When the president of the largest parking operator in the US asked me last year "Why can’t you say something nice about us?" I made the assumption that he was talking about parking operators in general, and not Central in particular…
It’s no secret that I print in PT a large number of articles that point out the failings of parking operators. Most of it is in the area of revenue control, since that is my background, but also I talk about operations, garage cleanliness, lighting, equipment, design, surly employees, and poor management.
In some defense, however, PT has also had long articles about successes by operators including Standard and Ampco’s embracing of Pay on Foot and their assisting their customers in the conversion. We have defended operators against owners, with article after article concerning the way owners take advantage of operators with extreme downward pressure on their fees but with higher expectations on their service. We have done cameo and case studies on Denison, Central (with its founder on our cover), Park One, City Center Parking, Imperial, Standard, Diamond, and others, plus many notes and pictures of other operators and their successes.
That having been said, I have always felt that very little was learned or changed from just producing articles that were favorable and the best thing to do to affect change was to shine light on issues and problems and offer solutions. This of course has caused some consternation with those who feel that we have singled them out.
When you read PT look at the balance. Of course it reflects my feelings and if there were a scale, it would tip slightly to the negative. "If it bleeds it leads" has always been the credo of journalists. We are always looking to point out a problem, and in my case, adding a solution. Part of what we do is serve our readers as a watchdog. The way to make our industry better is to shine that light into all the corners and bring our dirty little secrets to light.
Positive "puff pieces" are great for the subject to permaplaque and place on their walls, and can be interesting to readers by giving some in-site as to how certain people got where they were, but they tend toward the "People Magazine" approach. We have done a few, but mostly we shy away from them.
When I do an interview, I look for a "spin" to put on the article. "Spin" infers altering the facts, but actually it simply means a direction that the article will take. For instance, when we did an article on the "Trillium" in Woodland Hills and its asset manager, rather than just talk about the installation of the POF equipment, we took the direction as to what caused the installation and the problems it solved. (In this case it was a new tenant that required faster egress from the facility.) Although I’m certain the manufacturer (Zeag) and the Operator (Standard) and even the owner would have liked some more words about the great equipment, snazzy uniforms, and perfect architecture, I felt that our readers wanted to know how this installation solved problems they may also have.
Most locations have similarities. No need to stress these. Its the differences that help our readers. Sometimes those problems reflect negatively on consultants, designers, manufacturers, and even operators. The idea isn’t to beat them up, but to start now and solve the issues for the future.
I am told we paint with a very wide bush. That may be true, however, few have stepped forward to challenge our assertions. I welcome those challenges and PT’s pages and this blog are open to anyone who wishes to print responses and we solicit articles from anyone who wishes to tout their successes in our industry.
I’ll be on the road next week, talking to operators, owners, cities, and a few other movers and shakers in the industry. You will read about my discussion here and in PT. Let me know what you think.
Enough of this — time to go out and rake a little muck.