Greed

I attended the Microsoft Tech Ready conference at theWashington State Convention Center this afternoon and parked my car in their parking garage. After I finished my work I walked to the self-service parking machines where I normally pay for parking with a credit card. There on big black and white signs I read, “Credit Cards Not Working. Pay at Booth”.

I got in my car and began making my way towards the exit when I realized there were lines and lines of cars trying to get out of the garage. I was one of the lucky ones who happened to be parked on the same level as the booth or it would have taken more a lot longer than 35 minutes it took me to reach the booth which was maybe 100 yards from where I’d parked.

The manager of the parking garage has a few choices here:

  1. Send more crew down with handheld credit card machines.
  2. Do nothing and let the lines back up angering every customers who used your service this evening.
  3. Open the gates and and let the 100 or so cars exit the parking garage for free.

Solution #1 requires lots of planning and probably isn’t reasonable in a short period of time. That it happened after 9 pm further complicates the situation.

Solution #2 is what happens when nobody has authority to think of the long-term effects of pissing off a hundred paying customers.

Solution #3 is the choice if you’re looking to take a bad situation and turn it into something your customers will tell their friends or blog about.

The problem is greed. Company greed. The two employees left to deal with the hundred upset customers were taught how to take money and nothing more. They weren’t taught to ensure their customers left the convention center happy let alone to exceed expectations.

So tonight the Convention Center got my $13 parking fee. But not tomorrow or Friday or ever again.

7 thoughts on “Greed

  1. Mr. Nordquist, I’m concerned that all that idling among the carbon monoxide may have affected your thinking here in this post, so I’d like to throw out a few observations:

    First off, the title and following reference in using GREED… As one of the Big Seven and something that implies a conscious effort to undertake, that’s not a condemnation to throw around lightly (akin to saying you Hate a stranger). It’s likely a fair assumption that you know little to nothing about the financial standings of the WSCTC parking company and of what magnitude a loss of ~$1300+ in funds (100 people x $13, give or take some deviation) would have on the attendant staff being payed. To paint a picture that implies that Corporate Fat Cats And Masters Are Screwing the Little Guy (CFCMASLG) intentionally is absurd.

    Regarding option #1, I’m glad that you point out that it was 9 pm, because you’re right, highly unlikely that any additional staff could be called in at that hour to assist what was probably a temporary setback. Again, knowing little of the parking situation under otherwise normal circumstances, the credit machine failure could very well have started at 8:45 and only lasted for a bit after you left. Let alone the fact that the source of the problem was likely well outside the parking company’s immediate control (were the dial-in systems down, clearing house maintenance window, L337 H@x0r pwn’ing the system, etc), is it really justifiable for them to abandon their payment system and staffing posts due to technical difficulties? You remember good ol’ fashion cash right? Yes, we still use that here in America, and the “two employees left to deal…” could still accept that as a form of payment, no reason for them to go trotting about with manual swipers for credit.

    I could go on, but your posting of Sheer Blogger Entitlement(tm) has exhausted me. Frankly, I’m surprised you didn’t pull to the front of the car line a cry out “Move it people, blogger coming through here, serve me NOW or I’ll rant about you too!!”. Instead, here’s some free advice to reflect upon, partially laced with an equal amount of ranting:

    1). NEVER, EVER, EVER park at The Gorge concert venue lot, or shop at Costco, or wait for a prescription to be filled. Don’t order a pizza for delivery, and by God never cook a turkey, the sheer inconvenience of having to wait is likely to kill you. Also, never eat at XXX Root Beer, they don’t even take credit/debit, so I’ll save you the effort of blogging in the future about their absurd cash-only policy….Greedy Corporate Fat Cats!!

    2). Here’s something completely counter-intuitive to ponder…instead of lurching along for 35+ minutes, repark your car. Get out, mosey on down to the crew room (or Starbucks) and relax for a few. For bonus karma points, get a cup of coffee on your way out for the parking booth attendant, because I can assure you with rants like yours, just think of how the other ~99 people treated that attendant that day, you’d be the better human being for it. Plus, idle more than 30 seconds and you’re wasting gas, save a tree!!

    3) Never condemn a place after one bad experience. Granted, you may have had earlier troubles and just failed to mention them here in this post, but unless they have a repeat record of failure with you, posts like this denouncing them as Evil Corporate Cigar Smoking Suits and Their Diabolical Money Machine (ECCSSTDMM) over a one-time inconvenience really just make you come off as a whiny blogger…or need I remind you of your Baskin Robbins post?

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  2. Professor Counterpoint:

    I can assure you that my windows were rolled up tightly as I waited the WSCC to take my money avoiding any carbon monoxide.

    It’s really simple. Does the convention center, with it’s hundreds of parking spaces if not thousands and host to over a hundred events each year care if their CUSTOMERS leave happy or not? What a crappy way to end a very long day at a convention by sitting in a line that’s barely moving because WSCC can’t get their credit card machines working.

