The High Cost of Parking

Most of my articles involve stories of people who make a difference or overcome obstacles.

Back in December, I was invited to the Country Music Hall of Fame to view a panel discussion about the women of the Bakersfield Sound. It featured Kay Adams, Jean Shepard, Rosie Flores, Lorrie Collins and Rose Lee Maphis. It was a fascinating discussion of their involvement in the West Coast-brand of country that produced Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. This was a really cool event and worthy of a story in its own right. But, unfortunately that’s not what this is about; this story is more of a consumer warning. As usual, when you park in Nashville, you pay to do it, especially areas around the downtown, riverfront area. I think I can safely say that nobody enjoys paying to park, but if you are going to park in downtown Nashville, you typically have to pay for the privilege. And, if Premier Parking has anything to with it, there is a good chance you will pay dearly.

Premier owns many lots in the Nashville area. I can’t tell you how many and where, because their site does not list where they are and they are very reluctant to divulge that information. I can, for a fact, tell you that they own one across from the Country Music Hall of Fame. The reason I know this is because I had the unpleasant experience of using the lot belonging to Premier Parking. The initial parking fee was $8 an hour and I paid for 2 hours. I had to stand out in the rain and deposit money into a teller-type machine, which in turn regurgitated a ticket that I had to place in the window of my truck. After doing so, I made note of the time and entered the building. The show started a little late and by the time I got my poster signed by the artist, I was 10 minutes over my limit. I went outside to put more money in the teller machine and discovered that inside those 10 minutes, I had received a $40 parking ticket from Premier Parking. When I arrived it did not appear as though anyone was monitoring this parking lot, because there was no one present to answer any questions or warn of the unfair and very steep fee they impose on their customers. This lack of help was evident when I returned to the parking lot, as there were visibly upset people who had received the same steep parking tickets for simply placing their parking permit in their window in a manner which didn’t comply with Premier Parking rules. This is apparently a lucrative practice for Premier Parking because, by my count, about half (we’ll say 10) of the people standing alone in the rain to use this overpriced parking facility had received these tickets.

I could tell by the expressions on the faces of many of these people that they felt anger, frustration and the feeling of being a victim of a strong-arm tactic, and I agree with them. I felt the same way. I can only assume, as I am sure Premier Parking assumes, that these good people just paid this extortion and left Nashville with a bad taste in their mouths, maybe never to return. I, however, could not be satisfied with just paying this ransom and moving on with my life. To start with, the fee is obviously excessive. I was 10 minutes over my limit and that should cost me and additional $40? How come I can’t just pay for another hour? What is the justification of charging a fee that was more than it would cost to park all day? At least they were thoughtful enough to clearly indicate how you could pay their extortion by credit card or by phone, which I’m sure will also include a surcharge. I decided that instead of paying this dubious fee, I would call and ask Premier Parking to justify this inflated ticket.

I called Premier Parking several times only to be funneled through a phone tree to an answering machine of the person with whom ticket complaints are to be registered. As you might have figured, my calls went unanswered. So, I decided that if that was the case, then the ticket would go unpaid. It was after the first of the year before I heard from Premier Parking again. Just in time to make sure my new year wouldn’t get off to a good start, I received correspondence from Premier Parking in the form of a more expensive ticket—to the tune of $65 and a threat. They threatened to turn over my delinquent extortion over to a collection agency. Just for the record, collection agencies have no real power to force a payment from you for any debt. What they do is annoy the hell out of you until you pay them. You have the legal right to stop this and can do so with a simple letter. If you don’t wish to remit said letter yourself, most attorneys will do this for a fee. Anyway, with this new information, I decided to call again and this time, before I could be banished to the same answering machine no one checks, someone must have accidentally picked up the wrong line, because a person, a real, honest-to-God, human being, answered the phone.

