The Woes of Parking in the Wrong Place at the Mall

Tow TruckImagine leaving your vehicle in the parking lot at the local strip mall, walking over to a business to conduct your shopping and discovering that it is no longer where you had left it when you return about 15 minutes later. My first thought would be that my vehicle had been stolen. This was not the case for a lady from Kelowna though. She had parked in stalls designated by a sign for one business and done her shopping at another. Her vehicle had been towed and she was now facing a significant towing bill and the inconvenience of recovering her vehicle which was now stored about 4 km away.

Needless to say, this lady was irate. The bill was $187 and she was having some difficulty conversing with both the business owner and the towing company. She had two questions for me and they were whether the tow was legal in the first place and if the bill was unreasonable.

Parking lots such as this one are a bit of an oddity. Firstly, they are private property and within reason and the law, the property owner may use the property as they see fit. However, because the public has been invited to park there the Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) sees it as being a highway and normal driving rules apply there as well.

The MVA gives the property owner in a municipality authority to immediately remove any vehicle left parked on their property without consent. In this case, the business responsible for the parking space that this lady used chose to remove her vehicle because she failed to obtain their consent. The sign offered the use of the space only if she was a customer of that business.

If you look at the situation through the eyes of the business owner, it is a difficult decision. If your customers don't find a convenient place to park they will not shop at your business. You are paying for specific parking spaces as part of your lease or because you have purchased that property to build your business on. If you have abusers towed, you can be almost certain that the person in charge of the vehicle will no longer be your customer either. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

The towing company is not the villain here either, as long as their towing rate is a reasonable one. They are operating a business within the law and as long as they are satisfied that the request was a proper one should carry out the tow. One towing company that I spoke with requires that the business submit information on letterhead outlining their authority over the designated parking area and who the employees are that are able to authorize a tow. Unless that employee is present during the removal of the offending vehicle they will refuse the tow.

Is the fee reasonable? Due to the nature of the call, the towing company will generally make it a high priority, placing other pending work on hold. This treatment does justify a higher fee than might be charged if the removal could be conducted at the towing company's discretion. Municipalities may choose to regulate towing rates through a bylaw, but if they do not, towing companies generally follow industry standard rates. Currently, towing rates for ICBC related work would suggest that at a fee of at least $100 plus any taxes would be appropriate for this situation. If dollies are needed because the tow truck cannot lift the drive wheel end or the vehicle is four or all wheel drive additional fees would apply. ICBC rates tend to be lower than industry standard.

As we have seen here, before you park in any municipal parking lot, it is wise to know what you are agreeing to before you lock your vehicle and walk away. You are there as a guest or have agreed to a contract for service. Failing to fulfil your end of the bargain may come at a price.

 

Comments

Submitted by E-Mail

Now, I agree to a certain extent. My issue comes when I plan to visit more than one business that may be in that parking lot. If I parked in a designated business stall and I happen to stop in a different store first does that put me in the wrong?

If that business is a place I regularly shop, I just happened to stop into the neighbouring business first, then saw my car towed, my regular business would never see me again. You know how bad news travels too, right?

How do they know if the person doesn't intend on shopping at their business? Now, if the parking lot was exclusive to that business and you would have to walk down the street to visit another shop I tend to agree.

If I was that business I would want to be darned sure that the person parked in my spot wasn't coming to visit me. Would it really be worth your reputation?

That's just my take on the matter :)

Being a Good Customer

I concur and suggest that the best way to deal with the situation would be to shop at the business whose parking space you are using first. When done, ask permission to leave your vehicle where it is and then shop at the second store. Likely everyone would be happy with that.

Parking at strip malls

I find the business owner who had that person towed to be mean spirited. As part of the lease agreement cost, I'm pretty sure that a business owner in a strip mall must pay a certain amount for the provision of parking stalls. My question: Is/Are the spot(s) directly in front of his business designated (in his lease) as being for the exclusive use of customers of his business? Without such a clause in his lease agreement, does he have the right to claim the stalls in front of his businesds as exclusively his? I spend my winters in Mexico. Business owners here can negotiate a deal with the municipality to claim exclusive parking rights in front of their business. The cub in front of that business is then painted green. Doesn't take long to clue into this as the business owner hustles out of the store to shoo you away! Perhaps the Kelowna driver should contact the owner(s) of the lot to see if the claim to the stalls are a part of the lease agreement.

A sign needs to be clearly

A sign needs to be clearly legible and unambiguous.  Often parking stall restrictions are painted on the pavement of the stall itself, and are therefore hidden once the car is parked.  If the lettering is at all worn, then it may not even be readable -- especially if the pavement is wet.

Customers need to protect themselves by asking "Is it OK to park there?"

The other thing customers must to to protect themselves is to shop elsewhere when they don't like the conditions.  In fairness, though, tell the businesses why you no longer shop there.  You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how fast things improve when it is costing them money.

 

Submitted by E-mail

At our dentist's office they have 4 spots reserved for their patients only. Regularly I have gone there to find them all filled and they were not all used by the dentist's patients. No one knew where they had gone so they could not be located to move their vehicle. The spots are clearly marked and one or more patients on the days this has happened to me were not able to park and go into their appointments. It is a higher density area and you then have to circle the block for quite some time and then pay for a spot once you find one. Our dentist hesitates to tow the cars as he is trying to be kind but the people who park in these spots illegally are inconveniencing everyone. I think they should be towed as this consequence is noted on the sign and I think the fine should be at least $200. That way they will think twice about it next time. People who do this are suggesting to others that are above the law and that convenience is what is most important.

Google Ads