This Time It’s Personal


This Time It’s Personal

A funny thing happened several weeks ago. Not funny haha, but ironic. An LA Times business columnist wrote a story about an attorney who declined to download a parking app to pay for parking at Trader Joe’s because of the app’s privacy policy. That’s not the funny part.

The funny part was that the reporter took the time to read, in its entirety, the terms of service and privacy policy that most of us “click through” on our way to using whatever app we’re trying to download. And as you would expect, what he found wasn’t pretty. 

He found a long and winding privacy policy that was liberal, non-specific, and in his own words, outlined “incredibly invasive practices of the Los Angeles digital-parking company.” Yikes. 

On one hand, this type of “thing” happens all the time in the new and wild west of digital transformation occurring in every facet of our lives. And to have to click-through yet another privacy policy or terms of service agreement on our way to using the latest and greatest technology is a cold, hard reality. The alternative, of course, would be to go back to using a flip-phone or a landline, as Apple’s terms of service are just as long and equally as scary.

On the other hand, the protagonist in the LA Times story got it just right when he said he “feels like he shares enough of himself already with the tech world and doesn’t need a parking garage also knowing about me.” And there it is. The beginnings of parking taking another hit to its reputation as being the “bad guys.” 

I can hear the moans of customers everywhere saying: “It’s bad enough I have to pay for parking, but now I have to give the parking company all my personal information so they can take advantage of me by tracking my digital footprint and then selling my information to the highest bidder.”

It doesn’t have to go there.

A small, but vocal, group of parking professionals was already coalescing around the fact that parking routinely gets the hot end of a cattle prod while dutifully going about the very difficult task of providing parking for millions of cars on the road in the U.S. every single day. This LA Times story spritzed gasoline on an already smoldering fire.

The general public doesn’t see what we see every day. Parking is complex, difficult, expensive and takes a highly-trained workforce to be accomplished so seamlessly. I know I’m preaching to the choir, which is exactly the point of the “band of parking pros” created when we decided we needed to fight back. Not in a nasty way, but with the truth.

You see, we need to find a way to come together as an industry with one voice to shed a light on what wasn’t obvious to me six years ago when I joined a parking company. We need to find systematic ways to make ourselves available to those speaking ill of our industry. We need to truthfully and factually bring to light why the service we deliver faithfully every day is so valuable to our “car-loving” population. 

As parking professionals, we’ve known the truth for a long time, but our voices are fractured and disorganized. We’ve been content all this time to take our lumps from those not “in the know” because “that’s the way it’s always been.” To be fair, there have been attempts to organize, but it’s lacked coordination and cooperation. And the forces that have kept us from organizing won’t change if we don’t do something differently.

What’s different this time is a rallying cry made ever-more urgent by the LA Times story. It’s a story of an industry changing, and an industry welcoming new companies that play by a different set of rules. Rules that our small, but growing band disagree with. 

By and large, as parking professionals, we’ve been doing business above board and with transparency for a long time, and we don’t want that to change. We want to evolve and change with the times. However, we also don’t feel the need to sell our souls to advance our interests. Rather, quite the opposite. 

In the coming months you’ll see, and hear, more about ways you can get involved as a force for good in parking. Not just to thwart this most recent assault on your privacy, but to tell our story…your story. One that, as parking professionals, says what we do every day matters. It’s time for all the world to see the real us! I’m excited about the future, and hope you are, too, and will join us on our noble mission! If you’re just a little curious, reach out. I’d be happy to share more.

Article contributed by:
Brian Wolff
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