PT the Auditor

## What a Difference a Day Makes …

June, 2009

(As you read this column, you might want to have some Tylenol close at hand. It’s a real headache maker. Editor.)
A day. What exactly is a day? Depends on whom you ask. Biblical scholars defined a day in Genesis 1: 1-5. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has seven different meanings for day. And then the parking industry!
A day, meaning a calendar day = 00:00 to 23:59, a day based on 24-hour period from time of entry; a business day, let’s say, 4 a.m. to 4 a.m.; a hotel day = check in after 3 p.m., check out by 11 a.m.;
A week day = typically Monday through Friday; a weekend day = typically Saturday or Sunday, but many places start the weekend day after 5 or 6 p.m. on Friday and end it at 5 or 6 a.m. Monday;
A holiday (Government and university parking have so many, I think they count them in dog years). The private sector has the big six, non public average between 15 and 20; and then there are the Snow Days, Hurricane Days, Non-Essential Government Days, Patriots Day, Jeff Davis’s Birthday, election day, and don’t forget religious holidays and alternate-day parking rules!
We then have the day rate = enter between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. and exit by 6 a.m. the following day (that’s a 14-hour-1-minute day if I came in at 3:59 p.m.); a night rate, enter between 4 p.m. and midnight, exit by 6 a.m.; and an overnight rate, entering from midnight to 6 a.m. and exiting by 6 a.m. – when combined could or could not equal a 24-hour window of time.
A day based on the hours of the garage = Garage opened from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., \$25 maximum all day; cars left after closing, \$10 until 6 a.m. the next day. Or rates of \$2 every 20 minutes, \$20 all-day max, rates repeat after midnight. Thus if I came in at 8:45 p.m., I paid the all-day rate at 11:46 p.m. and then started all over again at 12:01 a.m. for another \$2. Oh, wait, what about rates by day of week!
Let’s think about the hotels; they really make my head hurt! I get in at 7 p.m. and check out the next morning at 8 a.m. I have spent a hotel day at the garage.
My next hotel stay has me attending the two-day parking conference that starts at 8 a.m. at the hotel. I arrive at 7:30 a.m. and park, walk to the conference room and sign in. Later, after 3 or 4 p.m., I check in at the front desk and get my ticket validated. I check out the next morning about 9 a.m. but stay until the conference ends at 5 p.m., have a farewell kibble with friends, and then leave. This was a good day, more than 34 hours!
I have paid for my parking ticket at a POF. The rates were simple, \$2 every 20 minutes, maximum \$20, and it’s early in the afternoon. Since I have paid the all-day maximum, I take my time going back to the car and make a pit stop before hitting the road. It is not 25 minutes later, and I owe money again as if I had just entered the facility, when in fact I have never left.
Seems that most POF’s give you a grace period only to get out of Dodge before starting to charge you all over again!
Grace Periods? OMG, let’s not even go down that road! Turn Around Grace, Continuous Grace, and POF/Central Cashiering Grace. Next, you will be asking, “Is it time off or the money off for the equivalent amount of time; after all, they are the same – yes??”
It’s only June and already I feel the Dog Days of August creeping into this conversation.
Now, put this all together and we have a cashier with a time clock trying to figure out “Who’s on First?” Or the garage manager trying to program his rates into Fee Table #1, Segment 1, Block 2 with start and end times and a group max!
Get my drift? Parking rates are very complicated. Just thinking about the “day” issue above can be a major event. Add in grace periods, day rates, evening rates, entering and exit times (some rates change depending on either or both).
Now, consider your revenue control system. In years past, some vendors held the position that you should let them change the rates, that issues such as the ones above are far too complicated for mortal parking managers. They were rolled over by technology, and now, virtually all systems are “field programmable.”
But is this a good idea?
How many rates have you programmed where you had to “alter” your rates slightly to fit the requirements of the revenue control system’s rates program? When you have to start checking the Bible and Wikipedia to determine the definition of your rates program, what do you expect from a poor programmer who wrote the rates program three years ago?
In the end, people not familiar with parking rates think it’s pretty easy. Fifty cents a half hour, max \$4.50. The problem is that they don’t know what questions to ask.
Writing down your rates is a good exercise. Don’t just copy the sign on the outside of the building, but write down all the different permutations – based on “day,” entry and exit times, validations and grace periods – and then send it to your vendor and ask them to program it into your system. You might be surprised at what you get back.
Woof!