The Case of the Mysterious Old Ticket Switcheroo
DC McGuire is the newest character in PT's cast of parking sleuths. A former FBI auditor, he also has worked in parking operations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. DC has been kind enough to chronicle some of his cases for Parking Today. -- Editor
Iwas hired by a company that owns a number of "honor" lots in the city. Their numbers were down on two of the lots, but the collectors swore up and down that they were reporting all the income. In addition, they had changed the collection staff and the numbers remained about the same. But they knew that something was wrong, Laddie boy, and that I could figure it out.
I decide to stake out the lots and see just what is happening. I'm surprised when about 9 in the morning, a fellow in a white jumpsuit and clipboard arrives and stands in front of the honor box. I just have to find out what was happening, so I drive into the lot as if I were going to park.
He very nicely tells me the honor box is "out of order" and he is supposed to take the money and issue a ticket to the vehicles. I pay the minimum amount, and he writes down my license number and puts a ticket under my windshield.
I go around the corner and have a cup of coffee. When I return, I take the ticket off the windshield and drive out of the lot. The ticket is stamped with a time from yesterday and is for a lot about six blocks away. I go over to that lot and talk to the lot manager.
Seems that lot is a pay-on-entry location and a ticket is hand-issued to each car. He identifies the ticket as from his lot but can't explain how the ticket got on my car six blocks away.
I decide to stake out his lot and see what happens. Sure enough, that afternoon the fellow from the first lot -- now not dressed in a white jumpsuit -- comes by and when the lot attendant isn't looking, takes about a dozen tickets off the cars. He then goes to the lot across the street and does the same thing.
I tell ya, Laddie, this entrepreneur has a great thing going: He has no investment, no expenses (except perhaps the cost of laundering the jumpsuit) and no supply costs.
So if you owned the honor lot, how would you prevent this type of fraud?
I want you to know that if you're ever going to make money in this crazy parking business, you've got to be eternally vigilant. You must check your parking lots often so that some Ol' Sly Fox can't pick you clean.
It isn't sufficient to check your lots only once a week. Even only once in the morning and once in the afternoon isn't enough. I've found that you need to check them at least twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. And never do it at the same time every day.
You must make frequent irregular checks, Laddie boy. If you don't, Ol' Sly Fox is a smart one. He'll figure out your pattern of visits and skim you blind, quicker than you could scratch a flea.
As the gipper always said: Trust everyone, but verify.
DC McGuire is the alter ego of consultant Larry Donoghue. He can be reached at (847) 297-1180.