January 23, 2010 in City

Parking jackpot made a lot of sense

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The subject of today’s story: My ethically ambiguous revenge against Spokane’s downtown parking lots.

For anyone who has jousted with the parking moguls of downtown Spokane, this may read like a cherished fantasy.

Here’s what happened. I was attending an event at the INB Performing Arts Center one evening and had to park in one of those big outdoor lots a few blocks from the theater. I approached the electronic pay kiosk with trepidation. These pay kiosks can be a royal pain. In previous encounters, the thing has either refused to take my money, refused to take my debit card, refused to issue a receipt or been otherwise on the blink.

This time, to my relief, it took my money without complaint and coughed up that little receipt for my dashboard. I glanced at it to make sure that the time on it was correct.

And here’s what it said: “Expires 05:37 AM, July 27, 2010.”

I stared it at for a long moment before I was able to comprehend the windfall I had just received from the parking gods.

“Carol,” I said slowly to my wife. “I believe that we have just won free parking – for six months!”

Not a bad deal, for $3.

We stuck that receipt on the dashboard and went to our event. It wasn’t until the next day that I started pondering the ethical dilemma that little dashboard receipt represented. Could I, in good conscience, continue to use that receipt every time I parked there through midsummer? Was it fair? Was it right?

Then I remembered an aggravating little tussle I had years ago with the same parking company. I parked in one of their lots, stuck the correct amount of money in the little slot – and then got stuck with an “unpaid parking” penalty anyway. I wrote letter after letter explaining to them that I had paid the correct money, and it was their mistake. A witness wrote a letter saying he saw me put the correct amount of money in the slot.

They responded by writing even more threatening letters. Finally, when my witness added one additional salient fact – he was a lawyer – they finally dropped it.

Still, it was a big headache, and it proved to me that the parking lot company was unwilling to give its customers any kind of a break.

So, this time, I decided not to give them a break. They made the mistake, and I was going to exploit it. Call it my personal parking lot revenge.

So the next time I went to the INB Performing Arts Center, I stuck that same little receipt on the dashboard: Expires July 27, 2010. Worked like a charm. Since then, I have done it two more times. I now seem to have my own personal parking space whenever I want one.

Still, there’s a little voice in my head that says, “Is it right to take advantage of what was obviously a mistake? Shouldn’t I throw that receipt away and pay my parking fees like everyone else?”

So far, another little voice has replied, “Nope.”

Still, I want to know what you think. Should I keep using that receipt? Or not? E-mail me with your vote at jimk@spokesman.com.

Meanwhile, I urge all downtown parking patrons to take a good look at their dashboard receipts. One kiosk out there believes it’s a slot machine, and it’s issuing jackpots.

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