The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Paying for Parking is Asking for Trouble

Today, I read something in the paper that upset me greatly. Westfield Chermside, a shopping centre in Brisbane, is planning to force people who spend more than three hours in their shopping centre to pay for parking. Why are they doing this? To deter "commuter" parking - people parking in the centre, then catching the bus elsewhere. Why does this upset me greatly? Because it's a profoundly greedy and short-sighted thing for a business to do.

Now, to begin with, I have no issue with the concept of paying to park. I understand that sometimes, due to lack of space (like in the CBD), there is no other option, or else people would never leave. However, I do think a shopping centre charging people to use its carpark is overkill.

Westfield claim they are doing this for their customers, but it is the customers who will feel the pain the most. It is unfair to those people who want to take their time when they shop, or have a lot of shopping to do. What if, for example, you want go shopping, then grab a coffee afterwards to unwind? Or what if you and some friends want to see a movie and then grab dinner? I see people forgetting about the coffee, forgetting about the movie, to make sure they're not charged for parking. And this is helping businesses in the centre... how? But never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with these slow pokes!

Earlier this year, I did a rant on web retailers vs. traditional retailers. My basic point was that with internet retailers becoming more and more competitive on price, the only way traditional stores can compete is with excellent customer service, and by building relationships with consumers. And this is how Westfield plans to do it? By pissing people off, and forcing them to pay? Ah, but to hell with these whingers, right Westfield? You're doing this for your customers!

As I mentioned earlier, the reason Westfield says they're doing this is because they want commuters to stop parking in its centre. This confuses me, though: Why would Westfield build the best bus interchange for kilometres in any direction if they didn't want people to use it?

Maybe it was for the elusive bus stop tourism market? I mean, how can you resist views like this?
If this proposal goes ahead, all this is going to do is (a) force commuters to park in the streets surrounding the shops (lucky residents, eh?) or (b) force commuters to drive all the way to work, instead of using public transport. This will increase pollution and congestion on the roads. And hey, there will be a lot less people who grab a bite to eat in the centre between buses if commuters aren't parking there. What Westfield fails to realise is that there are many, many people out there who don't live on a bus line, let alone an express bus line. But never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with people too stupid to not live on a bus line!

But probably the biggest middle finger here is not to commuters, but to staff. Where are staff expected to park? They obviously spend more than three hours at a time in the centre. Westfield may say "there [will] be designated free parking areas for centre staff", but I call bullshit. I've seen the staff carparks at Westfield shopping centres - these staff areas are far away from the rest of the centre, difficult to access and dangerous at night. The staff would be probably be better off walking to work. Westfield may naively think that the staff aren't important, compared to ordinary customers, but the staff probably spend more money every day than the ordinary customers! They buy coffee, snacks, lunch, go shopping on breaks... the list goes on. Force them to pay to park, and they'll be a hell of a lot less likely to spend money on their breaks. There's an old adage that a happy worker is a productive worker - but never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with everyone else, and especially the staff!

Forget about these guys! They're only in the centre every day.

To me, the solution is simple. Instead of Westfield being greedy bastards and charging people to park, why don't they just BUILD MORE PARKING SPOTS?! If I had a business that was over capacity, I'd expand. Increase capacity. I certainly wouldn't charge my current users any more, and pretend it was to control demand. I've said it before: It really shits me when companies do something quite clearly just for the money and no other reason. But to hell with doing what's ethical, you're doing this for your customers, right Westfield?

Yeah, right. Pictured: The CEO of Westfield

Let me put this is in simple English: if Westfield starts charging people to park, people will shop elsewhere. Either out of protest, principle or convenience, people will shop (and work!) elsewhere. Remember: what you want (and think) as a business owner is much less important than what your customers want (and think). The reason for your business to exist is to create and service customers. Not just to make money.

If Westfield goes ahead with this plan, they may find their customers won't be theirs much longer.

© 2011 by The Free Man

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