Despite the techno-blather about an imminent future with driverless cars, robotic garages and ticketless transactions, many urban parking locations are still just like this one, seen above in Buenos Aires.
All About Stacks
“Stacks” are still a common expression of the art of parking, seen in countless cities throughout the world. In these operations, an on-site lot attendant usually retains the keys to the auto, so the car can be moved as needed.
This allows cars to block other cars in the lot, eliminating the need a driving path for each vehicle. In self-park operations, a drive lane must be adjacent to every car. A stack operation is very efficient as cars can be parked in what would otherwise be drive lanes.
When a customer returns for a car that is blocked by one or more other cars, the attendant moves the other cars out of the way and presents the unblocked car to the customer. The customer can then drive directly off the lot.
The three-part ticket (TPT) is the primary mode of service, control and audit over stacks. We discuss the TPT in another post. We can simply summarize here and say each ticket is uniquely numbered and each portion of the ticket is labeled with that number.
Each portion serves a unique purpose. One part is left on the car. One part is kept by the attendant. One part is provided to the patron as a claim check and/or receipt.
Stacks – also known as “stacked parking”, “assisted parking”, “attendant park”, “semi-valet”, among others – has been with us as long as the three-part ticket. Parking lore has it that Andrew Pansini, a seminal figure in the industry in the city of Los Angeles (US), created the first three-part ticket (TPT) in the early 1920s. It worked so well with stacks, we still use it today.
So, what does a “Hot Hood, Cold Ticket” have to do with all of this?
Later, we will talk in detail about how a manager or auditor should perform a thorough audit of a stacks operation, so please check back here. For now, here’s a tip for performing a quick check on the lot to ensure your attendants are not recycling used tickets and stealing your – or your customer’s – money.
This will take you five minutes, maybe less. Choose a time one or two hours after the morning rush (or whenever your busiest period occurs).
- When you walk onto the lot, go immediately to the kiosk where tickets are time stamped.
- Note the opening ticket of the day.
- Then, walk by random cars and place your hand on the hood of the car. Note if the car has a hot hood, these are the ones you want to check first.
- Next, check the number of the ticket.
You have a problem if:
- When you arrive on the lot, the attendant(s) scramble to time stamp tickets and place them on cars that don’t have a ticket. (They will usually tell you they have been SO busy they didn’t have time to do this – even though they were reading a newspaper or updating their social media when you arrived.)
- There is no ticket or permit on the vehicle. (Ask the attendants why there is no ticket present. Attendants often will just shrug their shoulders or tell you the customer commanded them not to touch the car in any way. Um, this is a stack operation?
- The ticket on the car bears a number from a previous day.
- The ticket is more than an hour or two old and the hood is hot.
The Cold Ticket Scam
Here’s where the “Hot Car, Cold Ticket” comes into play. If the hood of the car is hot, then the car probably arrived recently. Most modern cooling systems are very efficient and equalize with the outside temperature in 30 minutes to an hour. If its cold outside this process will take less time; in a hotter climate, perhaps a bit more time.
If the ticket was issued early in the day then it is very possible another customer arrived earlier and was issued this same ticket. The attendant removed this ticket from the car when the first customer left. When the second customer arrives, the attendant re-issues the same ticket, intending to pocket the second customer’s fee. We call this a “Cold Ticket Scam”.
When you see a Cold Ticket, you should immediately check a few more cars before making any accusations or taking further action. Look at cars bearing the tickets before or after the ticket in question. Are the hoods of these cars hot or cold? Keep in mind the sun can warm the hood of a car as well, so look for other signs the car arrived recently, such as water still dripping from the air conditioning or the cooling system popping or fizzing as it chills.
Deal with a Cold Ticket Scam as quickly as possible – you’re losing money. If you can audit the lot yourself at the moment of discovery, that’s ideal. If you don’t have the time, perhaps you can call an auditor or another manager to the lot while you are there. At the very least, schedule a full lot audit soon – but don’t tell the attendants you are on to their scheme.
One work rule suggestion: Require attendants to deface used locator tickets removed from cars, so they cannot be reused. This might include tearing off a corner or marking an “X” across the face of the used ticket. Enforce this rule when you audit. You may not be able to catch thieving attendants in the act of stealing but you can discipline them for not following work rules.
Yes, someday we will have driverless cars and ticketless parking operations, but for now you can keep your stacks running efficiently by thinking about these ideas.
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