Parking Wardens, Good Faith and the Decline in Society

18 Oct

Ok, true (and somewhat delayed, because I needed to know the outcome) story.

A few weeks ago, my wife, my son and I drove down to Scarborough to attend Fantasycon by the Sea 2016. We arrived, as planned, on Thursday and parked outside the hotel. A passing parking warden was kind enough to explain that I needed to buy a parking permit from the hotel, allowing me to park there for 24hrs. So I went into the hotel, checked in, bought the ticket and placed it under the window. Everything seemed to be in order, so we went to the hotel and found our room.

On Saturday, I went out of the hotel, with the new parking permit, to discover – horror of horrors – that a parking warden had slapped a ticket on my car.

I was livid. I’d purchased two permits so far and there was nothing wrong with the way I was parked. (The parking warden I’d met certainly hadn’t said there was anything wrong.) To add insult to injury, something was wrong with the packaging – the damp had seeped into the ticket, making it hard to read. So I read the parking ticket in the car, feeling my temper going through the roof. £50? £25 if I paid ASAP? I’d bought a parking permit, damn it! And it was clearly visible.

I went back to the hotel, only to be told I needed to either go to the town hall or send the parking wardens an email. The town hall was very close, but – it being Saturday – it was closed. (I think the guy at the front desk just wanted to get rid of me, as I doubted the town hall would be open right from the start.) So I went back to my room and sent the council an email, pointing out that I did have a permit. Four hours later, I went back to the car and guess what?

Another parking ticket!

I moved the car forward, just in case that was offending the passing wardens. I put the ticket by the driver’s seat, just in case that was causing them to miss it (although I thought it was polite to put it on the pavement side, rather than on the road side). And I sent another email, repeating my earlier inquiry.

Nothing happened for the rest of our stay – we left on Monday. I wondered, as we drove home, if the car had been parked poorly after all. But it wasn’t until a week later that I received a pair of emails from the council, explaining that the permit(s) hadn’t been filled in perfectly – I’d marked the day, month and week, but I’d missed the year. I was even more livid when I read the email – lucky, they were prepared to waive the fee if I sent them the tickets. (Or I could surrender and pay two lots of £25.)

Now, I needed those permits for tax purposes, so I sent the permits (or what I thought were the permits) back to the council. I included a stamped postcard they could send to confirm they had arrived and a SAE, so they could return them.

Fast forward a few days. I get another pair of emails, one waiving a charge and the other insisting I still had to pay (basically, a repeat of the first email). I sent back another email, pointing out that I’d sent both permits. They responded, eventually, by saying I’d sent the wrong permit. (THIS TIME, they told me something useful … like, you know, the number on the permit.) At which point, I sent them the correct permit …

And a day or so later I got told that both charges had been cancelled. And they still had to be prodded to return all three permits. (God alone knows what happened to the postcard, as I never got it.)

Victory for me, right?

Well, yeah … at the cost of roughly £7 in stamps and a small amount of time wasted answering emails, sorting out what to send (twice) and then nagging them to return the parking permits. About the only consolation I have is that the council and their parking wardens didn’t get a penny. Which is good, right?

The thing that bugs me about the whole affair is this – I acted in good faith.

Now, good faith is doing everything in your power (within reason) to do something. If I post someone a cheque on Monday, knowing it has to be there by Friday, I have every reason to assume that the letter will reach its destination before the deadline. The letter being delayed because of something outside my power (a postal strike, for example) is not my fault – I still acted in good faith. If I have sufficient funds in my bank account to pay the cheque, it is not my fault the cheque bounces; if the payee doesn’t pay it in on time, it is not my fault the funds don’t reach their account by the deadline.

If I had parked outside the hotel without paying for the permit, gambling that no wardens would wander past (a dangerous gamble in Scarborough, where they were prowling around like vultures looking for wounded prey), I would have deserved the parking ticket. That’s not disputable. I would have gambled and lost. But to slap a parking ticket on my car because of a pettifogging insistence on pointless rules …

No one, least of all me, would dispute that some mistakes are fatal, that some mistakes are so bad that the person who committed it cannot be allowed another chance. But this was not one of them. If the parking warden who’d put the first ticket on the car had scribbled a note to explain the problem, it could have been fixed. Instead, I had to waste a great deal of time that I really did not have to spare.

And I think I can safely say I have no intention of returning to Scarborough.

I’m pretty sure a few people reading this are not going to be impressed with the above statement. Scarborough existed for centuries before I was born and will probably be around for centuries after everyone has forgotten I ever existed. But consider this – I spent roughly £800-£1000 in Scarborough; buying books, buying food, buying ice cream on the beach … and last, but not least, paying for our hotel room. A certain percentage of that money will be taxed, a certain percentage will go into the council’s coffers. If I don’t return next year, local businesses will lose income and thus the council will lose tax.

This is small potatoes, of course. I doubt that the council will even notice a drop in the bucket (realistically, it’s smaller than a drop). But what happens if hundreds of other tourists do the same? What happens if the advantages of visiting Scarborough – which is a pretty little town, with lovely beaches – are negated by the hassle of having to explain to the council that you were legitimately parked? Or having to pay out a chunk of money because the council doesn’t accept your explanations? Is the prospect of claiming a ‘mere’ £25 worth the indirect costs levelled on the town?

Bureaucrats are a necessary evil. Barmy bureaucrats kill. (And yes, sometimes literally.)

