Friday, May 23, 2014

Strange Encounter In Parking Garage

We'd been at the Getty Museum (in LA) and were in the parking garage, in the car, ready to drive home when I man came up to the passenger window.  Our passenger opened the door and the man accused him of hitting his car. 

My first reaction was that we were parked before he was, so how could we hit his car?  But he said the passenger had done it when he opened the door. 

I got out and walked around.  I looked at this car.  My passenger said the door couldn't hit his car because the mirror was in the way.  But I opened the car door and it could make it to the door despite the mirror. 

But there were no marks there.  Well there were a couple of light brown marks and the other guy flicked them with his fingernail and they fell off.  Dirt.

Me:  It doesn't look like there's any damage.  So, no problem.

Him:  I want your insurance information.

Me:  What for?

Him:  It's dark here.  In the light I may find damage.

Me:  You're kidding.

Him:  I need to take a picture. 

I got out my camera.  The first picture, without a flash, was pretty dark.  So I turned on the flash, something I rarely do.  It's not a great picture, but it only shows dirt.  No marks.   And there was clearly nothing near where the door would have reached the side of the car. 

I went back and took a picture of the two cars.  His is the one on the right at an angle.  The flash caused it to look like his lights were on.  He's standing between the cars.  He took pictures with his cell phone.  

Him:  I want your insurance.

Me:  (I'm still reasonably calm.  There's no damage.)  What for? 

Him:  You hit my car.

Me: Even if we did, there's no damage. 

Him:  I'm going to get a security guard.

Me:  Go ahead.  He won't do anything.

(In hind sight, perhaps this was his way of letting us go, though some people we talked to said this would cause him to say it was hit and run.)

We wait.  He comes back without a security guard.

There's some repetition of the previous exchange.  Then:

Me:  What do you want me to do?  There's no damage.  What do you want?

Him:  You didn't say you were sorry.

Me:  I'm terribly sorry the door hit your car.  I'm glad there was no damage.

Him:  OK

And he walks away from the car and I start to back out. 

People we've talked to have had a variety of opinions from he's a little crazy, cross-cultural misunderstanding, to it's a scam. 

I've looked on line and found a few parking lot scams.  From NBC Los Angeles:
According to a press release from the Santa Monica Police Department, the duo – sometimes working alone and other times as a pair – approach the elderly victims as they’re leaving parking lots.
They then claim the victim hit their car and demand money from them, saying that the damage is less than their insurance deductible.
 But we were in the Getty Museum parking lot.  It costs $15 to park.  (The museum itself is free.)  And he didn't demand any money.  Here's another from laist:

[She] was returning home from Ralph's on Coldwater & Ventura when she was waved over to the side of the road at Dickens and Van Noord by 2 men in a car who claimed she had hit their car at Ralph's. (They had likely followed her from Ralph's) The driver of the car exited his vehicle and approached the woman who never left her car. He pretended to call the police and told her that they would be on the scene in 45 minutes. 

Again, not the same.  It didn't occur to me it could be a scam while it was happening.  The man had an accent and I just assumed he was overly protective of his car.  And the apology request and resolution seemed to support that idea - he didn't lose face at the end.

But maybe he could do something my insurance information had I given it to him.  Some people we talked to even questioned if it was his car at all.

I thought he was getting into it as we drove off, but I didn't actually see him do that.  Another car was pulling into a space on the other side of him and I remember thinking:  Don't hit his car.  


  1. Did he complain about his neck hurting? This sounds like a flake case, but if you were driving a rental he probably identified it as a rental and then we're more likely looking at a scammer.

    1. The rental car is a good question. We were in my mom's car.
      Given that we were parked and he wasn't in his car, neck problems would have been quite a stretch. Our door (maybe) touched his door.

    2. A Texas relative told me, after working out in California a bit, how shocked he was to learn that you can be sued in court out there if you "disrespect" someone! We never heard that before, or since, and I know you can sue anyone for anything, but that was a real surprise to both of us.

      If you feel threatened by some loon in a parking garage, and you drive off to get away from them, especially after taking photos of the unmarked door, the police will probably not give you any grief later, should the loon really make a report against you. In fact, I wonder what would have happened if YOU had called in the security guard to report the weirdo? Maybe the accuser would have gotten nervous if you brought a disinterested third party into the conversation once you turned the tables on HIM.

      At any rate, after getting out of your mom's car and standing around in a parking garage for several minutes arguing with that guy, I'm very glad the worst thing that happened to you was mental aggravation and NOT a robbery and/or physical assault.



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