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Booting: Why it's not a good solution

So, I browsed through a fiery debate that raged through provopulse a year or so back about the legitimacy of booting to enforce parking regulations, and wanted to bring it up again to see if we could generate some useful ideas on whether it is or is not ethical, and if it is not, what some alternatives might be.

So, here is why I think booting is unethical.

Now, I realize enforcing regulations is usually a good thing. I'm in full support of appropriate regulations, and I would sure like full benefit of a parking pass I pay for. However, the model for businesses like University Parking Enforcement is what I question. In my view, it abuses the leeway of City Ordinances in order to unethically take advantage of students in the Provo area.

First, is the cost. Typical city parking tickets cost about $10, whether a boot is included or not. The city of Chicago charges $50 for parking in a blatant no parking zone, and only $25 for parking in a spot that doesn't belong to you. And if you've ever been to downtown Chicago, you know that parking is much sparser than it is here. The last time I checked, University Parking charged $60. Is a parking spot here in Provo worth $60? Isn't that a bit extreme of a cost, especially considering it's the maximum permissible by law to charge for a parking violation here in Provo? Some may say that the high cost acts as a powerful deterrent, but when you consider the fact that many signs are occluded, and many regulatory times unclear, $60 seems like an awful lot to pay for inadvertent infractions, when deterrence isn't necessary.

Second, is the inflexibility. Employees of the company are paid solely on commission, meaning if they want money, they have to boot. If there's a student who took his friend to go grocery shopping and parks his car in the empty lot by his complex to help him unload everything, the observing view faces a choice: boot, even though the offending car is obviously not restricting parking in the lot, but rather helping a tenant, or go earn his wages. It's an unfair position he's put in--no one should have to choose what he knows is morally correct in conflict with his job. Some may appeal to the technicality of the law, that the car is technically in offense and should be punished, but all laws need to allow flexibility to account for the complexities of real life. This is a primary role of the police officer: to use judgment in the enforcement of the law. Police squads rightfully do not place officer pay solely dependent on the tickets they write. Imagine if they did. Imagine if there were cameras at every stop sign, making sure you stopped completely, not an inch after the line. Laws exist to serve the people, and police are the first line of defense against the laws taking control. Booters, on the other hand, are not afforded this privilege, and are compelled to enforce.

Third, is the lack of a decent appeals process. The complexes say they have no control (a lie), and University Parking puts up so much red tape that legitimate complaints have no chance. This is definitely the responsibility of the complexes, and should be addressed.

Now, alternatives.

First, I ask if complexes that employee these companies are allowed to set price regulations? And if so, why don't they? $60 is just plain exorbitant, not even mentioning the $120+ some places charge for towing.

Second, if the price must stay as an effective deterrent, what about a first time warning? Of course, the booting company would never self-impose something like this, but could the complexes demand it? I think so. It wouldn't be hard to maintain a database of all cars warned and make this available to the booters. The easiest way, I think, would be to go ahead and boot the car, and between the time the boots is placed and released, check the license plate against the record. This would eliminate, I think, many innocent offenses.

Third, what about the case of empty lots? Do complexes really need to enforce when there are no cars in the lot? There needs to be a stipulation in the system allowing for this. Again, if booters weren't paid solely on commission, I think we would see less ridiculous enforcement.

Finally, if University Parking wouldn't agree to any of this, would it be hard for the complex to regulate itself? I mean, hiring someone to police the lots sounds like a good idea anyway considering the crime. I wouldn't mind paying $10 extra a month for policed lots, which should more than cover the cost of hiring someone to do the job during the normal enforcement time (midnight to 9ish). The above alternatives are all easier to implement when the complexes control the system, and would be much friendlier to the client. Basically, rather than allow a company to harvest as much money as it can from their tenants, complex owners should have the tenants interests as their highest concern and employ much more beneficial measures.

If it sounds like a good idea, lets do something about it.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Additional Information added by Editors 11/01/2007:

If want to try and take legal action to change things like booting, you should go on an attorney search to find some local attorneys who would take on the case. If you can sift through the loads of workers compensation lawyers, you can find an attorney to take the case. YOu should also take a look for an attorney for labor law issues if you have an issue with an employer. Issues with employers can also be taken up with an attorney for employment law.

