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First Person – Like the Windows, My Heart is Shattered…

Parknews.biz editor Astrid Ambroziak lives a block from the corner of Third street and Fairfax in Los Angeles, the spot where the demonstrations and looting began last Saturday. Here are her observations.

“Sorrow comes in great waves…but rolls over us, and though it may almost smother us, it leaves us. And we know that if it is strong, we are stronger, inasmuch as it passes and we remain.”
― Henry James

This past Saturday May 30th looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.  I started it with a prayer.  A prayer of gratitude foremost that the lock down in Los Angeles and in other cities has been coming to an end.  That the Covid cases were going down.  That the sun was shining.  That shops and restaurants were allowed to open again and not just for curbside pick-up.  I was excited that people will drive more again, have place to go and thus, park cars.  I was looking forward to possibly going in the evening to a local restaurant down the street D’Amore’s Pizza for a slice of PIE, sitting on the sidewalk and watching fairly normal life unfold.  For people going back to work and interacting with one another in person and not just on zoom.

When I left my Fairfax District home around 1:30 pm after doing some work in the morning, I ran into my friend the mail man.  Andy said, are you going to the demonstration?  I asked what demonstration?  He said, the George Floyd demonstration is right down the street on 3rd and Fairfax with “millions” of people.  I said oh, I didn’t know but I will check it out.

I went first to the Beverly and Fairfax to the local bank.  There was a lot of Police there.  LAPD was directing traffic and police cars were on every corner including next to our local gas station – convenience store.  The police officers were respectful and so were the people holding various signs as Black Lives Matter and I Can’t Breathe!  After my bank errand, I walked down Fairfax Avenue to 3rd street.  I was surprised that my local restaurant the Tart was boarded.

At 3rd and Fairfax, there was a huge crowd.  There was music and chanting.  There was a bus with lots of graffiti and people were demonstrating from its roof.  Most people were wearing masks yet amongst thousands of people, social distancing was non-existent.  Although I planned just to see what was going on, I got caught up in the passion of the protest.  I chanted, laughed and cried and prayed for George Floyd, for every black man and for every person.  I prayed for peace and wisdom. My heart truly was filled with love and hope.

I saw one of the protesters throw something at the police and then the tear gas bomb went off and everyone started running screaming “tear gas tear gas.”  People were falling all over each other.  The back alleys and my street looked like New Year’s Eve in Times Square.  Love disappeared from my heart replaced by fear.  Yet, all of us were helping one another to get up from falling.  Young man on the corner was passing water to people and simply helping them to breathe.

Upon getting home I heard from one neighbor that our corner gas station was on fire.  I climbed on my roof seeing black smoke and a police car I saw earlier, in flames.  I was scared that the gas pumps will explode and our whole neighborhood will burn.

The rest of the day I spent on my balcony watching the violent unfolding of the protests.  Other cars were burning at the end of the block and the skies were filled with black smoke.  My residential neighborhood was packed with people.  A couple hours later about 100 police officers showed up in their protective gear.  They ran to the end of the street where people were looting shops and burning civilian cars and police cars and eventually brought some order into this heartbreaking situation.

All night, I didn’t sleep.  It was impossible with the helicopters above our homes and tons of people still running in the neighborhood as well as police sirens.  Sunday morning I ventured for several hours, down Fairfax towards Melrose where lots of shops and restaurants are.  The first thing I saw where myriad people with brooms and buckets walking up and down the street and a destruction as I have never seen before.

Both young and old people were cleaning broken glass.  And every store was being boarded.  I asked one shop owner how he was doing and he broke into tears hugging me while sobbing no words. I asked if I can help and held for him some plywood so he could protect his ravaged shop.  Boarding was going on, on every store front, restaurant and even apartment buildings.  Graffiti and tagging were on every wall.  In front of one boarded business, two young men held a sign: Do Not Fuck with My Favorite Company!

I walked down Melrose Avenue.  More of the same: utter devastation.  It looked like bombs exploded!  Small business and large business destroyed.  Yet, people scrubbing and painting over most vile graffiti and boarding doors and windows.  Shop owners taking out to their cars, whatever inventory was not looted.  Lots of cars driving by witnessing the aftermath.  Police presence heavy and I couldn’t stop thanking the cops.  I saw other people doing the same, hugging the police officers and saying thank you for protecting us over the previous night of violence.

