Monday, November 12, 2012

Facepalm: Parking Company Blows Sandy Response

In the New York and New Jersey area, many businesses fell over themselves trying to help the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

And that's great. These business people showed real community spirit and were clearly motivated by a desire to help their neighbors.
Flooded cars in a Manhattan garage during Sandy

However, I imagine a small part of their helpful motivation was inspired by a desire for good PR. You want the public to have a good feeling about your company, and if you step up to the plate during a crisis, people are going to remember that.

That can only help a company's long term prospects for when the Sandy crisis is long over.

All of the above is basic common sense. I'm being Captain Obvious here. But it's amazing how some outfits don't get it. They try to make a profit in the short term, forgetting how their actions might long be remembered.

Exhibit A is a company called Central Parking Corp. According to Gawker and other news and blog outlets, Central Parking really screwed motorists during Superstorm Sandy, and so far are making no efforts to make things right.

During Sandy, a huge crane collapsed on a luxury highrise under construction on 57th Street in Manhattan. There the crane dangled for days, endangering the neighbor below. City officials sensibly evacuated the area until the crane was secured.

The evacuation meant that motorists couldn't get their cars out of a Central Parking garage until the neighborhood evacuation was lifted. When people were finally let back in, Central Parking told the motorists that they would be charged for the entire time their cars were in the lot, never mind that it was impossible for these car owners to retrieve them.  At least that's the story the motorists are telling.

So what if it wasn't the car owners' fault that they couldn't get their cars?  So, maybe Central Parking will make some money from all the extra days the cars were there, but the PR is going to be merciless on this one.

They also could have put a stop to this once it started. After initially imposing the charge for all those days, Central Parking could have reversed course, saying some flunky mistook company regulations and of course they wouldn't charge. But no dice.

In Lower Manhattan Central Parking had an underground garage. They locked the garage at 4 p.m. when the flood threat increased, meaning nobody could fetch their cars out of the garage when they got out of work an hour or so late.

Then the storm surge hit, flooding the garage to the ceiling and destroying the cars inside. Ones the owners could have retrieved ahead of the water.

And even if that was impossible, Central Parking was denying car owners access to their wrecked vehicles so they could file insurance claims.

The loss of a car, or even more trivial, a few hundred bucks in parking fees is nothing compared to what people who lost their houses in the storm are going through. But bad PR is bad PR.

Maybe Central Parking figured that there is no alternative for car owners. That they'll have to use their garages again no matter how much the motorists hate them.

But really, I have to wonder if Central Parking deserves to be in business.  Take their actions as how not to run a biz.

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