Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall called for more responsibility and accountability from vehicle booting companies by pushing an ordinance to strengthen the city's regulation on those companies. The following letter to the editor is from someone who works in Midtown and recently found herself booted during a visit to the Starbucks located at 21 14th Street.
By Nima Patel
I’m a victim of predatory booting. Last Wednesday, a friend and I went to the Starbucks on 14th & W Peachtree in Midtown Atlanta. After we parked our car and headed towards the entrance, we noticed the Einstein’s next door. Neither of us are huge fans of the food Starbucks offers so we ran over to Einstein Bros Bagels to grab a couple of bagels. Common sense told us it’d be fine to walk instead of take our car to an establishment right next door (it’s literally 10-12 steps away).
We were wrong.
Within 15 minutes we were back from Einsteins. Afterwards we spent two hours at Starbucks before realizing our car was booted. We walked over to the guy who booted it and asked him what the problem was. He condescendingly pointed to the signs stating, “Parking is reserved for current customers of Starbucks only” and bluntly stated that if we wanted to go to Einsteins, we should have gotten into our car, driven 15 feet and then come back. And in his opinion, we deserved the boot because despite reading the rules we wantonly broke them. No joke.
The signs the booter was referring to were strategically placed in places you would never think to look. They’re placed such that you must get out of your car to read them. The point of having someone monitor a parking lot is so that no one abuses the parking lot. But in this situation, the parking enforcement company is using their authority to abuse customers. And the placement of signage protects them from any dispute by the customer. The term daylight robbery isn’t a metaphor here, it’s reality. We paid $75 to have the boot removed.
The booter we encountered was employed by Empire Parking Services, which is a company that receives their permits from the City of Atlanta. This type of predatory booting seems to be an ongoing issue many Atlantans face. We’re well aware Atlanta’s not a walking city and with the defeat of T-SPLOST two weeks ago, we’re not any closer to that goal. However walking 15 ft. to an establishment right next door versus driving shouldn’t be an act people are discouraged from doing. Rather, it should be something we promote.
- For more on Ms. Patel's Midtown booting experience, see here.