On Beverly Blvd, more boarding going up.  Signs Black Lives Matter put on other windows be it businesses or private residences.  I asked one lady, you didn’t have this sign last week, why now?  She said “because I am afraid so I am putting the signs up to protect myself.”  I talked to an owner of a mattress store with all windows broken.  I asked did they steal the mattresses?  He said yes, about 30 of them.  Even our local Petco store was looted as was our Whole Foods. The windows of the yoga studio were broken.  On 3rd Street, D’Amore’s Pizza was decimated. Yet, every step of the way, more and more people young and old were scrubbing graffiti or painting over it hearts and we love LA. By Monday, the only sign of the looting were the windows covered by plywood. The graffiti was gone, the glass and burned cars removed.

Today, a few days after the initial protests that turned violent, there were more demonstrations.  We have curfew now in my area from 6 pm till 6 am. The curfew seems to have put a damper on the violence.

As a person who immigrated to the USA as a kid on political asylum with my parents, I especially appreciate the 1st amendment.  I respect the rights of every human being and I pray we see hearts first instead of color.  I pray that we live from those hearts. I pray that we go back to the commandments and practice “though shall not harm”.  And during Covid when we are supposed to social distance, how much do we harm marching in masses even peacefully while getting caught up in the passion and injustice of the moment?

In my Fairfax area, my neighbors showed their 1st amendment privilege, by assembling with their brooms and paint brushes to scrub our city.  And although my heart is shattered as the windows of the shops and businesses are all over Los Angeles, and in other cities, my sad heart goes on while I am praying: God bless America! God bless all of us!  We are here to work!  In respect, sincerity, mutuality and kindness!

Astrid

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The Upcoming Months will be A Disaster  NOT!!

Even in California, which has become the epicenter for the “lockdown” we are seeing more activity, automobile activity, that is, daily. And automobile activity is what we need to bring our industry back.

I read almost daily about people who won’t use Uber or ride the bus but are instead electing to take the family car. ParkLet is a company that is like an Airbnb for parking, serving as a go between for people who need spaces and people who have them. They are based in the UK. Catch this quote. You can read the entire article on Parknews.biz.

ParkLet initially experienced an 82% slump in demand for parking spaces at the beginning of the UK’s lockdown period. However, it has since seen a 47% rise above normal volumes as many commuters seek out alternatives to using public transport, such as renting a private parking spaces for their own vehicle.

This is in a country where public transportation is the mode of choice. We will be seeing this here in the US soon.

Closer to home, data collected by Pay by Cell company Park Mobile shows that volumes began to increase in late April and continue through this day. You can see those figures also on Parknews.biz

The freeways are becoming more and more crowded. Restaurants and clubs are opening and people are driving to them. My guess is that offices will begin to open and people will have to get to them.

We are going to have a very happy Fourth of July.

JVH

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“I never thought I’d say this, but I f*cking miss parking conferences.”

Kacey Siskind, a senior VP at Honk Mobile, believes in telling it like it is, as witness to the headline above. It led into her blog of May 20 which warmed the cockles of my heart so much I just had to quote it all below.

One thing struck me in her piece:

And while it’s been wonderful seeing many of these conferences pivot to the virtual realm, there’s something so, well, human about meeting people face to face at trade shows.

Yes, something human. Kacey knows we must remember we deal with people, not Zoom or digital conference calls or webinars. People park in our garages, people use our products, people spend their money with us.

I give you Kacey Siskind:

Seven years ago, when I came into this industry – a bright eyed and bushy tailed sales executive – if you had told me that I would be longing for a windowless trade show floor, a busy hotel bar, or even a (delayed) connecting flight to a touristy resort (aka a parking conference), I wouldn’t have believed you. After countless trips, unpacking and repacking my suitcase and racing through airports, it’s amazing how much I’ve come to look forward to these conferences throughout the year and how much I’m missing them during this time. I’ve been thinking back on these beloved conferences and realizing what they’ve meant to me over the years.

Early in my Honk career, I attended conferences solo — for many a daunting task — but being alone with a group of strangers doesn’t phase the extrovert in me. It’s my sweet spot. I am also lucky to have always been met by a warm and welcoming group of people at every show.  When I look back at their kindness, it’s not surprising that I’ve formed lasting friendships with many of them along the way.

I’ll never forget the year my birthday fell during the Parking Industry Expo (PIE) in Chicago. After a long day on the tradeshow floor, I’ll always remember celebrating at the side of the highway with my parking friends and a box of delicious Chicago deep-dish pizza. Definitely a birthday for the books. I truly miss these friends that I only get to see in person a few times a year, and I’m counting the days until I can see these folks face to face again.

