Parking and convenience stores – Those grudge purchases we all dread!

Parking and convenience stores – Those grudge purchases we all dread!

Terence Pillay believes you shouldn’t be paying for parking if you are contributing to the economy of an establishment like a mall. 

Man is paying his parking using credit card at parking pay station terminal

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I had to go an visit a friend in hospital the other day and it really galled me when I arrived there and the parking garage of the hospital was clearly outsourced to our most famous parking service and the expectation was that you have to pay for parking at this hospital. This is a private hospital but it’s still a service and so you would think that the cost of the patient being there, which is so exorbitant in private care anyway, would include something like the cost of the parking.

They’re simply just making money. It’s just a gratuitous making of money! Self-enrichment. It’s the same with shopping malls – you go in there to spend money and contribute to the economy of that mall, yet you still have to fork out exorbitant amounts of money for parking. It never used to be this way. They have created an entire industry out of tarmac. Outsourced parking management was never an industry before.

But what irritates me even more is that these places also have car guards in the paid for parking. Surely if you’re going to pay those large amounts of money for parking fees there would be an expectation of security and that your car is going to be safe. And make no mistake, this parking is expensive. Some of these places have no free parking – you’re billed from the time the boom goes up to let you in. The other day, I went to fetch somebody from a mall and had to ask her to go in and pay eleven rands for the minute or so that it took me get from the boom gate to the entrance of the mall.

For me this is totally a grudge payment – it’s something I get no value from. You just pay because you have to because you can’t park on the highway and walk to the mall. You have to get close enough to walk into the center and the only way you can do this is to go through those bloody boom gates. What one presumes is: when you pay, you get some kind of service. But essentially what you get is a spot in which to park your car. You think though, because you’re paying, you should get some sort of added value, like security or not being harassed by some person offering a tertiary service like a waterless carwash.

I would like to know what they’re doing with the amount of money that they’re making – you could probably do a few calculations and work it out, but it must be in the hundreds of thousands of rands that are being paid. Could they not employ some serious security people? People might say that it’s not such a big deal and those people are wrong. We’ve become so desensitized to it.

And what about the prices of parking at the airport? In the one space, the long-term parking, which almost has its own area code, the prices are cheaper. But in the general scheme of things, it’s still hugely expensive. But if you park undercover, it costs a hundred and eighty five rands a day. Think about it – a hundred and eighty five rands! For what? Just so your car is out the weather and near the terminal? It’s shocking.

And even that drop off thing is irritating because there you get twenty minutes free while you’re picking somebody up, and if you go even a minute over for whatever reason you are charged twenty rands. So what if you get there and find that the person’s flight is delayed? You either have to drive around the airport a few times or fork out huge amounts of money to park in the parking lot anyway.

We shouldn’t have to pay for parking – especially if you are going to contribute financially to the place that you’re going to. If you go to a mall, you’re either there to shop or do something recreational like watch a movie and you pay for all of this.

In some places like the ICC, if you’re attending an event, you can pay a blanket fee for the duration of that event, which is usually a couple of hours. But a lot of people don’t know that if the event organizers don’t want to insult their customers by making them pay for parking, they can pay for parking on your behalf and issue you with a voucher with your invite. Woolworths at the Pavilion also has installed a machine that discounts your parking if you shop there, which I think is a great idea.

People also think they can charge whatever they want at convenience stores, hotel mini-bars, and airport kiosks and so on because they have a captive market. You have no choice; you can’t buy an item from anywhere else. So the store may be convenient because it stays open 24-hours but the prices certainly aren’t convenient. You’re looking at thirty rands or more for a two-liter cold drink, which costs fourteen rands in a normal store. And how do hotels justify charging fifty-five rands for a two finger slab of chocolate or thirty-two rands for a three hundred milliliter can of soda?

So I chatted to a few store owners and they all said the prices are so high because of the convenience of the situation. But something happens to our brains when we are taken out of our normal environment and put into a garage shop or a hotel room or an airport kiosk or restaurant. We lose all sense of what’s normal or appropriate; it all goes out the window.

Either we say, well that’s just the way it is because we have no choice, or we say, we’re on somebody else’s dime, especially when you’re claiming a subsistence allowance from your company, so it doesn’t matter to us. If somebody else is paying the costs it doesn’t’ matter, but will you pay eighty-five rands for a bag of chocolate peanuts or a hundred and fourteen rands for a small bag of nuts? You can go anywhere else and get ten bags of goodies for that price.

So I’ve decided to pull a Wendy Knowler and go around to shops and compare prices and do a blog on just how much we’re being taken advantage of in these captive market situations. 

No one expects people not to make money. I understand that if you’ve got a shop that’s open twenty-four hours a day and you’ve got someone working in that shop at one o’clock in the morning, you probably have a low turnover of customers but still have to pay that staff member so somehow you have to make it worth your while. So the convenience of being able to go into a shop at one o’clock in the morning and buy an Iron Brew or whatever you must have at that time makes you understand the price.

But perhaps what they should do is introduce midnight prices. So they can say, if you really must go into that convenience shop at three o’clock in the morning to buy a pack of cigarettes then pay more. But if you go in at four o’clock in the afternoon like every other person, this would be normal trading hours where you could potentially go to another shop to get your item, why not charge a more reasonable price?

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts. 

Also read: There’s no priority in low cost airlines

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