    You mention using cash which I had on hand last night. Didn’t matter. The line was one and the same making a bad situation even worse.

    I expect more than I got last night, especially when I’m paying $13 for a few hour worth of parking. I will and have taken my business elsewhere. You say I shouldn’t base my decision on one visit which is absurd. Sometimes you only have one time to earn or lose my business when it’s so very easy to take it elsewhere. If you have a bad experience with a dentist or mechanic do you give them a 2nd chance?

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  3. Mr. Nordquist,

    I’m a little unclear on something, was the experience so poor because you and others couldn’t use a credit card (lack of convenience), or that you waited for 35 minutes in idle (time consuming)? If everyone in front of you in line was already intending to pay with cash and it still took 35 minutes, would the Parking Lot Barons still be as maniacal and GREEDY?

    Secondly, lets take a step back here and bring some perspective into the situation. It is not a dentist office, where poor service can mean permanent mutilation, nor a auto mechanic, where shoddy work can cost you safety and more money down the road. A parking lot is a place where you deposit your automobile for a few hours, and if all goes well, there are no earthquakes, your car doesn’t get broken into, and you are able to leave with your car, end of story. The experience is, and always will be, a utilitarian one at best. Trying to compare it to a dental or mechanic experience in service expectations is not even in the same ballpark, planet, or fruit to fruit comparison. It’s a parking lot…not every service available in life warrants a Four Seasons experience and rose petals at your feet. In contrast (since the point of your post is to complain about your self-park garage experience), has there ever been an occasion where you’ve raved to a friend about a positive self-park garage experience?

    Lastly, if this matter truly soured you enough to disown the WSCTC parking lot FOREVER, have you spoken with someone who works there (central cashier is on the 3rd floor) and issued a face-to-face complaint or asked for a refund? If you feel you have a valid grievance, talk to someone who works there and address the situation directly. Blogging about it, while certainly a good avenue for personal venting, is not a substitute for conflict resolution and will not fix the issue. Face the problem head on, you might be surprised and find they do in fact care about customer happiness and give you your money back and apologize to boot. If not, heck, I guess you’ll at least have a follow-up blog topic!

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  4. The experience was poor because one shouldn’t be required to wait 35 minutes to move 100 yards in a parking garage at 10 pm, especially when a reasonable solution was at hand: Just open the gates and let the 100 or so cars leave instead of acting greedy, making everyone wait and collecting the parking fee. As I mentioned, it didn’t matter if one tried to pay with credit card or cash (I had both) because the line was the one and the same. One employee was taking cash/credit cards while another man (in very broken English) was running around trying to calm people and move them into one of two lines. He was doing what he he’d been taught. I didn’t vent to either of them because they are powerless to do anything. They have been told to collect the parking fee at any cost which is their choice but I have choices as well.

    I can compare a parking garage to any other service such as a dentist, mechanic, hair dresser or wherever else I have a choice to spend my money. The WSCC blew it on this evening and there are so many other parking choices in that area, why do they deserve my money? They are in a convenient location, but I’ll just valet park my car at Pacific Place and make the short walk next time. They have always treated me well.

    I don’t expect anything from the WSCC due to my blog. I blogged it because it was clear to me that a very simple solution was at hand but a company didn’t train its employees to think of anything other than “collect the parking fee”. I hope others that night decide to spend their money elsewhere instead of giving it to the WSCC.

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  5. You make a good point about escalating the issue to someone on the 3rd floor management. I looked for them when I left last night and they were gone by the time I left (around 8:45pm). I wasn’t going to ask for a refund. I was going to suggest a different way of handling things when it’s late and a malfunction causes an inconvenience (or maybe worse) to customers. I wonder how the drivers felt who parked at the convention center to grab a bite to eat and had to wait 30+ minutes to pay $4 in parking?

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  6. Mr. Nordquist,

    A sincere kudos to you for attempting to address the issue in person, while regrettably the staff was not on hand I’m glad you took some of your time to swing by the cashier’s office.

    While I don’t agree that a viable solution is to open the gates and let everyone out for free (after all, if people were already intending to pay in cash in the first place it would still have taken a long time to exit), I do sympathize on the time loss factor and it being a rotten situation, and they should have deducted some time charged due to having to wait for so long.
    Personally I take this sort of thing as a fluke, unfortunately probability was against you that day and your number came up, but not likely something regular and worthy of boycotting a place. Parking lines are not uncommon when a lot of people leave at the same time through limited exits (that’s why people leave at the bottom of the 9th in a stadium). I would be interested to hear what you consider a acceptable amount of wait time before, as you suggest, the gates should be opened and everyone gets a freebie?

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  7. I think it probably was a fluke although I don’t use their parking more than a couple of times each year. A friend who reads my blog told me that each station at the exit contains a credit card reader which I did not know about. It was strange to me that someone took the time to print up signs for the pay stations inside but didn’t provide extra staff to deal with the logjam. I assume it was difficult to call in extra help given the time of day.

    I’ve decided to give them another chance next time I’m down that direction.

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