Calculated Risk - It's your choice

How many people really get booted out of ignorance—honestly not knowing that they are parked where they should not be? All complexes that enforce parking have signs at the entry points to the complex. These signs clearly point out the fees associated with non-compliance (boot and tow fee). Despite fair and adequate disclosure, people still choose to park illegally. If you take the risk, you should be willing to bear the consequence—boot/tow fees.

When I was a freshman, my car got booted while I was unloading it in a fire lane at a complex. The trunk of my car was left open while I ran a load up the apartment. During the interim 3 minutes that I was away, my car got booted. I was furious at the tow guy for giving me the boot because I did not want to pay the fee. However, I was parked illegally and stupidly left the car unattended.

I realize that most complexes have inadequate tenant and visitor parking. However, weigh you options: park on the street and have a long walk; or park close, illegally, and possibly pay boot/tow fee. The choice is yours. Based on my experience and accompanying tow fee, I adopted a conservative, legal, parking strategy and have not had any encounters with tow companies since.

Tenants of a complex would be foolish to unite together to try to get managers to abolish parking enforcement. The legally-parking tenants are the primary beneficiaries of such enforcement.

Governing Themselves

Red,
Your post was very thorough. As I was reading (and before I got to the end), I was thinking that (apartment or business)complexes should be policing themselves. I am currently the apartment manager of a very small complex (just 6 units) and I think that's the way we run it. I don't make a habit of checking every day, every hour to see who is occupying what parking space. Each tenant is allotted 2 spaces per apartment--12 spaces available. I would expect if a tenant was using both of their spaces and someone (who didn't live at the complex) took up one of their spaces so it couldn't be used, then they would call me and say, "Hey, someone's in my space." Then, I would call the tow company if I couldn't figure out who was there and wasn't able to tell them to move their vehicle. Otherwise, I don't worry about it.

Now that you mention it, I do think the fines are excessively high. 20 or 30 dollars would be plenty because that 20 or 30 dollars to a "poor" college student (the type of people who are typically in "violation" of the parking regulations) could mean the difference between being able to buy gas or groceries for a week or not.

What's up with booting anyway? Isn't a fine sufficient? I guess the only realistic reason for the boot is to "prove" that the parking enforcement personnel caught you parking where and when you shouldn't have.

I also like your point about how if there are plenty of extra spaces and someone takes up one, who cares? What are they hurting? For example, if a complex has a bunch of empty spaces because it's summertime and most students are home (i.e. it's not peak parking season), again, who is it really hurting?

Obviously, some will take the views that if you left that kind of exception in the regulations, people would abuse the privilege. Furthermore, some will argue that it is too time-consuming to make exceptions at all. They might apply the principle of "one size fits all"--one regulation is as good for one parker as another parker.

Lastly, many, if not all, parking enforcement services are businesses, and the bottom line is that the #1 priority of most businesses is to make money.

I think customer service in many businesses is nothing more than a lost art. Then again, are parking enforcement companies out to serve the complexes, the parking violators or themselves? :-)

P.S. You're right on about how police officers are different in that they can assess the situation before socking someone with a citation and/or fine. To top it off, if you don't agree with the officer's citation and/or fine, you can make a decent attempt to explain yourself in a court of law. Where are the courts for parking violators? They don't exist because these privately owned parking enforcement companies aren't employed by the city, county or state. Sadly enough, their privatization gives them the leeway (however unethical it may be)to serve up cruel and unusual punishment.

Maybe the beginnings of a solution would be to report these private parking enforcers to the Better Business Bureau or to take all similar companies to court. Perhaps then, the law (as it were) could regulate these companies to 1)standardize their signage to be more clear, 2) lower the maximum fines allowed for booting and towing and 3) provide a more reasonable recourse if a bootee or towee feels they were unfairly booted or towed.

I think it's way past time for these private parking enforcement agencies to have their company regulation seriously reviewed by government bodies and the community citizens at large. They've been unmonitored by third parties for way too long.

For starters, who wants to be the first to draw up and start a petition for such measures?

Any takers?

