The Parking Spot Review

As you know I was out of town for most of the week. I really didn’t feel like paying the $30+ per day to park at Newark, and I didn’t want my Bride to come and pick me up late Thursday night when I got home (especially if there were delays) so I decided to give The Parking Spot right across from EWR a try. They’re right there, cost only $9/day, and

As the leading near-airport parking company in the nation, The Parking Spot provides full service parking to 21 major airports in the U.S., with a total of 33 parking lots. When you reserve a space with The Parking Spot, you can expect more than cheap airport parking. You’re getting a superior airport parking experience. Our lots are spacious, fully-fenced, well lit, and open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We offer: friendly shuttles every 5-7 minutes, earn free parking with The Spot Club, luggage assistance, complimentary newspaper & chilled bottled water.

What’s not to love? I’ve seen their vans zipping about the airport all the time, so I figured what the hey.

Well, you can get the measure of a company (and of people) not by how they do things right when things are running smoothly (heck that’s the easy stuff; as Jane Austen wrote “Everything nourishes that which is strong already.”) but rather by how they perform and act when things go really, really, reeeeeeally wrong.

I parked my car there on Monday afternoon. I had reserved a spot, pulled into the secure gated drop-off area, left the keys with the attendant and was soon on the shuttle bus; ten minutes later at most I was in the terminal and preparing to expose my inner-most secrets to TSA. So far so good.

Fast-forward to Thursday, sitting in the Las Vegas airport creatively whiling away the time while my flight was delayed 3 hours, making my eta back to Newark now 1am instead of 10pm, so I was glad I hadn’t drafted my poor Bride to come pick me up. She’d get to sleep!

So after a reasonably uneventful 5 hour flight we land around 1-ish, I walk off the plane and call them to send the minibus around. It shows up very quickly (yay!) and me and a couple of other folks hop aboard for the short drive to the lot. The nice fellow driving helps them with their luggage when we get there and the cars are all lined up and off they go.

Except me.

My car’s not there.

The manager comes up to me and very apologetically says to me “Oh Mr. Bingley, I’ve been waiting for you. I’m sorry your flight was so delayed, but um, well we seem to have lost your keys.”

Exsqueeze me?

You know, I’m a little tired and not focused terribly clearly here at this late/early hour, why by gum I almost thought I heard you just say you’ve LOST. MY. KEYS. ?!?!?!?!

My car keys, which also had my house keys and several other keys, as well as the all-important key id tags for various beer and wine clubs I belong to. Oh and the gym tag (what, you think this body was sculpted for free?).

Now I guess some folks would react to this sort of thing rather violently or emotionally but that’s really not my style; the deed was done, the milk was spilled and the coop had collapsed on the chickens. The big question, the only question that mattered was what do we do now.

The manager explained their system for tracking the keys (which is, after all, the core of their business) and, well, they knew which employee screwed up. In a nutshell, the keys are scanned in and out every time they are touched to move a car and this fellow simply grabbed a couple sets of keys to “save time” and dropped mine somewhere (in another car, on the ground) after he moved mine. As they say in The Hobbit “short cuts lead to long delays.” In this case my delay. The manager again was very polite and apologetic and offered to rent a car for me to get home or to have someone drive me home and I could come up the next day…strike that, later the same day because it was now 1:30am on Friday and get the car. I said no, drive me home, I will get my spare keys and come back with your employee and get my car now, I didn’t want to wait and who knows, if the gods were smiling perhaps the keys were dropped in my car and not someone else’s and are now god-knows-where.

So my poor Bride (so much for sleep!) gets a phone call from me at 1:30 (which is an hour when everyone just loves to have the phone ring) and I ask her to put the spare car key outside and leave the door open as I have no house keys now. We drive 45 minutes from the airport to Chez Bingley, I run in, drop off my bag, pick up the keys and run back out. Then 45 minutes back to the airport. The fellow who gave me a ride was a very nice fellow, btw.

Get there, open up the car, the manager and everyone is crossing their fingers that my original keys are in the car. Nope. Damn.

Now life has just gotten a lot more complicated and expensive. I talk to the manager and tell him that I am going to have to spend the next day getting new car keys and all the locks on the house changed and that I expect them to pay for it. He says “of course” and gives me the contact information for his supervisors and apologizes again. I get in and drive home, getting there at 3:30. Yay me.

After a few hours of sleep I get up and head out, going first to the locksmith to arrange for new locks (they came Saturday and installed them) and then to the dealership to get a new key and fob for the car (I sat there for an hour or so as they made/programmed them). During the day I got phone calls and emails from various managers at the Parking Spot assuring me that they would cover the charges and apologizing again for what happened. I will repeat again: every Parking Spot employee I had contact with was courteous and polite and promised to make it right (as much as they could).