My spirits rose and I felt for the first time since making the unfortunate mistake of “parking” that I might get some reason and fair play from Premier Parking . . . I was wrong. After introductions, I informed the person on the other end of the phone that I had received an expensive parking ticket for being over only 10 minutes. During my explanation I was interrupted and given a well-rehearsed speech about how Premier Parking should have the right to leave penalties just as any municipality should. My response to this was silent astonishment. After recovering my faculties, I opted not to explain to the voice at the other end of the phone, that no one other than elected representatives of the American people should have the power to levee such penalties. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to why I did not explain this to him. I did however, ask how I was supposed to know beforehand about this steep penalty when I parked there. Mr. Helpful on the other end of the phone informed me that it was clearly posted in the parking lot. I openly admit, I cannot argue this. Not because I agree with it, but because it was cold and raining that day and I didn’t bother to stop and read their rules of extortion. And since I have not been back and will not return to that parking lot, I will have to grudgingly accept his words that it was posted, I do however, completely reject the fact that it was clearly posted.

Realizing that I was having a discussion with someone who either could not or simply would not see any other point of view, I changed my tactics. I inquired if there was a way in which to reduce the price of this fine. My adversary on the other end of phone the belched forth this gem, “Well, if you had called dat day, we might’ve reduced it to one hour.” Again from me, quiet astonishment. After once more regaining my composure, I asked the follow-up questions, “Why doesn’t Premier Parking just do the right thing and charge another hour in the first place,” and “How can anyone know this important information if it’s not printed on the ticket?” It was his turn for silence. Bear in mind, reader, that these are rhetorical questions; the answer to both is naked greed.

At this point, I want to shift gears for a moment, and then I will tell you how our conversation ended. What I am going to do here is share with you my solution for this problem. First, it needs to be known: other than sue you for the price of the ticket, Premier Parking has no power to enforce this extortion. It is my guess that they will not sue you over $40 to $65. What they will do is put a boot on your vehicle if you ever again park in one of their tourist-trap parking lots. I don’t know what the fee is to have the boot removed, but I can say with certainty that it is too damn high. Probably something along the lines of signing over your grandmother’s house or indenturing a small child for life (again, just a guess).

I will not at this point advise you how to approach this information about Premier Parking, but I can tell you what I have done. At first, I decided that I would never pay these parking thugs a dime, but I did reconsider. I did this because I need to know exactly how much money I needed to cost Premier Parking to get even with them. As I figure it, the ticket cost me $65, plus $3 handling fee (told ya there was a fee), I spent $32 on the initial parking fee for two vehicles, and I have to include the $40 that my girlfriend decided to “just pay” because she received a pretty yellow envelope from Premier also. That comes to a total of $140 so far. Given the personal time, effort and frustration I have suffered for this injustice, I will add a modest $100. So it is now my goal to cost Premier Parking at least $240. This is how I am going to get even. First is the information I am giving to you. I can’t adequately measure the impact of this article on Premier Parking’s tactics, but every time this article stops someone from using their facility, I gain $8 an hour back and that’s $8 every time someone passes on parking in their tourist traps. If anyone uses this info to never park there again, this article pays it back in full and then some. If this article so affects you, I’d love to hear from you! Secondly, I will personally forever boycott Premier Parking. I go to Nashville several times a year and it won’t take long before I have cost them more in lost revenue than they have cost me. You can double my efforts with that of my girlfriend, as she has vowed to never use Premier Parking again. I have also advised many of my friends to do the same. With a little information and resolve, we can, very quickly, get on the plus side of Premier Parking. That, my dear friends, is the power of the consumer.

Now, if you think that is just the rant of an irritated writer that feels as though he is a victim, you’d be right. But with this info, I will never again be a victim of Premier Parking and now, neither will you. Also, consider this, the 10 or so good souls that were fined that cold, rainy day can’t be the first ones to receive those official-looking envelopes from Premier. One can only wonder how many tourists never returned to the Country Music Hall of Fame or any of the other attractions that Premier Parking lurks around because of these fines or how much lost tourist revenue it has cost Nashville and the state. When the government needs revenue, it gets it from you. And that, dear consumer, is Premier Parking taking money straight out of your pocket.

As stated before, my phone conversation with Mr. Premier Parking ended when I explained to him that I was going to do a consumer report story for the Murfreesboro Pulse and that my goal was to cost Premier Parking as much revenue as possible, he grunted, somewhat like a person who just had his arm twisted by a strong-arm tactic. Then, in his best Shakespearean fromage he blurted out, “Well, dat’s on you.” When I inquired as what his name was, here was a pregnant pause, followed by the statement “I gots to go, dere’s anudder call.” Oh well, c’est la vie.


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