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booter watch

brentraymond - both you and Red make excellent arguments. I like your idea of a petition, however it seems like a familiar attempt to the "booter watch" that once existed here. When our company took over provopulse.com we removed the booter watch as it posed a liability risk, and it was an old petition going nowhere.

If anyone has a better idea of a petition, and it is actually something that can work - then we can post it here on Provopulse.

Provocity is well known for ignoring the student population. Rather than seeing it as a positive item, especially as students make this a thriving economy, students seem to be a target by the city for oppression. The current booting laws are proof of how the city just "doesn't care."

attack the complexes

Looking back at Red's comments - I think approaching the complexes would be another strategy.

I see this as a two part item:

1) approach the city to regulate booting companies and bring up the the violation of rights, both national and local rights - in that one company/person cannot execute a judgment without a fair trial of sorts. And a bunch of other things, like fees, etc..

2) approach the complexes that are allowing this. Are they getting a kickback from these companies? They need to set their own stipulations. A booting company might be allowed in, but only under set terms...more reasonable that is.

Booting companies will not listen to anyone unless it's the city knocking on their door to close them down. It's a business, and to the business owner, despite how unethical they might be, they need to make as much profit as possible. No business owner is going to enter a meeting and say to his staff, "how can we lower the fees and make our clients happier?"

yep

So I agree with all of you. I have nothing helpful to add, but I would say it's something worth going after. I would sign a petition, but would it really do anything?

If I remember right, peitions in utah mean about nothing unless signed by a registered voter. Even when you turn in a petition don't you (the organization) have to prove the people who signed it are registered?

How many BYU/UVSC students are voters? I doubt too many. Also I believe the petition being proposed would be internet driven. I have a feeling that won't float well in the eyes of city council folks who like to turn things down.

lots of bugs to work out, and you would need more than just one person, but an actual committee to make sure it will go through.

The Power of Petitions

Glider,

In response to your question about petitions, I don't know if you have to be a registered voter or not, but if the petition gets into the right hands like a rep for the US House of Representatives or a senator, they can usually make more than a ripple.

If I remember right, if a person writes to a U.S. Senator, and that senator passes on the "word," then that's seen by some as the equivalent power of a petition with a lot of signatures, because if a senator or representative voices it or a citizen voices it to a senator (or rep.), then people figure it's representative of a lot of other citizens agreeing with them. (I hope this paragraph of babbling has made a little sense.)

So, perhaps that's the avenue to go with--as simple as it may sound--contact your Senator or U.S. Representative with a well-typed, well-worded letter following your basic essay format--thesis, supporting points, conclusion. (We already have enough ideas in the original post and subsequent comments alone to create such as essay-letter. It may need a little fine-tuning and cohesiveness, but the basics are there.) Get their address and send the letter. I believe with that kind of effort, a 41 cent postage stamp carries a lot of weight and is definitely worth the investment.

Speaking of, does anyone know how to find out who your senator or U.S. representative is?

What I have is a little vision in my head of letters being sent, booting companies defending themselves, controversy being stirred up, and the local and statewide (perhaps national media) giving this some decent coverage and publicity. And I would guess since the owners of these booting companies don't want to look like the bad guys, maybe that would be enough pressure to get them to seriously make some compromises. At the very least, it would raise a healthy awareness of the issue.

Maybe it could even be turned into a documentary like when Michael Moore was invited to speak at UVSC and the whole local community started taking sides.

Alas, I'm not out to start a riot or something, but our national, state and local constitutions are set up to encourage the everyday "Joe" and "Jane" citizen to wield the power of peaceful assembly and to effect beneficial changes for the community as a whole.

Later...

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i hope that works

I have no problem with signing a petition - I actually am not a registered voter for utah (rather for Washington). I don't know if my vote counts towards anything, even though I've lived in utah for 4 years as a student.

If you or anyone else can track down addresses for Senators or other representatives - then maybe post them up here? I don't know if Provopulse will allow it, but if they will I could see it being helfpul. I don't mind writing a letter.

A similar letter could be sent to media groups like local news papers, Tv stations, and small magazines like 'schooled' to stir up the controversy. A think putting a few property owners in front of a video camera and owning up to allowing it on their property my cause booting companies to loose some clients.

posting contact info ok

glider, I don't mind allowing contact info to be posted on Provopulse. Please make sure who ever posts it has a link back to the site they retreived it from (that would be our only request).

