Escalating Hostility

By Larry J. Cohen, CAPP

I’ve been in the parking business a long time and have pretty much seen it all, but a new day always brings a new experience.

When it comes to paying for parking or paying for a citation, people’s normal reactions go out the door. I’m sure we have all been involved with cashiers and customer service reps getting hit by flying objects, pens, phones, and (at least) money. Attendants have also been hit by cars and had their feet run over. And I’m sure we have all lost a relationship of a friend, colleague, or vendor over a parking ticket or issue.

When it comes to enforcement, customer (over)reaction sometimes reigns supreme. The most recent hate email I received had a wonderful start: “Eat sh-t you overpaid king of gloom monkeys.” At least the author was somewhat creative.

Friends are surprised when I tell them I get an occasional death threat.  I inform them that our profession isn’t for thin-skinned individuals.

Of course there have been stories of physical attacks on parking enforcement officers. Nowadays,  the public is more inclined to passively post venomous social media attacks or photos on social media when our staff might double park while doing their jobs.

The takeaway is: Keep training our staff on the best ways to deal with these potentially volatile situations. We tell our officers to write the ticket, don’t engage in conversation any more than necessary, and keep walking.

It might at times be perceived as less customer friendly, but it is outweighed by these types of scenarios.

Larry J. Cohen, CAPP, is executive director of the Lancaster Parking Authority.

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