the ticket to the driver who entered the garage. When the driver left, he handed the ticket to another woman, who collected the day’s flat rate ticket amount.
Thinking about this, I began to wonder just what the idea was. Why wouldn’t one simply install a ticket dispenser at the entry gate and pay-on-foot equipment throughout the project? If that were too expensive, then at least the dispenser would remove one staff member at each entrance lane. But, then, why not actually collect the fee on entrance; it was a flat rate, after all.
The boss then spoke to the head of parking services for the Alaya Corp., the largest developer in Manila and owner of this center. The senior manager agreed that a lot of technology could be put into place, but said they also were concerned with image. If you have been following Parking World’s Blog, you would know that there is a move on in the Philippines to make charging for parking illegal. Even the Catholic Church has become involved.
Alaya is extremely concerned about customer service. “Having a person hand-issue the ticket on entry was important as it personalizes the process,” the boss was told. “Having said that, we are looking at installing equipment which would make the process easier and move more quickly.”
Employers in the Philippines, where there are many unemployed and few jobs, are sensitive to layoffs and redundancies. Manpower is inexpensive, and a wholesale layoff of parking staff would only add fuel to an already dodgy issue.
As for paying in advance, the boss was told: “We don’t want people to think about spending money until they get inside the mall. If they have to come up with the parking fee on entry, it could alter their spending habits.”
I’m not sure that owners and operators here in the U.S. have considered that issue, but since most shopping centers have variable rates here and people pay based on length of stay, prepay would not make sense and the point is moot.
The Philippines’ parking industry finds itself in much the same place the U.S. was in 30 years ago. Labor is plentiful and cheap, and the return on investment simply doesn’t justify the cost of the equipment. It also is a country that prides itself on fantastic customer service, and both owners and customers see this personalized service as a benefit they may not want to give up.
The boss also learned that where they charge for on-street parking, it’s done using an attendant. Yes, when you park, a nice little lady comes by and collects money up front. If you overstay, you must pay more before you move your car. Pitching parking meters or P-and-D equipment is a tough battle from many angles. Oh, and the attendant is in the employ of the local shopping center developer, who has a contract to collect and manage parking surrounding his complex.
Another example is that in many countries, in the Middle East or India, for example, knowing a person’s mailing address may be difficult. If you were to recommend a citation management program that required a follow-up-by-mail program, the results would not work. However, booting vehicles at the very first violation could make a lot more sense.
When the boss talked to the head of parking in Mumbai, India, he was told, gently, that controlling on-street parking would take some doing. First, they would have to convince people that leaving their cars in the middle of an intersection and going into a shop was not the right thing to do.
My suggestion to consultants considering working in different countries, cultures and environments? Spend some time learning the local issues and customs, then tailor your suggestions to fit them.