A senators address should not be private info hard to retreive.

making a change

Wow! Thanks for all the comments, I like the discussion that has taken place.

The more I think about it, the more I think the best way to see results will be to appeal directly to the complexes themselves. I mean, in the end, college students have much more power to influence the complexes where they live rather than the government, especially since a political solution would require Business vs. College student, which usually doesn't end well for the college student unfortunately. However, imagine being a complex owner and receiving a petition with signatures of 30, 40, or even 50% of your tenants on it. That's power.

The issue will be to find a parking enforcement company willing to listen to the complaints we have. If there is some small company looking for a way into the market, this just might appeal to them. The way it looks, University Parking has a strangle hold on the market and therefore does as they please, but if we support some other company with a more student-friendly policy, it might cause enough economic damage to catch their attention. As for the complexes, my understanding is that they don't exchange money with enforcement agencies anyway, so if the other company does the same job but makes their tenants happier, I think the decision will be an easy one. Basically, rather than try and change the rules of the game, we'll flex our economic muscle and play their game.

What do you guys think? Does anyone know of a smaller company that might be willing to listen? Should we direct petitions at the complexes rather than the politicians? I think we have a great potential to make a meaningful change. Let's figure it out and get it done.

are you positive there is nothing in it for them?

I wonder if the complexes do infact get something out of the deal. I'm sure students have complained in the past. If I were a complex owner I'd rather have happy tenants than allow a company to come in "for free" and do their business on my property. If complexes don't like sales people going door to door bothering tenants, why would they let a company come in and BILL your tenants? I think they must be getting something out the whole thing.

But honestly have no proof one way or the other. I don't know any complex owners, nor do I have any first hand information regarding the topic.

Two issues

1) Writing to a state senator wont do a dang thing because he doesn't control the cities. Booting practices are regulated on the city level. Recourse is through the city council. People like Mason have tried and failed many times at this mainly because apartment managers and owners actually want parking enforcement.

2) Apartment owners DO NOT get any compensation for revenues generated from parking enforcement. It is in fact illegal for that to occur. It is simply an agreement between the enforcing company and the complex. Although there are many parking enforcement companies in Provo, University Parking is the best known because of their professional appeal and the fact that they actually give bootees/towees a chance to have their voice heard and the possibility of a partial or full refund.

All the information is verifiable... look at the ordinance and call the companies. Talk to your managers and you'll see.

booting and litigation

To all involved in this discussion,

After reviewing the posts and subsequent comments, it appears to me that we live in a society saturated with litigation, and that unfortunately, we must be informed about various municipal ordinances in order to sufficiently defend ourselves. The principles of respect and mercy and other such virtues will persist even if the masses don't employ them. Attempts to legislate these virtues have resulted in hundreds of regulations, municipal ordinances, and other such things. I think I speak for many when I say, "Can't we re-enthrone traditional values such as respect and courtesy?"

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Parking revisited.

I get so tired of the simplistic concept of, "just obey the rules and you won't be penalized."

How many people are booted/towed in their own parking lots because of some silly reason such as a forgotten sticker or the borrowing of a car? The parking enforcement companies, particularly UPE, are not out to enforce parking. They aren't out to protect tenants. They're out to make money, and anyone who can't see the major conflict of interest in their line of work is kidding themselves.

Parking is inadequate in Provo, and no matter how you try to justify that rules are rules, the fact remains that finding a freaking parking spot is not asking much. Legislators/booters gloss over the problem of housing without enough parking spots for tenants and punish students for lack of code compliance by landlords. Apartment complexes are in cities all over the country. How many of them have such anal parking enforcement as those in Provo? Seems like just college towns...

It's a dirty practice. For some unknown (to me) reason, landlords contract out their parking enforcement, and then the blame just kind of dissolves when someone is unjustly towed/booted. What a joke.

IN REPLY TO: Booting: Why it's not a good solution

Well written post; however, it is so full of non-factual information it drives me crazy. Once again, another provopulse subscriber making false allegations and absolutely ridiculous claims when they obviously know NOTHING about booting. Come on people, all it would take is 5 minutes, only 5 freakin’ minutes to do some homework on a topic you plan on writing about. Even if you have something that is even slightly worthwhile talking about you undermine yourself by spouting off with inaccuracies.