How many people can say they’ve gone to New Orleans for a work conference and had some of the best meals of their lives? And those tacky Anaheim or Universal Studios hotels that I now miss so dearly? Once-in-a-lifetime experiences for most people, but they have turned into my home away from home. Who doesn’t love coming home laden with swag that you don’t really need? All those branded pens are finally coming in handy in my new ‘home office’ – as are the stress balls!

Parking conferences have sure taught me a lot. All the new advancements in the industry, the many innovations on display on the show floor, the knowledge gained from seminars and panels – maybe not the early morning ones after a late night out with my buddies – but you get the gist. I’ve developed tons of new skills like how to tear down a 10’x10’ trade show booth in under 7 minutes, pack it in the oh-so-convenient ‘carrying case’ Jenga-style (minus a few key pieces), do the mad dash to the airport, pay $600 in overweight baggage fees, and finally set up a permanent office in the airport lounge waiting for a flight, all while wearing heels.

Parking conferences were a great source of new leads, new contacts, and new connections. And while it’s been wonderful seeing many of these conferences pivot to the virtual realm, there’s something so, well, human about meeting people face to face at trade shows. Shaking hands with new clients, hugging old friends, or giving our parking industry peers a pat on the back — these are the things that I miss, and some that I may have taken for granted pre-pandemic.

While being *robbed* of our dearly loved conferences has been a bitter pill to swallow, I have so much faith that those of us in the parking industry will gather together again, stronger than ever, on the other side…

Stay safe and healthy my friends. I’ll be ready for you, Conferences.

While I can’t be with you in-person, the next best thing is drinks over Zoom. Hit me up!

– Kacey Siskind

Senior Vice President, Honkmobile

See her blog here

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How to Improve your Office Parking

There is a reason those who work in our industry are considered experts in parking. It is a complex business and those who think there is ‘nothing to it” are simply wrong. I have just read a piece Astrid posted on parknews.biz called “How to Improve your Office Parking.”

It starts out benignly enough:

Poorly designed and managed parking lots can be detrimental to your business. If getting in and out of them is frustrating, then your employees’ morale could drop before they even walk into the building. Visitors may form an undesirable opinion about your business if your lot is an inconvenience.

Your parking lot is sometimes people’s first impression of your office. If it’s frustrating, unsafe or disorganized, potential clients may think the same thing about your company. On the flip side, an excellent parking lot can improve morale, decrease security risks and impress clients.

It then gets to the nitty gritty:

The article goes into detail as to how to assign individual spaces (older people nearer the elevator) and perhaps those salespersons who have done a better job closer in. It talks about angle parking vs straight in (angle better for visitors.) It suggests that you use parking management software to assign spaces to your tenants (that way you don’t get blamed for it). There seems to be no other reasons for parking management software.

I love the part about installing video cameras to ‘prevent crime’ in the garage. And be sure you install enough so there are no blind spots. Increase visibility by have bright lights, but not too bright, you don’t want dark shadows. Oh and be sure to have a place where parkers can wait if they have lost their keys (huh). They must assume that like the Federal Government you have an unlimited budget.

Boss Magazine’s editorial team would do well to have interviewed someone with a background in parking. After all, what could go wrong.

JVH

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Haircut and a Car Wash

I admit it, I couldn’t take it any longer and got a bootleg haircut. I got a phone number from a friend, send a text, got one back with an address, went to the address and sent another text. Went inside and voila, I was faced with a woman in a mask. She required that I wear one too, at least until she started getting close to the ears, and damned if I didn’t get a perfectly acceptable haircut. I even tipped her a few bucks more than the tip that was noted in one of the texts. C’est La Vie.

The car wash was a bit more ‘social distanced.’ I drove in, was told to keep my windows up. I slipped $15 bucks through the door and then drove through the car wash. When it was over a few attendants in masks descended on my car and dried the outside. They did not clean the inside; that was up to me. I’m not completely sure the car wash was legal or not.

Visiting Costco was a dream. Since I’m over 60, I was let in early and the place was empty, of people. They had everything else: meat, milk, cleaning supplies, water and yes toilet paper. No lines. Same with the local grocery stores. I take a poll from those I see when walking the dog in the neighborhood. The horror stories of shortages are simply wrong.

Yes, I wear a mask as a courtesy to those working in the stores. If it makes them more comfortable, I’m happy to do so. I don’t wear one when walking or exercising outdoors and don’t have to worry about social distancing, others seem to take care of that. I also note that about half the people outside don’t wear masks. So be it.

My prediction that things would loosen up by the middle of May seems to be coming true. That’s just from personal observation. We are talking about going back to the office and will do so after Memorial Day. We get few visitors and have a lot of space with everyone having a separate office. The staff is game. Why not?

