Do We Really do Such a Great Job at Running Parking Garages?

I have been thinking a lot about the benefits technology brings to managing parking facilities and had begun to wonder if the job of running lots and garages was becoming obsolete. After all, with all the hardware and software we can throw at the problem, shouldn’t parking operations be running fast and clean.

Those of us who spend their time at trade shows and reading parking magazines may have  lost sight of just how big the problem is. We see great technology applied with skill and maybe begin to believe that all is well in the parking business. And we are wrong.

Twelve hours in a Houston Hotel brought me screaming back to reality. I drove to the hotel and pulled a ticket. At the desk the clerk asked for the ticket and filled out a red hangtag. She then returned the ticket and tag to me. I found the next day that she had also put the charge for the car on my hotel bill. So far so good.

The next morning I left for and early breakfast. I waved the hangtag at the cashier in the lane and the gate popped open. When I returned an hour later I pulled another ticketand went to my room to pack. When I left for good I waved the red hangtag at the cashier and the gate popped open again. I left with the hangtag and two tickets in my possession.

If I were a salesman working the town, it would not be unreasonable to think that I might repeat the in and out a dozen times over a couple of days. And I would have a dozen tickets in my possession, in pockets, on the floor, in my wallet. Lets face it, that lot had no control.

When I told my story to my friend at breakfast, he mentioned that he was staying at the hotel down the street and it worked exactly the same way. We are two for two.

I won’t tell you the name of the national company that ran the garage, but its a household word in the industry. They had no control in the lot and no way of auditing the garage. And no one seemed to care.

So revenue control equipment manufacturers take heed.  There is plenty of business out there for you. The problem is that you have to educate someone, either the operator or the owner, so they see the problem and then decide to do something about it.



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6 Responses to Do We Really do Such a Great Job at Running Parking Garages?

  1. rta says:

    I have a set of pots and pans with Emeril Legassee’s name on them, but nothing I produce with them makes me want to shout “Bam!”. I have a state of the art treadmill in my garage, but for some reason I still weigh the same as when I got the damned thing 6 years ago. I have a freshwater fishing rig that is exactly the same as one I saw Roland Martin use to catch trophy bass one right after the other, but I still throw my lure into the trees.

    I could go on like this for quite awhile, but you’re point is spot on. I see parking locations on a daily basis with state of the art equipment that have more revenue leaks than a standard coinbox lot. It never ceases to amaze me how many parking “professionals” out there simply don’t get it.

  2. Rufus says:

    Wait! Don’t blame the parking professional!

    I have a few hotel managers who understand and appreciate parking revenue and revenue control, and I have many more hotel managers who care more about the guest experience than parking revenue. Most of those hotel managers have standing orders that the exit gate be opened and guests be let out for free if more than X number of cars are in the exit line. (arghh!)

    When I was early in my parking career and sales/catering managers would either heavily discount or just plain give away parking in order to sign a big deal, I would get so frustrated! Now a days I have my hotel parking managers document the value of comp’d parking revenue and submit a monthly report to their hotel GM and me. It’s a great audit trail and satisfies my bosses when the monthly lost ticket report comes out.

    Face it, hotel managers are complaint averse and their bias is towards revenue from heads in beds, not revenue from the parking lot/garage. It’s a rare hotel manager who understands parking and the fact that their parking garage is a valuable profit center.

    In my 25 years of experience, I have found that most hotel managers want three things from their parking crew: (1) to accommodate every guest car, (2) to minimize the valet wait, and (3) NO COMPLAINTS!!!

    Period, end of story.

  3. JVH says:

    A “parking professional” should be able to have both, a smooth, customer centric operation AND good fiscal control. If Rufus is right, why have anyone in the lot at all. No gates, no controls. Just let people park where they want and have at it. JVH

    • Brandy Stanley says:

      Maybe the operator could be doing a better job, but Rufus is spot on. I’ve managed hotel valet and self park in many locations across the country and even with the best intentions (and parking equipment), I’ve NEVER been able to get ticket loss below 10%. Even when I managed a minicipal facility that had an agreement with an adjacent hotel with the owner’s consultant on my rear end constantly about it.

      In addition to hotels being extremely complaint averse, there are some things about hotel parking that just organically generate ticket loss. Say the front desk issues a credential that allows in-out access for the length of the stay. The customer parks first and forgets to bring the spitter ticket to the front desk. Lost ticket. The customer leaves and comes back – they pull a ticket, forgetting they have a pass. Next time they leave, they try to use their pass (and yes, you’ve put antipassback on it) and it doesn’t work but they don’t know where the ticket is. Lost ticket. The front desk is supposed to collect spitter tickets when they issue a pass but the person doesn’t care and throws it away. Lost ticket.

      You can try, but you can’t win this war. If you stick to your guns, you’ll have unacceptable customer service levels and you’ll still probably have lost tickets anyway. Oh, and the hotel will fire you and run it themselves. One of the best ways to control this is to audit the hotel’s billing records against the last name and compare it upon the vehicle’s exit. That way you have lots of lost tickets, but you’re cutting your revenue loss. Of course, forget about an automated garage…….

  4. I am unsure about the ticket and the hand tag you are talking about. Are you referring the ticket as in for visitors & hand tag for guest ?

  5. Matt says:

    I worked in valet management for years. Like Rufus and Brandy state, hotel managers and from my experience even management companies accept much higher levels of loss than they should. They problem is many times the actual loss is much greater than they ever know.

    Employees on the job are even more creative than management in offices far away would ever imagine. I have watched gaps turn into massive sinkholes for companies and most never even know. The absolute biggest money losses I have seen are at mid-level hotel or garages, were the management is less under the eye of upper management. If your ticket loss is 10%, your revenue loss as a share I am sure would be closer to 30%. That’s just on tickets, those mixed valet, ticket garages are ripe for the picking for multiple levels of scams.

    I will never forgot the day another valet manager said to me “It’s almost like the want us to steal, they make it so easy.”

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