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Honked at parking lot operators, plenty want my gold pass

Sat., Jan. 30, 2010

The votes are tallied and the people’s verdict is in: Heck, yeah. Stick it to the downtown parking lot companies.

Last week I asked readers to weigh in on my ethically ambiguous Revenge Against the Parking Lots. I’ll recap the story below, but first these results:

Keep sticking it to the parking lot moguls: 83 votes.

It’s just plain wrong, dummy, and stop it right now: 22 votes.

Not sure/indecipherable/I’m suffering a Hamlet-like bout of anguish and indecision: 8 votes.

I, of course, count myself with those eight voters, which is why I wrote the column in the first place.

A few months ago, I put my $3 into one of those electronic outdoor parking lot kiosks, and the machine, in a fit of electronic ineptitude and/or generosity, issued me a receipt which said, “Expires 5:37 a.m., July 27, 2010.”

I figured I had just won the parking lottery. I used that receipt two or three more times at that lot over the next few weeks. But I wondered … was I right to take advantage of what was obviously a mistake?

From the volume of e-mails I received, I clearly hit on a subject close to Spokane’s heart (and let me apologize here for not being able to write everyone back). Plenty of people are nursing a grudge against these parking lots. One reader wrote, “You’ve hit a real populist chord here.”

Another guy simply said, “Park on, dude.”

The 83 “park on, dude” voters usually included one of the following comments:

•Hey, those parking lots have screwed me over, too (followed by detailed recounting of incident). They deserve no sympathy, consideration or mercy.

•Downtown parking is a rip-off and/or civic travesty, and you should use whatever weapon you find in your arsenal.

•Bad karma caught up to ’em.

•Can you send your receipt to me?

Most of the 22 “it’s wrong” votes can be categorized under one simple heading: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Even if the parking lot people rarely give us the benefit of the doubt, that doesn’t make it right for us to cheat them out of their fees. That just lowers us to their level.

These voters may have been swamped in a landslide, yet I have to admit, their letters were often far more potently argued.

“You decided to steal parking,” wrote one reader. “Now we all know it as well as God, who sees your heart.”


Some people equated it to receiving too much change from a cashier. We all know the right thing to do in that case, don’t we? Give it back.

If you receive something you know is the result of a mistake – let’s say, a check with too many zeroes – you don’t just run out and cash it and go on a spending spree, do you? Isn’t that a form of stealing?

So maybe I was actually doing something illegal. Yet the chances of getting a Spokane jury to side with the parking lots would be – I don’t know. Is there any number below zero?

Besides, I still think you can successfully argue that this was not stealing. All I did was put $3 into their machine. It spit out a receipt. I didn’t get FREE parking. I just got a lot of extremely cheap parking. For all I know, the lot was running a special that day.

Of course, to make that case, I’d have to convince a jury that I was massively, densely stupid – which frankly, I think I can pull off.

Yet despite all of this, and despite the landslide vote, I have a decision to announce: I am hereby retiring that parking receipt.

I am an honorable man. I want to set an example of truth, honesty and integrity. Maybe the parking lot companies will be inspired to follow my example. It could happen.

And the most urgent reason: My cover is completely blown. Those parking lot companies are waiting to pounce.

Finally, in answer to multiple requests: No, my receipt will not be available on eBay.

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