This past Tuesday I returned to Los Angeles from an awesome week on the east coast with my girlfriend. The trip was jam-packed with fun – I got to see lots of friends and family, and we covered a lot of ground. We flew into Philadelphia, and then drove to upstate New York for Camp Bisco, which was ridiculously fun.
After Camp, we drove to NYC. I was driving a minivan which was jam packed full of stuff from the festival – coolers, clothing, camping stuff, etc.
After sitting in traffic in the Times Square area for over an hour trying to find reasonably priced parking, I gave up and pulled the van into the first parking garage I could find. Take note that there was no real research behind my parking choice, only frustration and a strong desire to get out of the car.
The parking attendant seemed shady, and at first I was slightly hesitant to leave my keys with him, but I was too tired to care at that point. We grabbed our bags and headed to the Hyatt.
Fast forward to the following morning. After inhaling a delicious bagel, we checked out of the hotel and headed back to the car to drop some things off. Not only were the attendants at the garage shady, they were also incredibly rude this time. I suppose it’s understandable – after all, what kind of scumbag returns to his car after parking it unless he’s leaving? Anyway, I noticed that the coolers in the car had been shifted around. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing, but due to time constraints I assured myself that some things must have shifted when they moved the van.
We did some touristy stuff in New York, returned to the van a few hours later, and headed back to Philly. When unpacking the van in preparation for the flight back to LA, I realized that some things were missing – things that I definitely packed when leaving the music festival. My camera (which was in front of the 2 front car seats) was gone, as was the jacket that had been laying on top of it, a tent fan, and my beloved Bose SoundDock. There’s no doubt in my mind that these things were taken from my car while it was parked in the garage, because I saw the SoundDock in the car when we parked it. Needless to say, this put a damper on the end of my vacation.
Could this situation have been avoided? If I had known ahead of time that the attendants of this particular parking structure were questionable, I would have absolutely spent some more time looking for other parking options, or just utilized the overpriced valet parking services at the hotel.
Ten years ago, the mere thought of finding reviews of something like a parking garage would have seemed absurd – consumer reviews were for services like hotels and restaurants, and you had to subscribe to a publication to find the good ones. These days, you can find reviews of almost everything on sites like Yelp, and the notion of taking the time to review a parking garage doesn’t seem all that absurd.
While there aren’t a large number of reviews of parking garages in Manhattan (or other big cities, for that matter), I would expect that to change as the review process (and the sharing of information in general) permeates into more and more facets of life. One example of this would be augmented reality. It’s becoming much more common, and it won’t be long before it’s included on most phones. While I don’t think many people would look up a parking garage on Yelp before parking there, if they were looking at the garage through an augmented reality app on their phone (perhaps to find price information) and noticed that the majority of the reviews were negative, they’d probably take a closer look at those reviews before parking there.
Like many others, I’m a fan of services like Yelp because they put power into the hands of the consumer. If you’re impressed with services provided, or you feel that you’ve been ripped off or done an injustice, you can very easily make it known, and in doing so there’s a very distinct possibility that you’ll influence future customers.
Yelp continues to grow at an incredible rate – the site now has over 20 million reviews. On June 27th alone, 32,425 reviews were written. Needless to say, the expansion of these types of services seems inevitable. Had I been looking for that parking spot a year from now, there’s a good chance that I may have had a better idea of what I was getting myself into.
For now, while it should go without saying, if you find yourself looking for parking in Manhattan (specifically the Upper East Side), do not park in the Central Parking Garage on Madison Avenue. That is unless you have a carload of expensive electronics that you’re looking to get rid of – they’ll take them off your hands for you.