This is the last time you will see “pandemic” or “Coronavirus” in a blog post by me. I have decided I’m tired of it and will let others continue to stir that pot. Hopefully I’ll be back too talking about parking next

JVH

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The Splendid and the Vile

Author Erik Larson writes historical nonfiction based on tremendous in depth research about his subject. He quotes sources and diarists and blends two or more complex tales to bring us terrific books like “The Devil in White City”, “Thunderstruck”, “The Garden of Beasts” and now, his latest, “The Splendid and the Vile.”

Set in wartime London and Berlin, “’The Splendid and the Vile’ looks at the blitz from two points of view, that of Winston Churchill and of Hitler and his Luftwaffe chief, Hermann Goring. While waiting for the US to enter the war, the British endure incredible hardships. For Churchill there is no question that they will never surrender. For Hitler and Goring it is disbelief that England can withstand the incredible bombing without capitulating. They ask each other, time and again, how Churchill cannot be suing for peace as they turn up the pressure again and again. And therein turns the tale.

Rather than cower in the relative safety of his reinforced war rooms, Churchill goes out onto the rooftops or into the neighborhoods to see just what is happening to his city. His advisors plead with him to stay inside, but he is relentless. One evening (the Germans always bomb at night) he is sitting on the roof when an aid asks him to move. Seems he was sitting on a chimney and causing the smoke to flood some of the rooms downstairs at Number 10. (Larson brings some comic relief to the horror.)

The descriptions of what the English went through not only in London but in Liverpool, Birmingham, and of course Coventry are not easy to read. But their courage and the courage of their leader is incredible. Churchill knew that America must enter the fray, and he had to hold out until then. Finally, in mid 1941, the lend lease act is signed, Hitler decides to attack Russia and ….. I won’t give away the ending. You must read this book.

It is difficult not to compare England during the blitz with what we are suffering today with the pandemic. For more than two years the Germans were without pity, dropping tons and tons of bombs daily on a basically defenseless people. Sure they had air raid sirens, and went to shelters, but they also continued their daily lives, with stores remaining open, trains running, shopping, going to parties, and clubs, living their lives as best they could.

By the way, the shelters didn’t always work and the bombs often drilled through to the underground where hundreds were waiting, and hundreds were killed. The dead were often stacked in the streets waiting to be collected. Sometimes the bombs didn’t explode and first responders would go in and try to disarm them. Sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t.

Those inhabitants didn’t look to their government for protection, they looked to it for leadership. And they got it. The leaders made mistakes, but they adjusted. Churchill knew things could go wrong and was able to change course, or pivot, as needed to meet each challenge. He surrounded himself not with sycophants, but with those, regardless of party, who could do the job, and thus he saved the world from darkness.

As I look around me sitting in Los Angeles today, I can’t help but wonder – if only…

JVH

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The Car Is Staging a Comeback, Spurring Oil’s Recovery

That headline was from Bloomberg, and if you read the article, it reflects what you have been reading in Parking Today. People are askewing mass transit and driving their cars and also parking them. A driver in Korea noted that he was going back to the subway, BECAUSE HE COULDN’T FIND A PLACE TO PARK. If you are in the parking business, this is not a bad thing.

All the Strum und Drang (look it up) we have been hearing from the oil industry seems to have lessened, as increased driving has affected the gasoline usage:

Gasoline demand is rebounding, suggesting that the car — at least for now — is making a comeback. As lockdowns ease and parts of the world reopen for business, driving has emerged as the socially distant transportation mode of choice and is offering some near-term relief to an oil market fresh off its worst crash in history and reeling from an unprecedented collapse in energy demand.

Wow, now if we could get the recalcitrant governors and mayors to allow us to open up, the parking business should come back relatively quickly. It won’t be perfect, but better than most have predicted.

Naturally our betters in the media have to turn lemonade into lemons. The increase in auto use will increase global warming and the end of life as we know it. Wow!

JVH

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Klaus Gindl

I received word this morning that Klaus Gindl passed away last week after a month long battle with leukemia. Klaus was the true definition of a gentleman and raconteur.

He may be best known in the US as the person who, along with Greg Parzych, brought Scheidt and Bachmann to this country. He was a staple at all the trade events here in the US and in Europe.

Klaus was smart, funny, and never said a bad word about anyone. I will miss him.

JVH

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Touch you, and hug you, and shake hands with you soon.

There is a reason people of all ages hold hands, sometimes when they walk, sometimes when they are sitting together. There is a reason little kids run up to friends and family and jump on them. There is a reason we shake hands when we meet. There is a reason why we like to meet face to face.