These points are where you went wrong:

First, a boot in Provo can only be charged up to $50, read the city ordinance for confirmation. In Orem a boot can cost you up to half the price ($60) of a tow ($120) . Please keep in mind BOOTING FEES ARE DETERMINED BY THE CITY, TOWING FEES ARE DETERMINED BY THE STATE.

Second, what is unclear about a sign that says “Permit Parking Only”? Most college students know how to read, right? There is a phone number at the bottom of every sign you can call if you have any questions about where you should park and how long you can park there. It really isn’t rocket science. How about asking a manager? Or better yet ask someone who lives there!

Third, you say,” It's an unfair position he's put in--no one should have to choose what he knows is morally correct in conflict with his job.” Morally correct huh? You’re one of those that believe when you do something just a little wrong it should be okay and that no consequence should be given. HOW UNETHICAL IS THAT?! Your grocery shopping example screams rationalization for parking against the rules established at the complex. Give me your address when you buy a rental unit and I’ll come park in your lot whenever I want. Keep in mind that I have a boat, a couple wave-runners, and a motorcycle, but hey if there is open parking what do you care? Read the signs, take responsibility for where you park, and quit rationalizing YOUR mistake.

Fourth, “Some may appeal to the technicality of the law, that the car is technically in offense and should be punished, but all laws need to allow flexibility to account for the complexities of real life.” Real life huh? Okay in “real life” go park illegally in an area where you know you shouldn’t park. Yes, that is correct, I used the word “illegally” because in “real life” parking where you’re not supposed to (even if its to help a buddy go grocery shopping) is called parking ILLEGALLY.

Fifth, “This is a primary role of the police officer: to use judgment in the enforcement of the law.” Okay, once again all it would take is 5 minutes to get your facts straight. Call a Provo police officer and ask him how a booting dispute will be settled in a court of law when the boot in question is on private property. The police officer can’t do anything but keep the peace and determine if the booting company has made a mistake against what has been established by city ordinance. According to your grocery shopping example, your buddy KNEW he was parking where he shouldn’t have been parking. The booter will have it on video tape or will have taken a picture of the infraction and will always have proof to give to the officer, who will then probably persuade you to pay the fine and take it to court if you want.

Sixth, “Police squads rightfully do not place officer pay solely dependent on the tickets they write.” ACTUALLY in order to keep your job as a Provo police officer you have specific traffic-ticket quotas you must meet in order to stay a police officer. Call any Provo PD officer and they’ll tell you they have ticket quotas they must meet each month. Once again a simple phone call would’ve been all it took to get the right information.

Seventh, “I ask if complexes that employee these companies are allowed to set price regulations? And if so, why don't they?” The PRICE is determined by the city. The complex cannot determine anything when it comes to the price of the boot. The booting company can choose to lessen their pricing in certain circumstances but they won’t for a good reason. If they let off one person for less than the $50 amount allotted, everyone else would feel entitled to the same treatment.

Eighth, “if the price must stay as an effective deterrent, what about a first time warning?” Once again you’re trying to weasel out of responsibility for your own actions. You keep comparing the police to parking enforcement so I’ll ask you this: Do I get a warning the first time I park illegally, speed, or steal a car?

Ninth, “what about the case of empty lots? Do complexes really need to enforce when there are no cars in the lot? There needs to be a stipulation in the system allowing for this. Again, if booters weren't paid solely on commission, I think we would see less ridiculous enforcement.” Let us revisit my earlier example of me coming to your rental unit parking lot and parking my boat, my extra car, my wave-runner, and my motorcycle in your semi-vacant parking lot. Would you like that? It is extremely obvious you do not own rental property or have ever managed a complex before. Booting is not only a way to make sure your tenants will always have a parking spot, but it is also more importantly (from a property management point of view) used as a way to keep free-loaders from living in your complex. A free-loader is someone who finds an open room in a apartment complex and doesn’t check-in with management yet lives at the complex as though he/she has signed a contract. THOUSANDS of dollars are stolen from apartment complexes via free-loading. Booting makes things a little more uncomfortable for those who choose to steal.

