Getting to the Root of It
Last month, I hinted at a growing movement of parking professionals that want to turn the tide on the industry’s history of being maligned and misunderstood, so I’ve spent the better part of the month thinking more deeply about why our industry is routinely on the receiving end of a truckload of crap.
The first and most obvious reason is that people simply don’t understand. I received validation of this theory yet again when the Parker Board of Directors raised a glass to another successful year. Chris LaMothe joined my board two years ago, having been no closer to parking than most of us before we went to work in parking. Chris has run several successful businesses himself and is encyclopedic about all the ways he has seen companies make money.
I will admit that I prompted him by asking if he had any idea what he was getting himself into when he joined us in 2019. Sure enough, as we were laughing over our bourbon about how complex and complicated parking was, he said the four magic words I’ve repeated many, times: “I had no idea.”
People just don’t get it, and it’s not their fault, because as parking professionals, our jobs and our nature are to make parking as easy and seamless as possible. We take something very hard and make it look easy, which is why I think we should find a name for those not “in the know” and set about educating them en masse or one at a time.
I want the name to be something that isn’t mean or condescending. Perhaps we could even invent a whole new word to describe those that don’t know. My inspiration is a book that I read with my son for fourth grade English entitled “Frindle” by Andrew Clements. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it! It’s a page turner. The gist of the book is how a fourth-grade class made up a new name for a pen and then proceeded to make it stick, but I digress. So, it’s settled, we’re going to make up a name for the uninitiated.
The second reason our profession takes such a beating is because people looking for parking feel they are entitled to parking. Because they don’t know what it actually takes to maintain and operate parking, and because we make it look so easy, they believe it should be a public service and free, or nearly free.
Once again, in many ways, we’ve done this to ourselves. We very clearly see the need, especially when we know, against all new futuristic “wisdom,” that car ownership is NOT waning. Some experts say cars will go away very soon and the need for parking will go away with it. But we know better; we know that car ownership will continue to follow the same growth curve it has since the car was invented in the early 1900s.
So, our uninitiated, entitled customers believe parking supply should be going up, because car ownership is going down, and they believe we should provide this parking for nothing or nearly nothing because they don’t understand what it takes to make parking happen.
I think we should name these folks. If you have a better suggestion, share it with me, but for now I’m going to start calling the uninitiaTED and entitLED, “Teddy and Leddy.” And I’m not going to stop at my board members. I’m going to start an intentional effort to bring Teddy and Leddy into the light, to understand and then appreciate you all for what you do to make their lives easier.
Starting today, I’m going to make it a point to educate at least one person a month about how complex and complicated parking is and to help them see why they should smile at our CSRs and say “thank you” when we help them pay for their parking and leave the garage.
If we all take the same challenge, Teddy and Leddy will come around to our way of thinking and begin to treat us with the reverence of a physician, a lawyer, or a reverend. With each successful educational session, I’ll post my progress either in these pages or on social media to hold myself accountable for doing what I said I would do and to inspire you all to do the same.
The time is now and we’re just the group to do it. If you’re tired of being taken for granted, join me on this quest. If you’re “in,” send me a note and let me know or simply post your story on LinkedIn with the hashtag #teddyandleddy. It won’t be easy, but something hard never is. Kinda like parking!