Humans are built to work together, to talk in person, to hug and kiss, to shake hands. Yes, we are built to touch one another.

Our betters in Silicon Valley may tell us different, but they are wrong. You cannot see a smile in an email. You can’t read someone’s body language over Zoom. It’s impossible to express true love or hate over the phone. There is a reason why we go to live theater. The actor’s craft is laid bare in person.

The play Amadeus begins with a very old man, Salieri, telling us his confession, his hatred of Mozart, from his wheelchair. He is old, dying, and can barely speak. Then suddenly, the actor turns around, removes his cloak and wig, and changes into a handsome, 30-year-old man. In one second. Everyone in the audience had chills down their spines. In the movies, that change might have taken two days and 10 makeup artists to create. And we know it. It is moments like this that makes live performances different.

When you see someone in person, its reality. When you talk on the phone, or Zoom, its simply not the same. Humans are designed to be pack animals. We live in neighborhoods, go to schools, play at the beach or park, join clubs, work in buildings where we can see and talk to one another. We sing in choruses; we worship in churches, large and small, we go to clubs and laugh and tell stories to one another. We even look askance at that old man or woman who never comes out of their house.

I feel sad that I couldn’t see my friends and colleagues at PIE. It was compounded with the ‘digitization’ of the IPMI event. We will go nearly a year from the last time we, as an industry, have had the opportunity to be together, assuming and praying, the NPA show will be held in September in New Orleans.

There is no substitute for the personal touch. We talk, one on one. We go to seminars and feed off the input of others in the audience, we laugh at jokes told at parties and yes, make fun of those who might imbibe a tad too much. Who will forget the time I had to send a couple of vendors to the parking lot because they were beginning to ‘duke it out’ in a seminar? Was there a dry eye in the house when 100 year old Larry Donoghue told his life story? What about when Kevin Uhlenhaker’s PowerPoint went out and he went on to give one of the best presentations ever.

At live events we get to meet husbands, wives, boy and girl friends, and sometimes kids, too. We try for days to meet a certain CEO and then sit next to them on the plane going home. Someone once said more deals are made in the hotel lobby than in the exhibit hall. And just why is that.

Oh, do I look forward to seeing you all at the next big meeting. Yes, to talk, and laugh, and touch. I think most of the pain we have been feeling during the past few weeks is the isolation. The lack of seeing people in the flesh.

Touch you, and hug you, and shake hands with you soon.

JVH

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“I thought about the recession and decided not to participate.”

That quote by Sam Walton pretty much sums up an article last year in Forbes Magazine where author Brad Adgate  stressed that the last thing you want to do in an economic downturn is cut back on advertising. You can read it here. Its main points are:

  • The “noise level” in a brand’s product category can drop when competitors cut back on their ad spend. It also allows for advertisers to re-position a brand or introduce a new product.
  • Brands can project to consumers the image of corporate stability during challenging times.
  • The cost of advertising drops during recessions. The lower rates create a “buyer’s market” for brands. Studies have shown that direct mail advertising, which can provide greater short-term sales growth, increases during a recession.
  • When marketers cut back on their ad spending, the brand loses its “share of mind” with consumers, with the potential of losing current – and possibly future – sales. An increase in “share of voice” typically leads to in an increase in “share of market.” An increase in market share results, with an increase in profits.

The article commented on four areas of the economy that flourished during recessions –

Dry Cereal – Post, the cereal leader, cut back its advertising during the great depressions, Kellogg’s doubled its ad spend. Kellogg’s profits grew by 30% . It out sold Post and remained the industry leader for decades.

Imported Automobiles – The energy crisis got people thinking about gas mileage. Toyota was second to Honda in fuel efficiency but when others cut, they resisted dropping their ad budget. By 1976 the Japanese car company surpassed Volkswagen as the top imported carmaker in the US.

Fast Food: In the 1990-91 recession, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell took advantage of McDonald’s decision to drop its advertising and promotion budget. As a result, Pizza Hut increased sales by 61%, Taco Bell sales grew by 40% and McDonald’s sales declined by 28%.

Technology: Amazon sales grew by 28% in 2009 during the “great recession.” The tech company continued to innovate with new products during the slumping economy, most notably with new Kindle products which helped to grow market share. As a result, in the minds of consumers, Amazon became an innovative company by introducing a lower cost alternative to cash-strapped consumers.

To quote the article’s author:

Although the natural inclination for advertisers is to cut back on advertising during a recession, those brands that maintain their ad budget and/or change their messaging can get a long-lasting boost in sales and market share.

JVH

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