This is a slightly edited version of an email I sent to the Anchorage Airport Manager a couple of weeks ago after I got charged $15 for losing my parking ticket. (People in Chicago might think that is cheap, but the issue wasn't the money. It was the attitude.)
Dear Airport Manager:
Yesterday I picked my wife up at the airport. I got my parking ticket at about 8:20 pm. On the way out, when I got to the parking payment kiosk, I couldn't find my
ticket. I went back to where I had waited and looked to see if I could find it. Maybe it had fallen out when I'd pulled some notes
out of my shirt pocket that had the ticket.
But it was not to be found.
I understand the policy that says $15 - the max for 24 hours - for a lost
ticket. Everyone who loses a ticket would claim they were there for just a short
time. But in my case, I had been to Costco before picking up my wife. (I'd gone
home and dropped things off and waited at home because the plane was delayed.) I had the
receipt in my pocket. I'd used my credit card, so it had my identity on it and the check out
time: 7:05pm. This clearly showed that I couldn't have been at the airport for more
than two hours. (It took at least 15 minutes to go through the transaction at the
airport exit and it was 9pm when someone finally came and opened the arm.)
I understood that the woman in the ticket booth didn't have the authority to waive any part
of the fee. But she kindly gave me a receipt after I requested one and she signed
my Costco receipt to show that she had seen it at that time.
The next morning I called the Anchorage Airport Parking. I understand that
verifying things like this is difficult and may lead to endless
requests. But I also know that any organization can make exceptions to their rules.
The woman I first talked to said it couldn't be changed, there could be no refund without
a ticket. I understood she didn't have discretion to change it either. But her
supervisor, who I talked to next, repeated this in a condescending way. "It's your responsibility to
keep possession of your card," in a tone of voice you use with a naughty
child who has repeatedly done something wrong.
I can afford the $9 difference between the two hours I would have been
charged if the two hours had been accepted as the most I could have been there. My
real complaint was the attitude that I got.
"We charge $15 if you lose your ticket and if you are irresponsible
enough to lose your ticket, that's tough. Even if you can prove you couldn't have been
there more than two hours, we don't care. Cause that's our rule and we don't have
to be nice to you."
I assumed this was a company with a private contract with the Airport.
This is a business that I would not return to if it didn't have a monopoly on a public
service I have to use because I live in Anchorage. But I don't have any
Any good business that wants to keep customers, treats them with respect and
doesn't ignore their polite and reasonable requests. At the very least
he could have asked me to send in all the evidence I had. A responsible business with
customers that have a choice on where to do business would do that or
they would lose their customers.
The issue here is not the money - I probably would have gotten free
parking if I had had my ticket at the kiosk. The issue is the attitude I got from the supervisor
on the phone. All companies can waive the rules if they wish. It would be
interesting to know how many lost card payments the airport parking gets in a day and if
the company keeps all the revenue from them or shares it with the Airport.
I'd hope that you talk to them about customer service and about
reasonable requests for waivers of the policy if someone has readily available evidence of
the maximum time they could have been parked. The point of the policy is that anyone
can say they were only there a short time. I accept that. And if I didn't
happen to have that receipt, I wouldn't be writing this email. I just think this was
unreasonable and their response was inappropriate for a company that has a monopoly on
a public service. I know you have much more serious issues to deal with, but I wanted you to know what's going on.
OK, I got it out of my system.
But today I got a call from Republic Parking saying that had $15 for me. I'd forgotten about it and I almost hung up on them. And then I remembered. Whoa! Are you kidding me?
Since I'd paid cash - that was the night my credit card was canceled because they didn't have my wife's social security number (that's another story) and the first time it was rejected was at the ticket booth - they were refunding the money in cash which I had to pick up. My wife was out running errands and called. I told her about the $15 and she went to pick it up. When she got home, she said they were incredibly polite.
My thanks to the Airport Manager for following up on this.
I do still wonder who gets the penalty money and if that encourages them to be so hard-nosed about lost tickets. But it's better to keep your ticket safe. I look at this as totally found money that is waiting to passed on to someone who needs it more than I.