Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I despise paying to park a car. Especially at these ripoff prices. The only exception is some parking meters, those few that remain reasonably priced, which to me is 25 cents an hour for up to 8 hours, and are within ¼ block of my primary destination. A business or restaurant that doesn’t offer free parking has to work even harder to even have a chance at my business.

If a restaurant “can’t" offer us free parking, then it’s up to them to make it worth my while. If I am asked to pay $5 to park so I can eat there, they should take off $5 from the total cost of my meal or visit. Then, it is really FREE parking, like it should be, since it would mean that the cost to park was not extra for me. Why should it be your problem as a patron if they can’t provide free parking?

Same with shopping centers that pull the “2 hours free with a purchase” crap. I should never be put in the position to either have to make a purchase or else pay to park to visit the businesses there. We should all be insulted by tenant stores all telling us “It will cost you to come here if you don’t purchase anything”. My response is “It will cost YOU potential business because you gave me that ultimatum. I won’t take that risk.”

Now, I don't condone ripping anyone off. However, charging me to park for a shopping center fits in that same category. At one such shopping center in California, a thoughtful patron provided me with a great idea. He obviously had been parked there for more than the 2 hours of "free" parking with a purchase in certain store. So he walked out to the garage entrance, took a fresh time-stamped ticket, and went back to one of the stores to have his "fresh" ticket stamped. Some will say what the guy did was not legal or ethical. Actually, it wasn't. But being charged to park to visit those businesses isn't ethical to me. Frankly, I would have hired the guy as an executive!

No way I’ll pay to park to see a movie. I’m sorry that so many people do so without thinking twice. Whatever the movie, it is playing somewhere else, and I’ll go see it where I can park for free, like it should be. Especially with the annual increases in the price of movies for the same entertainment we were getting at lower prices.

It so happens that I enjoy walking almost as much as saving money. It’s even better when you combine the two. In the vast majority of cases, there is free parking, even if it’s a few blocks away. Over the years, I have commented that the cost of the extra pair of shoes I might need because of the miles I walk to save on parking costs still save me a lot of money. I contend that I save at least $1,000 per year by doing what I do to avoid paying for parking. It could be a lot more. So as of Jan. 1, 2011, I’m keeping track on a daily and weekly basis of exactly how much I save by not paying to park. I’ll be passing that along each month.

However, it is so much more than being ripped off for parking fees when shopping or eating. For some people, it’s for getting to and from work. For almost everyone, it is the outrageous cost of parking for entertainment and sports events. Given the cost of owning a car and especially for gas to keep it running, I don’t see any reason why we should have to pay additional to NOT be in or using our car.

Sorry, but parking for customers should be part of doing business. What would you say if an establishment asked you for extra money to cover their electric bill for the month? Or the computer software they use to process your order? You would balk at this (hopefully) because it is a cost of them doing business. Then can you tell me why having a place for customers or patrons to park (at no cost to them) is any different? Why is this our problem?

Of course, I enjoy attending events, and often have to go to where there is no other option in terms of having to pay an outrageous amount to park, especially in the big cities. What you need to do is to weigh your options. The big cities also have public transportation and other options.

For example, I recently took my girlfriend to an event near downtown Chicago. I already paid a lot of money for the 2 tickets, which to me should have covered parking and then some. But it did not. The bastards were charging $20 to park in an outside parking lot (no protection from the weather or conditions) for less than 3 hours. At this location, the free parking was at least 2 miles away, and on a cold night that’s too far. We got to the event because we took the L train from about 10 minutes away. I parked FREE near the train station. Unfortunately, it cost $2.25 per person per trip, which made for a $9 round trip. That still stinks to spend so much traveling to and from an event I already paid a lot of money for.

Here’s how I look at doing that. We did not have to sit in traffic, and suffer the humiliation of waiting in a line to pay stinkin’ $20 to park in an outside lot before the show. Instead, we exited the train station about ¼ block away (maybe the same distance if not closer than the paying lot) and walked right into the venue. After the show, we left the venue and were back on the train before the people who spent all of that money on parking could get out of the row they were stuck parking in. I know we got back home much faster by doing this. More importantly, even at the high sum of $9 for our transportation, I SAVED $11 (and the extra time) by doing this.

This is how you need to think it through regarding avoiding event parking. If there are 4 of you going, splitting a cab 2 or 4 ways from a point where you can park for free a couple miles away can save you at least $10. And so it goes. Always explore every option.

I could see charging maybe $1 for parking at venues for big events, such as sports or concerts, but with conditions. The few thousand dollars collected must go toward making paying to park there a true convenience. (Not to walk over puddles, breathe exhaust fumes, and have to back up into a long line of cars waiting to get out of the aisle, burning up my expensive gas and taking up several minutes of my valuable time.) Those conditions are that they have people to keep watch over the parked cars during the event, and are around after to direct traffic out of the lot in an efficient manner.

One more thing to keep in mind. The next biggest ripoff is when communities have the nerve to charge people to park at the train station. This is an absolute outrage. The reason I am taking the train is so that I don’t have to pay to park. So why would I then pay to park to take the train?

As you can imagine, I have done my research in my area, and advise you to do the same. Some communities go as far as to restrict parking surrounding the train station to try and stick you with paying them to park. Forget it! If you can’t find free unrestricted parking within a few minutes walking time of the train station, try a different train station location. I am sometimes stuck with this. I either park in a housing development about 2 blocks further (beyond the restricted area), or drive to a different train station with even more unrestricted free parking. You will find a community that WANTS possible customers for its businesses, and if people are walking the area and parked free with no restrictions, it gives them the opportunity to eat or shop there as well as take the train.

When I do this for the train, I’m saving $1.50 in train station parking costs each time. Before you dismiss me as being “cheap beyond belief”, here is how to look at it. If I save this $1.50 per day an average of 4 times per week (out of a 5 day work week) and do this 50 weeks out of the year, right there I save at least $300 per year by not paying to park for the train.

That is $300 without counting parking money saved on shopping, restaurants, movies, concerts, festivals, and sports events. Start keeping track of what it costs to park everywhere you go. Even if you only save an average of $20 per week every week (and that’s less than $3 every day!), you will save over $1,000 each year. That’s how I can afford to go to the events I go to!

It's time for people to speak up about this. If there are not complaints, this practice will continue and likely get worse. I'm already paying a ton of money to own, operate, and insure my car. I shouldn't have to pay a fortune to NOT be using it.

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