I love technology and especially mobile gadges. My iPhone has re-defined the meaning of “Man’s best friend”. In the 80′s I had a bag phone (e.g. for those who are in their teens please see the picture below), I owned one of the first PalmPilots with a whopping 32 mb memory chip and I was using wireless Internet when you had to insert a PCIMCA card into the side of your 40lb laptop that had a monchromatic screen. But, For the first time in probably 20 years of gadges, I found a mobile device I really wish hadn’t been invented – the mobile Interac machine.
First off I want to get the details out of the way, I’m guilty! I went for a coffee at a little Internet cafe in downtown Halifax’s Quinpool Road shopping area and pull into a parking lot with a huge sign stating, in no brief manner, that if I didn’t visit Zephyr Rug and Home or Scouts Canada I would be ticketed, towed and or immobilized!!! I had no idea what immobilized meant, I was thinking stun gun which sounded interesting. After obviously breaking “the Law” by spending money at the wrong retailer on Quinpool Road, I return to my vehicle to find a boot locked on it’s front wheel and a note on the window telling me I owed NoGo NoTow a total of $77.98+ HST. The note conveniently displayed a phone number to call in order to resolve the issue. As I read the note I couldn’t help but think what a cash cow of a business. Holding cars hostage for ransom. This probably wouldn’t have been possible without mobile technology like those damn mobile Interacs!
If I hadn’t of had a dumb mobile phone in my pocket to call NoGo NoTow I would have had to bum a quarter off someone on the street to use a pay phone. The note on my truck’s window clearly stated the I wasn’t to bother Zephyr or Scouts Canada. When I did get in touch with the NoGo NoTow service they were on-site in minutes using a stupid mobile GPS. When their man hopped out of his vehicle he had his FREAK’n mobile Interac machine in hand and was eager to take Visa, Mastercard or debit. God I wish the pizza delivery man hadn’t of invent that stupid device.
Having never witnessed this type of car highjacking in Halifax I suggested to the NoGo NoTow guy that for all I knew he could be a criminal who would steal my credit card information and destroy my credit rating with his little debit or credit revolver. He sort of shrugged and suggested he could be, but whether true or not, I wasn’t getting out of that parking lot without paying the $88.00. All of a sudden I felt this wave of anger come over me, not at this poor guy who obviously has to hate his job as collector for the evil lot owner, but at Zephyr Rug and Home, Scouts Canada and the Quinpool Road Business Association. I mean please, $88 bucks for a parking violation, who the “H_LL” came up with that number and where does that money go? It started to feel abit like an episode of Rocket Robin Hood. I was looking for the evil Sheriff of Nottingham lurking in the corners, laughing and shaking is bag of gold.
When Rocket Robin didn’t arrive to save me (i.e. probably because I’m not exactly Maid Marion), I started to think what a terrible brand experience for Quinpool Road customers. I have no idea who owns the parking lot, but whomever it might be they have obviously not thought thru the impact of using this service on the retailer or for that matter the whole business district. From my perspective they have just given me a HUGE reason not to visit Quinpool Road and shop.
As I said earlier, I’m guilty of parking in a parking spot that is only available to Zephyr Rug and Home and Scouts Canada cutomers. I guess my question is how did they know I’m not a customer? No one asked me before they draped my car in orange tape and slapped a sticker on my window. What if I had of gone into Zephyr the day before and spent $3000 on a dining room set? I would have gone home and pack it up for immediate return after this experience. The damaging effect on the Zephyr brand plus my perpetual conversation about how I was robbed by the evil lot owner would surely be much more devastating to their brand than having a car in their parking lot for an hour. The approach the lot owner has taken to control the evil parking bandits that rob from the Zephyr and give to the poor coffee shop seems to be devoid of any consideration for long term impact on customer relations and perceptions.
I admit, I had no intent of buying anything in Zephyr or visiting Scouts Canada, but they didn’t know that. I guess if Zephyr Rug and Home and Scouts Canada don’t really care about new customers having the Sheriff police their parking lot is an extremely effective way of driving them off. That said, the last time I checked there isn’t a line-up of kids knocking down the doors to join the Boy Scouts and after 20 years in the retail/marketing business I can say with some authority that I have never meet a retailer who doesn’t like new customers. But much like they don’t know whether or not I’m customer, I don’t know whether or not they care about new customers. Thanks to NoGo NoTow I now have a perception that they care more about a free parking space.
There has to be a better way to improve the parking situation on Quinpool Road. The Quinpool Road Business Association has to solve the parking issues for their customers. Certainly throwing customers in jail is not the answer! The music industry used the same desperate approach on its customers when the Internet introduced downloadable songs. They sued their them, thru them in jail and closed down their businesses. Communities of music lovers revolted and boycotted big brands such as Sony. Sony had to pause for a moment and reflect on the impact all the negative publicity was having on their brand. They had forgotten the golden rule of business, the consumer is always right even when they’re wrong.
I would love to hear your comments on this style of parking enforcement so that I can forward them on to the Quinpool Road Business Association.