I have managed to do it again—try to save a little bit of money and end up paying astronomically more in the end.
Again is the key word here, as the first time this occurred was in the summer of 2009. Paul and I were going to a movie at the Edward Regal Cinema on Richmond. We both did not want to pay that darn $3 parking garage fee that they force on you, so we parked our car at a sandwich shop next door. Afterwards we found ourselves with two other people driving out to the boondocks to retrieve our vehicles, and to fork over $200.
Fast forward one year to last week when I met Paul and some friends downtown for sushi. I was running late and did not want to pay the parking garage fees, so I parked on the street corner of Texas and Bagby. After getting out of the car, I saw a sign that said ‘No Parking’ between the hours of 7:00-9:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. It was 5:20. There was a pay meter ahead, and so I inserted my credit card and was charged a $0.85 parking fee. I stuck the parking receipt in my dashboard, making certain that it was clearly visible, and went into the restaurant. One hour and about 15 sushi rolls later we came back out on the street to find that all of the cars, including ours, were gone. We had been towed.
How much would it have cost for me to park in a garage? Probably $7-$10. But I could not part with my money so easily. I wanted to get around the norm; I wanted to smart my way out of paying a fee. In the end, after a taxi ride to pick up our impounded car, only to find a fluorescent green City of Houston ticket on its windshield, my “smarts” ended up costing us $255. Ouch. A whole 20 minutes is what permanently separated me from that $255…well, 20 minutes and a street sign I should have taken heed to.
With buyer’s remorse—more like stupidity remorse—clogging my thoughts, I decided that I need to make myself feel better about losing that $255. I’d like to think of my $255 not as a fee, but as a generous donation to the City of Houston (too bad it’s not deductible, huh?). And to make myself feel even better, I thought it would be interesting to point out a few scenarios over the years that ended up costing much more in the long-run because of people trying to save a buck upfront. Take for instance in 1969 when American Machine and Foundry company (AMF) purchased Harley Davidson, and immediately slashed the workforce to save money while trying to increase overall sales volume. Tons of bikes were pushed through the factory, but the quality was very poor. Over the next ten years, the US market share for Harley Davidsons went from 80% to 20%. Or perhaps the best, and most recent example, is when BP cut corners in the design, cementing, and the installation of safety devices known as “lockdown sleeves” and “centralizers” to save themselves $7-$10 million. Now, that is no small chunk of change. But up against the $1 billion BP has paid in costs so far, and the $20 billion proposed to put into an escrow account to fulfill claims, it looks like one tiny speck of iridescent residue adrift in a sea of oil globs.