Booted & Screwed By Global Parking Management
Below is the horror story of a parking experience by a reader who had recently went shopping at Village Discount Outlet in the Roscoe Village Neighborhood.
According to our reader, she parked in the store’s lot, shopped in the store and that store only and came back to her car to find it booted. But I will let her tell the story…
Last week my car was booted by a private company, Global Parking Management, at a thrift store parking lot in Roscoe Village. Posters at the lot and inside and outside the store warned me sternly not to enter any other establishment, and to “walk directly back to my car” after making my purchases, “no exceptions.” I did not mess around. Holding my baby daughter by the hand, I marched from my car to the store and directly back again – to find a boot on my tire and a uniformed tough guy demanding $115 to release it! The man wore a half-dozen laminated tags around his neck; covered in fine print, they looked like licenses. He started a tape recorder as I approached, and informed me that I had entered another store, though he could not say which one.”You have one hour to pay,” he said, clicked a stopwatch, and walked away.
I called the police, who declined to intervene in this “civil matter.” They did say mine was one of three calls for help that day from the same lot. I grabbed my daughter and ran back into the store and pleaded with the management for help, but they gave none.
After two hours, with my daughter crying in the street and another hungry baby waiting for me at home, I had no choice but to pay up to retrieve my car. Before removing the boot, the lot attendant took my credit card, gave me a printed “Bill of Rights” with a false address and a non-working phone number for Global Parking Management, and made me sign a receipt that said, “I was not forced to sign this paper.”
Since then I’ve found that obtaining a refund from Global is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible. My only option, I am told by city representatives at 311, is to call the Better Business Bureau (which has already registered 54 complaints against Global Parking in the last 36 months) and to hope to be granted an administrative hearing with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
Something fundamental is wrong here. Global Parking makes a great show of appearing professional – all those tags with fine print, the big warning posters, the tape recorder – but it’s a sham. They are ripping off innocent Chicagoans. How can a recorded conversation between the lot attendant and a returning driver, however loud and angry it is, prove that the driver had broken the posted rules and entered another store? Those tapes are not “evidence” at all. As Global Parking knows, the recorded conversations inevitably cast the driver in a bad light: return to find your car unfairly booted and a stranger demanding $115 to release it, and you’re sure to sound outraged on tape. Video footage would offer real proof of where a driver really walked when she left her car. It should strike everyone as suspicious that Global Parking refuses to install surveillance cameras at all of its lots.
Private booting (in effect, booting for profit) was banned in Chicago in 1999. I understand there were lots of complaints and police were constantly being dragged into disputes at private lots. Alderman Eugene Schulter (Ward 47) initiated the re-legalization of private booting in Chicago soon after, however, on the condition that the booting firms be closely monitored. Just how bad does Global Parking’s record have to be before their city license to boot is put in jeopardy? Why has the company been allowed to distribute a false business address to the public for at least two years, as well as an out-of-service phone number? Do their lot attendants work on commission?
Global Parking Management is apparently owned by Michael Denigris and Roseanne Parone-Denigris, who also run a FruitFlowers franchise at 2148 N. Damen. That’s the address given for Global Parking on the Global Parking website, though not on their parking lot signs. The Denigris family seems to have owned Guardian Parking Management several years ago, which was hit by a class action lawsuit in Evanston in 2000 for similar booting abuses and shut down.
In my view, Global Parking will continue to practice extortionist antics as long as private booting is allowed in the city of Chicago, or as long as the city refuses to monitor the conduct of the booting firms – which are not the same as towing firms — more assiduously. Businesses, too, need to demand better conduct from the security firms they employ. For now, even if you follow all of the rules, be warned: some day soon you might return to your car after shopping or grabbing coffee and suddenly find you owe a thug with a tape machine $115, payable immediately by cash or credit card.
I am hoping that our contributor, C.N. pursues a refund from Global and will keep us abreast of the situation.