It is episodes like these which wear down trust in government. To have to argue the obvious with a bureaucrat, to have to explain that there is no case or that everyone involved acted in good faith … it’s pointless, it’s soul-destroying and it’s killing us.

And then people wonder why parking wardens and taxmen are regarded as little more than parasitic vermin.

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10 Responses to “Parking Wardens, Good Faith and the Decline in Society”

  1. shrekgrinch October 18, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    The entire point of all that is to get money out of your pocket.

    In the US, the scam of choice now is the automated traffic cameras. They install them, collect the money and you have to challenge them in traffic court if they are wrong. They are counting on you not showing up but just paying the fine.

    Oh, and when people wise up and start driving the less aggressively through yellow lights, they lose revenue. So what do they do? They shorten the timers of the traffic lights so it goes to red much quicker, which causes people to speed up to avoid that, which causes more traffic accidents at the intersections.

    But who cares about traffic safety when the annual city council’s junket to Tahiti is threatened from a revenue shortfall.

    I have no idea how they will cope when cars become automated and thus speeding and red light running incident levels drop ‘catastrophically’. My guess is that they will attempt to ban automated cars in the city.

    • George Zolin October 19, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

      I remember back when I was in college, I was picking up my car after marching band practice (which was in a metered spot) and there was a ticket for an expired meter. The hitch was the ticket indicated the time of the violation was 1:30 pm (when the meter WOULD have run out) and it was only 1:10. I drove to the campus police’s substation and they cancelled the ticket and gave me some fake sounding apology but I’m pretty sure that was standard practice. It’s all about the Bling.

  2. Richard Parks October 18, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    Bureaucrats are bureaucrats are bureaucrats are ALL THE SAME all over the world.

    • shrekgrinch October 19, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

      ..which should scare you. That concept, I mean.

      Why? Hint: AI bureaucrats are coming to a life time hassle near you.

  3. Bruce Fullerton October 19, 2016 at 12:43 am #

    Wish I had known that you where scarbough I’m here visiting from the Philippines and I would have loved to meet you oh well thats lifw lol

  4. PhilippeO October 19, 2016 at 3:59 am #

    That’s how ‘small government’ work :-).

    I fully agree with shrekgrinch analysis. That is scam to collect money. That why charges were cancelled, they only concerned with collecting money, they don’t actually care about parking.

    bureaucrat (parking warden in this case) actually effective worker in this case, they surely know that their employer want is money, not parking regulation, so they doing what their boss want.

    This in essence why i had problem with conservative notion that smaller community work better. how many people in Scarborough actually vote/care/know about who is sitting at their town council ? or know about their borough parking ticket policy. the broken link here is between Scarborough voter and their town council. Democracy only work when people care about their government.

  5. thundercloud47 October 19, 2016 at 6:44 am #

    Here in the states, it’s called Revenue Enhancement. It’s one part of the reasons behind the riots at Ferguson Mo. Politicians making up lack of tax money by making cops become revenue collectors by passing out tickets.

    The small rural town I grew up near tried revenue enhancement for a few years. Even my own mother got a ticket for forgetting to use her turn signal. Unlike Ferguson the citizens of that town voiced their opinions in the next election. Many councilmen lost their jobs along with the police chief. The chief was actually a good guy just following orders but he got caught up in it anyway.

    If I’m ever in the UK I will avoid Scarborough.

  6. bexwhitt October 19, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    this usually happens when the Parking is handed over to a predatory private company. When the council hire the wardens directly they normally have no incentive to write more tickets.

  7. Big Ben October 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

    Don’t forget the “justify your job” reason.
    I know that DOT officers (inspectors who work in weigh stations) in many states have quotas they must reach each month. That station has to inspect a certain number of semi trucks, whether the officers actually see something wrong or not.
    Now no one will deny that sometimes the DOT officer finds a fault, either with the vehicle or the driver, paperwork, etc. Many times these are minor issues, easily corrected and do not impact the safe operation of the big rig.
    But if the officer lets the minor violations slide, pretty soon the management/politician/bureaucrat might ask, “This guy isn’t making us any money, why are we paying him?”
    So the officers write the tickets. Then when their periodic job performance reviews come up, they can say, “See, you need me in this job. Look at all the villainous lawbreakers I’ve punished.”
    Even if your villainy only extends to a minor mistake filling out a parking permit. I bet those parking wardens get excellent marks during their future performance reviews.

  8. boxfreethinkingblog October 21, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    I sympathise greatly. I did think about trying to get to Fantasycon, even if only for a day visit. I’d have loved to try to get to say “hi” but unfortunately there was too much going on to get away. In one way I’m glad I didn’t!

    I picked up an unfair ticket in Lancashire ten years ago and have been boycotting the county as much as possible since then – hell, I’d rather spend my money in Yorkshire (now minus Scarborough)!

    I spent most of 15 years outside the UK and it was only when I came back permanently that I fully realised how bad things had become.

    If you are a motorist or taxpayer nowadays, then you are guilty until proven innocent.

    There are now a whole string of criminal offences that you can be fined or jailed for even if you acted in good faith.

    I’m glad it didn’t take you too long to sort things out (well sort of…). At least you weren’t dealing with HMRC – I’ve recently had 5 month and 15 month battles on my father’s behalf. I could write a book or two about their arrogance and incompetence. It’s just as well I don’t have access to Emily’s nuke spell otherwise there’d be ten smoking craters across the UK – ten being the number of different offices I had to deal with. Parasitic vermin is being far to kind to them.

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