Friday, May 29, 2009

Not so Easy EZ Parking

I had one of those, "is this really happening right now?" moments last weekend. After returning to Newark Airport from a Memorial Day weekend trip in Michigan (link to Lodge Interior Construction Trip) I was supposed to call for a shuttle pickup from the E-Z Parking service that I had partaken in prior to my trip. The theory was that I would give them my certificate number and they would promptly send a shuttle to take me back to the Royal Plaza parking lot for a timely and relatively cheap escape ($8/day vs. $35/day Airport "Economy" parking). The first sign that the evening would not go as planned was that I couldn't reach either of the provided phone numbers. The fact that it was a little after 11pm at the end of a holiday weekend (read: I had work the next day and a 3 hour drive still ahead of me) also didn't bode well. Luckily Jess hadn't arrived yet to pick up Andrew so I still had that as a backup.

After 5-10 minutes, which I found out later was an extremely short amount of time in comparison to other customers - some of whom waited for more than an hour, a Royal Plaza shuttle came by and I flagged it down. Showing my non-street savvy I flashed the EZ Parking paper at the driver to confirm if that was the correct shuttle to be on. Of course they probably had some regulation or agreement where the Royal Plaza shuttles can't/shouldn't pick up EZ Parking passengers even though EZ Parking uses the empty Royal Plaza parking spaces. So the driver shakes his head and says that I can't take his shuttle. Thankfully there was a more determined Dad (along with a wife and baby daughter to care about) who insisted on riding that shuttle. Seeing this, coupled with still not being able to reach EZ Parking over the phone, I decided it was time to bid Andrew farewell and rush on the shuttle, completely ignoring the driver.

The shuttle made the airport rounds and deposited us at the hotel door. A short 60 second walk and I was at the shack of a building that represented the EZ Parking establishment. There was only one person in front of me but I was soon followed by around 10 other people. This is where it gets pretty comical from my standpoint. What had obviously happened was that the phone service was out (since 9pm) and no one could reach the service. As each person walked in, whether from Taxi or shuttle, they were furious and wanted to know why they were abandoned at the airport. Many of the fathers in the group were so caught up in yelling at the staff that they ended up yelling at each other because they couldn't take turns. I just sat back and watched because it was clear (based on the discussion from the person before me) that no refunds or compensation would be granted - even for those taking a taxi.

One particular Dad - the subject of the second half of my story (not the same Dad who rode in the shuttle with me) was carrying his 9 year old when he entered the shack and kind of shrugged his shoulders (lifting his son at the same time, which made it seem funny) and yelled, "what gives?!" When the shift manager was explaining that "Verizon doesn't fix the service and ruins my business," the Dad replied that they we're even because they ruined his vacation as well. I'm sorry, but if being delayed for an hour or two ruined your week long vacation (the week I deduced from his bill amount) then it must have been pretty poor to begin with. Meanwhile I give the person my claim number, and credit card information (their machine was also out because of the phone) and step outside to get away from the tension. A few minutes later that Dad had gone through the ropes and apparently they would not deduct the Taxi fare from his parking fee. Instead they wanted to bill him the full amount and then he would have to "call back later for the refund." Determined not to have his vacation ruined and be shafted at the same time his solution was simple, "I'll pay my fee, less the taxi, or you can call the cops." The latter part of this discussion was occurring as the Dad was loading up his Suburban equivalent Cadillac with the manager buzzing around him trying to talk him into paying. After getting his family loaded he slammed his car door shut in the managers face - which resulted in a quick yelp on a radio to the guard/toll shack to lower the arms and not let him through. As you can imagine this escalates rather quickly. The Cadillac (I didn't know this was possible) peels out headed for the gate which is a good couple hundred yards away. The manager starts running over and continues to yell into the radio telling security and anyone who can hear to try and stop the car. The manager gets about half way there (the Cadillac had to make a 90 degree turn and then accelerate again so they are about even now) when he meets one of his EZ Parking vans coming to investigate. The manager screams, "back up as fast as you can!" The van backs up by far the fastest that I've ever seen in real life, like stunt driver fast, and effectively does a J turn to swing around just in time to block off the Cadillac. The Cadillac speeds around to the other side of the toll booth to exit the entrance side but the manager actually jumps in the way. For $15 this guy effectively risks bodily injury and possibly death. Just goes to show you how much people get caught up in the moment with adrenaline pumping. After a bit of cat and mouse they end up boxing the Cadillac in with two EZ Parking vans (which weren't anywhere to be found when people needed rides by the way) and a security truck.

Despite the entertainment value this whole ordeal provided it still wasn't very considerate of the guy to go and do this because it delayed about 15 other people a good half hour. To the guy's credit however, back at the EZ Parking shack I you could hear the hotel security or manager telling the guy to take the loss instead of calling and getting the cops involved. So, after a couple tries by the staff to subtract $20 off of a $74 bill, the Caddy left on its marry way. From a curiosity standpoint I can't help but wonder what the (then) sleeping kid and the mom were doing the whole time the car chase was happening. In a way the experience was helpful because it really woke me up for my 3hr drive back to Schenectady.

1 comment:

  1. Alright, fine. Once I sat down and actually read through that it was a pretty good story.