Stress, Uncertainty, and Selling Bananas
The Parking Industry must adapt to changing times. We must become involved in planning and government as urban areas evolve. Parking is part of the future. Terms like ‘reinventing,’ mobility, planning models, and ecosystem are sprinkled liberally in sage publications like this one.
Wags like me post platitudes, like those above, and seem wise and ‘forward thinking.’ But except for crafting documents that are “wise and forward thinking,” just what do we bring to the party?
It seems to me as though we write like this to justify our existence. Our readers feel warm and cuddly that they have read something worthwhile, and we scribes feel good about ourselves and press on with other sage and learned prose. But, so what?
Where is the guidance as to just how to do whatever it is we are promoting that day, or the input that tells us what happens if we take certain differing paths? In most cases it’s nonexistent.
The problem is that we simply don’t know what to do, or worse, think we know what to do but are afraid to say so because, shudder, we might be wrong. If we are an organization, we can’t be accused of taking a position that favors one side over another, so we take none at all. If we are a publication like PT, we cover ourselves in platitudes so we can’t be accused later of being wrong.
If the authors are good, we don’t even realize that we are reading pablum.
At a seminar held at PIE last week, an attendee asked me specifically what he should do to increase the revenues in the parking facility he owned in downtown Chicago. His numbers were going down, and he had just attended a seminar that basically said his numbers should be going up. Yikes.
It’s easy to blather on about what may happen, or might be, or what the world will look like in two or three decades, but what about reality? What about today, right now?
All the forward thinking on the planet isn’t going to help this fellow fill his garage.
So, I got cute and told him to imagine he was selling bananas. He had a lot of them, but people weren’t buying. Perhaps, he should try to sell them one at a time so people could eat them when they walked out of his store, like an ice cream cone? Or maybe sell them in big bunches so the whole family could enjoy? How about selling them while they were green so they could be eaten next week? Perhaps one was too much, and they should be cut in half?
It got the reaction I wanted. People laughed. The time has come to consider just what it is we are selling and maybe ask our customers just what they want. What if they want more than just a place to store their car? What if they want security, cleanliness, ease of payment, a Starbucks on the corner, maybe a shuttle to the park or the city hall, how about…. You get the idea.
Enough about mobility, autonomous cars, and scary stories about empty garages. It’s time to sell the bananas.
Researchers have determined that Uber and Lyft have reduced the number of people driving in the central city and therefore parking activity is on the wane. Guess what?
“We found that the stress of the uncertainty of finding a parking spot downtown was enough to discourage people from driving themselves and made them willing to pay more to avoid it.” Bold letters are mine. You can read the entire article on Parknews.biz.
Above, I commented on the way our industry uses platitudes to discuss the issues that affect parking. We are spending big bucks to ask PriceWaterhouseCooper to tell us what is going to happen to the parking industry in 20 or 30 years. Fair enough. But what are we actually recommending that the industry does TODAY? I hear complaints that the numbers are down. If so, what to do?
Read the bold print above. The Stress and Uncertainty of finding a parking spot downtown are moving people to spend more to take Uber/Lyft. OK – what can we do about that stress and uncertainty? We are causing the stress and uncertainty. Shouldn’t we be able to fix it? Note the words: “Willing to pay more.”
At PIE this year there were dozens of companies that promoted the concept of removing the uncertainty of finding parking. There were dozens of companies that make it easier to park using high tech ways to get folks into the garages and into their spaces. There were dozens of companies that provided lighting that would reduce costs and make the garages more secure and inviting.
We need to fix this stress and uncertainty problem now. It’s fine to be concerned about the ‘future.’ But in the meantime, why not address our current problems with real-world high-end marketing solutions?
Make it easy for folks to enter, pay, and leave
Make your garage attractive to them. A little paint and elbow grease can do wonders. Replacing your lighting can actually save your money.
Promote your parking city wide so people know you are there and can find you.
Run promotions and affinity programs.
If reservations help, get on board now.
Make it so they can park, find a space, pay and leave any of a number of ways. One size doesn’t fit all.
Don’t be afraid to spend money to make money.
Work with clubs, venues, restaurants and the like to make valet parking seamless and fast. There is no reason you should wait 15 minutes to get your car.
Do you have shuttles from your garage to the local hot spots? Jitney service would be very attractive. Band together to provide this service.
I came up with these suggestions in five minutes. You could probably come up with 20 more that better fit into your wheelhouse. Be creative, and if you are not, hire someone who is.
The days of opening your garage and expecting it to fill by 9 am are gone. But you can still fill it if you really want to adjust. The Parking Industry is in a box. It’s time to get out of it. Not sometime 20 years from now, but today.