Park & fly: How not to be taken for a ride

Park & Fly Africa update: How not to be taken for a ride

This is Part 2 of last week’s show about the company which was found to have abused people’s cars after collecting them at King Shaka airport, instead of keeping them safe, and giving them a valet service, while the owners were away.

Car - consumerwatch

Within an hour of last show’s airing, I’d heard from four of five others who’d also had bad experiences with Park and Fly Africa - very similar to that of Kundai Chibarabada.

Thanks to Chibarabada noting her odo readings and having a tracking device in her Mercedes, she discovered later that the car had been driven 70 kilometres more than the 10km to and from the company’s storage yard and driven hard, harsh braking and acceleration and twice over 130km/hr.

Like Kundai, several others had also paid for Park & Fly Africa’s services with a Groupon voucher. 

Groupon told Consumerwatch last week that it was no longer featuring the company on its page.

Another complainant on last week’s show, Umi Khan, also used Park & Fly Africa last month, and when her car was returned to her at the airport, it was missing her R5000 sunglasses, a memory stick and other personal items.

An employee has appeared in court on charges of theft, was released on bail and has another court appearance on the 6th of June.

Park & Fly Africa co-owner David Pillay told me there had been a “a mix up with job cards” for Kundai’s car, and that the driver had been given a warning. He has since refunded her, including the fuel costs.

A Glenwood resident's experience 

Among the fresh crop of complainants Angie Broughton of Glenwood had half a tank of petrol in her car when she dropped it off with a Park and Fly African rep at King Shaka, she says, but very little of it was left when she fetched it. 

But because she hadn't thought to note the reading on her odometer she couldn’t know for sure how many kilometres it had been driven. 

“I foolishly did not take my odometer reading when I left thinking that that goes on their paperwork anyway,” she said. "It’s a trust thing - I stupidly trust people to do the right thing, and  and then I don’t do what I’m meant to do to protect myself.”

Worse than that, she wasn’t given any paperwork when she handed her car and its keys over. Big no no.

Another Park & Fly Africa customer discovered the floor mats of his brand new bakkie were missing, one woman’s car was returned to her with the boot jammed shut, and worst of all, a woman’s car was written off after being involved in an accident while she was away, when it was supposed to be safely parked - according to the tracking report, the car had been on the road for four hours at the time of the accident.

There are at least seven companies offering this King Shaka airport valet parking service, most of them based within 10km of the airport.

The challenge facing companies offering the same services 

And guess how many of them have the words Park and Fly in their business name?  FOUR.

There’s We Park You Fly, which used the words first, and has been operating the longest, since 2011; then there’s Park & Fly, not to be confused with Park & Fly Africa, the operators who stand accused of abusing some of their customers’ cars. And then there’s Fly & Park.

No wonder people mix them up and clearly the consumer confusion works better for some of the companies than others.

Zain Ally of Park & Fly, the company most easily confused with Park & Fly Africa, took quite a bit of flak after last week’s show, when some listeners assumed the show was about his company.

But he has made a positive change to his business practices since last week - odometer readings are now strictly recorded on each car as it’s dropped off.

So here’s the advice: these services are a very attractive alternative to leaving your car at the airport or taking a taxi, if operated with professionalism and integrity.

Lessons for consumers

Do your homework. Ask for the company’s full name, ask where the cars are stored - you won't get an exact address for security reasons and whether the company has insurance and security measures such as 24-hour guard and keys kept in an alarmed area.

Get full contact details of the company you choose to leave your car with. Allow time for them to inspect your car and note any imperfections on handover. You should be left with paperwork detailing your car, their contact details and terms and conditions.

Note your odo reading easily done by taking a photo and if you’ve got a tracking device, keep quiet about it.

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