“Love a Forest … know some woods.” From a short poem by a parking enforcement officer name Jim whom I met nearly 20 years ago while working in the city of Kingston.
Without thinking about it even a little, many small business owners undermine their own success daily whether by failing to update their websites, posting incorrect hours or failing to open when expected, or where they park their cars a window into the dark soul of self-harm in a business sense.
Beginning in the late 90s I worked for a time as a writer for a daily paper in New York’s Hudson Valley region. Headquartered in Kingston, New York State’s first capitol, daily assignments could range from births – as in the first of the year between the two area hospitals and deaths, too tragically due to motor vehicle accidents and for years, a wide range of business stories.
Among the seemingly more mundane topics to fill our pages was parking, seemingly covered from all angles. Parking structures, parking fees, parking meters, even parking personnel, everything was fair game. And to be fair, this is probably the case in many small cities and towns. If it affects one’s pocketbook or wallet, it’s news. And this has held true in the years since I left the paper.
“Ample parking day or night,” is a selling point, after all.
One angle that seemed to hold great interest was that of the limited parking on “Main Street.” On more than one occasion shopkeepers and other small business owners lamented the lack of parking for their prospective patrons.
It was one of several scapegoats for slow business, but a popular one.
“They can’t up the price of parking/charge for parking in that free lot/eliminate parking spaces,” they’d say. Take your pick
BUT they were and probably still are their own worst enemies. Almost every single business owner I spoke with was guilty of parking their own car in front of their own store. Even if it meant feeding a meter. I used to ask about it.
“Where should your customers park?” I’d ask. Clams. Nothing but clams.
Visit most big box stores shortly after opening and you’ll find the same thing – employee cars clustered near the door.
I was reminded of this recently in Hudson, NY during the Christmas season. The city had waived parking fees, presumably to encourage holiday shopping, and I believe the meters wrapped in festive holiday bags. (Other towns achieve this with a little more panache, like Middleburgh, NY which dresses its meters with oversized candy canes I believe are made of stove pipe.)
While parking to visit business near the city center I found myself behind a car with a license plate frame that clearly identified its owner as a purveyor of promotional products. The car was parked, naturally, in front of a shop specializing in promotional products.
While I pointed this out to the missus, a woman came out of the shop, retrieved something from the car and went back in.
Of course once upon a time I also wrote of the shopping mall’s appeal from a parking standpoint, this boils down to “Easy parking, everything all in one place.”
Probably because I’m averse to working too hard to park, except on the absolutely rainiest of days, I seldom seek out a spot near the door. Instead, I typically choose a spot far from the building. This also minimizes the congestion one needs to deal with, lessens the likelihood of parking lot accidents and provides the opportunity to stretch one’s legs – a welcome antidote to the sitting behind the wheel living in the burbs or sticks also requires.
Like at big box stores, those hundreds of folks working inside the mall tend to park close to the entrances.
To be fair, some may do so for personal safety as they arrive or depart on the edge of the day and daylight. Many are probably not thinking of their customers.
Often, parking on the outer edge of a mall parking lot your car there might be large gaps between you and the next nearest vehicle. This further tips the odds in your favor against folks slamming their shopping carts or car doors into yours.
On one such outing, I returned to my car to find a note tucked under a wiper blade – like a parking ticket. It’s the note pictured at the top of this article and below.
It seems someone else was as passionate about how, where and why people park as I – or at least hung up on how I park at shopping malls enough so that they left me this exasperated note.
I’ve stumbled across it a few times over the years and it’s been a memento of all those years writing about parking, but now that I’ve digitized the thing, I can perhaps finally part with the original.
Jonathan Ment is a writer, photographer and consultant. You can follow him on Twitter and also share your thoughts on this story here.