‘Ottawa’ Saturday Night Parking Impoundment Fee Unfair, Kanata Woman Says
We’ve all been tempted but a Kanata woman found out the expensive way that just because a private parking lot is empty on a Saturday night, doesn’t mean it’s free.
Brenda Cardinal is steaming mad that it cost her nearly $300 to get her car back after it was towed from a Park Safe lot at the corner of Somerset and O’Connor streets on Dec. 17 when she and a friend went to a Christmas concert at Dominion Chalmer’s United Church. It was a snowy night and Cardinal said she didn’t see the 24/7 enforcement signs posted on the lot or the $10 flat fee posted on a sandwich board sign at the lot entrance.
When the concert was over, Cardinal and her friend, who had parked beside her, found the lot full and their cars gone. It cost them each $293.80 to get their cars back from where they’d been impounded in a garage near Lansdowne Park.
“Three hundred dollars just before Christmas? That was a real hardship for me,” said Cardinal, who contacted the Sun with her complaint.
“(Park Safe) didn’t want to hear any excuses over the phone…. They said what I did was compared to going into a Mac’s Milk and stealing products from them. I said, ‘I am a respectable woman in my early 60s and there’s no way I wouldn’t have paid had I known that I had to pay for parking.”
Park Safe owner Marcie Tilley and her husband, Marc Proulx, don’t have much sympathy. For them, towing and ticketing is the biggest headache of the parking business.
“Our business is very simple,” Proulx said. “We park cars. We collect money. We make sure it gets to the bank. But you need to make sure that everyone follows the rules.”
Park Safe is deputized to issue City of Ottawa parking tickets on its lots, but when demand is high for parking, like on the night of the concert, tickets aren’t a good solution. For one thing, Park Safe has to split the $55 it receives for each ticket 50-50 with the city. Secondly, a non-paying car takes a spot from someone else who’s willing to pay. Cardinal and her friend were the first cars in the lot, but the place was soon full of concertgoers.
“When we went there, the other 58 people paid for their parking. They were the only two who didn’t pay for parking,” he said.
“I hate doing enforcement. It’s the worst part of our business,” Tilley said. “But we have to do it because if we don’t no one would ever pay. But it consumes a huge amount of our time. It’s the largest expense in our business.”
Park Safe charged $95 for the tow, $55 because it had to use a dolly on Cardinal’s car, $55 for the impoundment and then issued a $55 ticket. Tax brought the charge to $293.80.
“When people come to us complain and want to be reimbursed, we’ve already gone out there and made the tow and incurred all the costs,” Tilley said. “If the person had just read the signs, they wouldn’t be in this situation. If I got a parking ticket or my car got towed, I’d pay it and suck it up because I’m the one who made the mistake.”
Park Safe uses licence plate readers to track cars which eliminates the need for dashboard parking slips. It has its own tow trucks and employs five full time workers to do enforcement.
Tilley estimates they park 100,000 cars a week, issue about 100 tickets and tow just a couple of cars on average. If people dispute a charge, they can take the company to small claims court, but Proulx says the company’s never lost a case. Once, a man who was towed claimed there was no warning signs, then went to the lot and ripped all the signs off the wall. He didn’t realize the lot had a surveillance camera.
“When I called the guy and said we had him on camera, he said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ and he brought us all the signs back,” Proulx said.
“You wouldn’t believe what people will do to avoid paying $10 to park.”
For her part, Cardinal has complained to the Better Business Bureau but said she’s resigned to her loss.
“I didn’t expect that I would ever get any money back from Park Safe but I will be very happy if the story helps others.”