So we shall see: tomorrow I’m emailing them the receipts for the roughly $700 I had to spend (I didn’t charge them for my time, but I’m giving that way) and their words will be put to the test. Key control is the core of their business and they messed it up. It happens occasionally and unfortunately this number came up for me last week and not Powerball. Based on all my interactions with them over the past few days I fully expect them to honor their commitments to me and I will keep y’all informed on how it goes.

Quite honestly, assuming they send me the check reasonably quickly I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again. Oh sure I’ll joke about it and annoy their employees by saying “now don’t lose my keys this time!” when I drop the car off but losing my keys aside they do a great job. Now I know that sounds kind of like saying “well aside from that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” but seriously: they’re polite, inexpensive (in theory…) and close to the airport.

So the ball is in their court.

Stay tuned.

17 Responses to “The Parking Spot Review”

  1. JeffS says:

    Oy. Loosing all those keys? Not good. I hope they follow up on this — they broke SOP, and that’s not a good thing for their business. Nor for you, not having spent $700 for their mistake. And lost a lot of personal time, not to mention the anguish involved.

    But I do have one (hopefully) helpful suggestion for you, something that I *always* do when I hand over my keys. It’s not that you’re wrong here, but there’s one thing that I do differently in similar circumstances (e.g., taking it to the shop).

    I give only those keys needed for the car. I keep the rest. I do this often enough that I actually have THREE key rings, connected together. One for the car only, one is for loaner keys , and one is for my personal stuff. You’d be surprised how many keys I have on each ring.

    Yeah, that’s a bulky set of keys, but it’s worth it, in terms of personal security and responsibility. I developed this habit whilst living in Chicago, and never gave it up after I gave up Chicago.

    I might add, Parking Spot should take a look at this idea as well, and accept only car keys, if isn’t policy already (the potential liability ALONE ought to scare their lawyers s***tless). It’ll be annoying to the customers, but well worth the effort in the long run.

    Forgive my chiming in on a rather personal moment, but you presented an excellent after action report, and it’s in my nature to join in. You can take the soldier out of the Army, but taking the Army out of the soldier is a different matter altogether.

    I hope this works out for the best. I look forward to the rest of the story.

  2. Mr. Bingley says:

    Yes, the separate-them-thar-keys method would have helped a lot…but then given me lots of things to lose!

  3. JeffS says:

    HAW! Yeah, that’s the catch. And it’s a real pain going through airport security with all those keys; I end up putting them in my rucksack to make my passage through TSA somewhat less painful.

  4. Greg Newsom says:

    Good story. I think this might end up on ‘People’s Court’ when they say your bill is too exorbitant.
    I went to a similar situation about 20 years ago.Now, never give anyone, anyone my keys.
    I only give them the key they need.Son, mother, or ex-wife. Only the single key.

  5. Julie says:

    I’ve used the Parking Spot at IAH several times with good results (timely pickups, driver waiting while I make sure my car starts, etc.), but have never given them my keys. Now I know not to do that. Thanks for the warning!

  6. Thomas Pfau says:

    I’m with JeffS. I have a small carabiner that holds all my keychains together. Also, the alarm remote is disconnectable from the ignition key so I can lock the car and walk away while it’s running. That’s useful for when I’m leaving the house and realize I forgot something and have to run back inside.

    Hope you get prompt satisfaction.

  7. Mr. Bingley says:

    Thanks, Thomas. yeah, I guess I’ll be carabiner shopping too!

  8. Skyler says:

    My lord. What business do they have holding your keys?

  9. Mr. Bingley says:

    It’s a valet parking lot, Skyler. You drop off your car and they park it and continual shuffle it around in their lot as they maximize their space as people come and go.

  10. Skyler says:

    You whacky New Yorkers. New Jersians. I never valet for any reason. But it seems to be popular in your neck of the woods.

    Most higher end cars come with a valet key.

  11. JeffS says:

    Here’s an idea on what to look for in a carabiner, Mr. B!

    Strong enough to carry your keys, manly in a manly way, and quite handy if you ever need to rappel down the side of a building.

    And the locking feature means you can hang it between your claymore and sporran without fear of losing it! It’ll clash with your kilt, but we have to make some sacrifices for security.

  12. Mr. Bingley says:

    There’s a lot of restaurants here where you have to valet, Skyler.

  13. kcruella says:

    I have the aiport drop off/ pick up down to a science due the large family. Call me next time.

  14. BlackDog says:

    Here is a thought. Make a car key and keep it locked in your glove box or secret areas. That is the key you give to valet or car guy. It works for me and I live in Chicago Land. Alternate is remove the distribiter cap [Read One For The Money]

  15. leelu says:

    I use a little key holder that has a split ring on each end. The barrel holding the two will pop apart when you push on one end, which is a sort of plunger. Has never accidentally come apart. Car key on one end, everything else on the other.

  16. leelu says:

    …just like Faustia’s…


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