Tenth, “Finally, if University Parking wouldn't agree to any of this, would it be hard for the complex to regulate itself?” If you knew anything about booting law you would know an apartment complex is NOT allowed to make money off of parking enforcement, it is considered to be illegal. This is why it is NECCESARY to have booting companies.

Now not all of your rant/inaccurate statement was bad. The section where you talk of a better appeals process could possibly be an area where a booting company could do better; however, if the boot was for a legitimate reason NO MATTER HOW SMALL THE INFRACTION you would just be wasting their time. I would suggest never making an appeal unless you did NOTHING wrong.

Hopeful Wishing

You guys think you're the only ones to have thought of doing this? How do you think I know so much about parking enforcement? I was once a booter-hater but I purchased my own units and have seen the value enforcement provides. No booting company will survive if it caters to the students. You think a booting company will work for free? HA! The man-hours it would take and materials to give every car a warning would be so unprofitable the business would last less than 2-3 months, and if by some small chance it did work the profit would be so minimal the owners would starve.

Please explain further

I’m really curious to hear your solution to the parking problem. What do you propose as an equitable way to enforce parking standards, if any. As I see it, parking is a finite resource in the University community. Its value will increase as more people come to BYU with cars to park. Already we see some complexes exorbitant premiums for the privilege to park a car. How would you feel if you paid lets say $50 for a space but cannot find one, partially due to the sheer lack of spaces available, and partially due to the fact that other people who have not paid are taking up spots in the lot?

I see no solution other than parking enforcement through booting and towing to mitigate parking problems. I do agree with you that parking is inadequate in Provo. The problem will only worsen. Back in the 1970’s few BYU students had cars, at least according to my parents. It seems like most people, including freshmen end up bringing a car to school now. With more cars and about the same number of parking spaces there are bound to be problems.

I’m not an expert on BYU Housing standards, but can’t we assume that if the complex is BYU-approved housing that it meets the statutory minimum parking qualifications? I agree with you that it would be frustrating getting towed/booted when you’ve borrowed a car and forgot to put the sticker up. Clearly there is no intent to break the parking rules; it is merely a technical infraction which ultimately leads to the same punishment.

Unfortunately, the less pleasant counterparties (tow companies included) that we deal with in life seem to be less tolerant of our human short comings, such as forgetfulness. For example, if you miss your credit card payment by one day, you’ll incur a $35 finance fee. Regardless of the reason, you will be assessed this fee. I fail to see how parking enforcement is dissimilar. Is society (management companies/towing companies included) obligated to make concessions for negligent behavior? Where do concessions stop and personal responsibility begin?

the blame game

Good comparison with credit card companies, who are equally dishonest in their efforts to pretend to be out there to help people when in reality their motives are green.

Here's the solution. You make complex managers responsible for parking. That's it. Don't contract it out, don't have someone else do your dirty work. Then, when you make a mistake, you can be an absolute pile of crap like UPE folks or you can realize that your paying customer has a legitimate concern and concede. This way, you act fairly or you get the fairly deserved reputation of being a jerk. And you have a dang good issue to take to arbitration. The current system has this approach where the managers play innocent and the booters just talk about how they're only doing their job. It's a blame-game, and you, the tenant, get screwed.

Concessions are a natural part of (honest) business. It's a sign of good management, to be able to see when you've made an error and correct it.

I'm out of Provo but in grad school, where parking is an issue all over again. Fortunately, here they have some integrity.

/UPE is scum
//I've never been booted

i was booted

last night i needed to pick my friends up in downtown chicago, i parked in this Dunkin Donuts parking lot and walked across the street to get them. I didn't see the warning signs, and not even 5 min later i walk back and i see a boot on my car. I tried to explain that my friends were intoxicated and were in desperate need for a ride, the guy did not care.. Not even 5 min in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot and i get a boot, they charged $115 if i could pay on the spot, or $230 with towing charges. I don't think is right at all and can someone give me some ideas to help me. I luckily paid on the spot with a debit card and had a little bit of cash. But are there any ways i can fight this? Please email me with any suggestions piushockey27@yahoo.com