The Garage Was Closed
September, 2005I was leaving the theater the other evening, just a bit off Broadway. Saw a great show called "Sylvia" about a man and his dog, or was it a dog and her man? Nevertheless, the bitch had a mouth on her that would make a sailor blush, but I digress.
As we approached the parking garage, I noticed something strange. The light was off in the cashier booth, and the exit gate was up. The garage was closed, but we were able to get our car out. My master smiled as we drove out without paying the $15 fee. It got me to thinking.
When do you really close a garage? How do you know what time to close?
The next day, when I went back to the garage to ask the owner why he closed so early, he looked at me strangely. "We always close at 11," he said - as if it were carved in stone.
I told him that I had counted the number of cars in the garage, and there were about 30 when we left just after midnight. His daily rate was $15. That means he abandoned more than $450 by not keeping the garage open a little later. When I sniffed around a bit, I found that there was a cleaning crew in the building -- more than 30 people who pulled tickets but left about 2 a.m. Now we had well over 60 tickets unaccounted for.
Wait, there's more ... I asked what time he opened. He said 7 a.m. sharp. I began to wonder about people who came in before 7 and didn't pull a ticket to get in (just drove in through the exit lane). There was a lot of construction going on in the building, and I knew that those guys get in early. Plus, there were a couple of brokerage firms that started early to get a jump on the London markets.
"How did you handle those?" I asked. He said that if a person didn't have a ticket, they were charged from the time the garage opened. It seemed fair to him.
I wondered about someone who parked in the garage the night before, stayed a bit too long at a bar, took a cab home, then arrived at 9:30 a.m. to pick up his car. He simply threw away his ticket and paid for two hours.
It turned out that my theater had opened about a year ago, and a couple of restaurants that stayed open late had opened in the past few months. The garage wasn't keeping up with the neighborhood. It was closing at 11 simply because it always had.
OK, you have decided to stay open later, but how much later? One way to figure that is to simply keep adding an hour until the number of cars in the lot generates less money than the attendant on duty.
For instance - let's assume 30 cars are in the garage at 11. You stay open until midnight and 15 cars leave - you collect $225. Certainly covers the attendant. You then stay open until 1 a.m. and another 12 cars leave - that's $180 more. But there are only three cars left - the $45 may not be worth another hour; plus, there's no guarantee that all will leave by 2 a.m.
The owner had another concern: What about overtime? Now he would be paying time-and-a-half or double-time. I asked what his shifts were. He said he had three cashiers on 7-3 and the two-person night crew 3-11. My solution: "You might have one come on at 6 and work until 2, a second come on at 9 and work 'til 5, and one regular one from 8 to 4. Then you could have one of your night crew start at 3 and work 'til 11, and the other start at 5 and work until 1. No overtime and everything is covered."
Then I got to thinking - why close the garage at all? If you have one cashier on until 1 a.m. and another starting at 6, there are only five hours when the garage is closed. Now you might not get a lot of action between 1 and 6; however, that cashier could double as your maintenance person.
Have him clean up the trash, sweep the garage (it's better when the place is empty anyway), wash the windows and provide general maintenance. Just close the gate and put a buzzer there or a button connected to a pager the cashier can wear. He can then come back to the gate to handle any issues that arise when he is out of the booth. The maintenance staff you have on during the day can then be used elsewhere, and the extra person actually cost you nothing.
There were also a lot of missing tickets in the garage, and of course the cashiers blamed this on the open exit gates after-hours. My solution solves this problem as well, because there would be no missing tickets during an audit.
See what you can discover when you stay out late?