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How two coffees at the Midtown Starbucks cost us 80 bucks

Midtown worker voices frustration over recent vehicle booting

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.

ptkdude August 14, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Sorry, you parked at Starbucks and immediately left the property. You were in violation of the parking rules enforced there, which you admit were posted. You were properly booted. You may not like it, but that doesn't make it predatory.
sbryant August 14, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The same exact situation happened to me, although my two transactions at Starbucks and Einstein's on a Sunday morning at 8:45 a.m. lasted less than 8 minutes total. It is infuriating and absolutely predatory.
donald August 14, 2012 at 04:37 PM
sounds like a great reason to avoid that starbucks
Tammy August 14, 2012 at 04:56 PM
In Atlanta you always need to read the signs in the parking lots to avoid this problem, especially if you are parking in an adjacent lot.
Darin August 14, 2012 at 05:25 PM
RE: "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." Odd logic. It sounds like you're trying to argue that making Atlanta an easier city in which to find a free parking space will help it become a better city for walking. I don't think that's true. I'm not going to defend predatory booting, of course, because it's undoubtedly a problem. But, in order to make it easier to be a pedestrian in Atlanta, we'll probably end up having to make it a little harder to drive in on some level.
Nima August 14, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Yup, agree. Tried taking it up with Starbucks but they were indifferent. Hopefully they handle the situation better going forward. This seems to be a common issue.
Patch August 14, 2012 at 05:52 PM
um.. this rule is bad and predatory and counter intuitive to the pedestrian traffic that Midtown is trying to promote. These predatory booting companies are hiding under the shield of the law, and therefore the law needs to be changed to protect the customer that is not as familiar with the parking restrictions or may not be aware of the parking restrictions due to missing, poorly placed, or vandalized signage. The worst predatory booting I have witnessed is at the 10th and Monroe strip mall across from Grady High school (Yoforia, Medataranian Grill, etc. are located here). I have seen people get a frozen yogurt walk across the intersection to park Tavern while eating their frozen yogurt, and then come back to see their car booted. This is all in a matter of 5-10 minutes. Come on, there is a person waiting for a tourist or non-regular to make this mistake so that they can pounce on them with a $75-$100 fee. Seriously this is predatory and if the current laws allow this, then they need to be changed.
Nima August 14, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Definitely not arguing for free parking or the abuse of Starbucks' parking lot. Just arguing for the booters to apply some common sense to these situations as well and not expect customers of Starbucks to drive to Einstein's and then come back. Agree with you that we should make it harder for people to drive. At the same time think it'd be great for us to have more public transportation efforts that extend beyond metro Atlanta. Currently, my only way of getting into the city in a timely manner is by driving.
sbryant August 14, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Also, to get to Einstein's from the Starbucks parking lot, you would have to either make two illegal u-turns, or go all the way up to Crescent, turn right on 13th, go back down to West Peachtree and turn back onto Peachtree. It's ludicrous.
Seamus August 14, 2012 at 06:46 PM
So by your logic, if I had walked out of Starbucks to take a call because my phone wasn't receiving proper signal I should've gotten booted. Brilliant.
Jason August 14, 2012 at 06:50 PM
So you parked illegally and it's the parking lot attendant's fault and Starbuck's fault and the voters' fault for voting down TSPLOST, and all the other citizens of Atlanta's fault for not taking MARTA to free up a spot for you... If you park in a business's lot, go into the business and buy something. Otherwise, everyone would park at Starbucks and buy a small coffee after they get booted. I'd say you should just count it as an expensive lesson learned, but it doesn't sound like you've learned anything.
Clicker August 14, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Well put Jason. Most parking lots are private property. You do not have an inherent God given right to park wherever and whenever you choose. When you park your car in a lot in the city, be prepared to pay one way or another. Obviously, it is a big enough problem for Starbuck's to have contracted with this company to keep the lot for their customers and their customers only. Deal with it Nima - you are not getting much sympathy here.
sbryant August 14, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Both of you (@Jason and @Clicker) clearly didn't read Nima's experience or you'd be somewhat sympathetic to her plight (as well as mine). I agree that you shouldn't park in lots that you're not using, but she clearly did (as did I). I'm all for towing/booting away those who park illegally, but in the Starbucks/Einstein's case it was exploitative and solely for $. Let's have some balance here.
But wait, August 14, 2012 at 07:35 PM
agree these guys absolutely are predatory as they sit in the lots themselves with the sole purpose of applying a boot. but this predatory behavior, i believe, is promoted by the fact that these guys are paid solely on how many cars they boot (at least that's what one told me at the starbucks on 7th and ptree). this is also the reason that they do not apply common sense in some cases like this or have zero leniency. if they let you off, they are taking money directly out of their pocket. if my job was to sit in my car for 8-10 hours i probably wouldn't be very forgiving if i had to give money back either. i think the bigger problem are the scumbag parking companies that promote this behavior and are completely unprofessional when (OR IF) they ever return your dispute claims.
Clicker August 14, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I understood perfectly what she wrote; she parked and left the property. The time and distance that she went does not matter to either the tow company or StarbucKs apparently.
Chris Murphy August 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM
I don't frequent many midtown businesses because of parking hassles. I'll make doubly sure to never go to that Starbucks.
clancey August 15, 2012 at 11:15 AM
What's described in this article is not the typical "booting" problem that occurs daily. In this case, you parked in a PRIVATE parking lot, reserved for Starbucks guests. It was clearly marked and you chose to go to Einstein's for food and then return back for coffee. Why should Starbucks let you park in their lot to go patronize another merchant? I think in this case it was rightfully enforced, whether you agree with it or not, they were right and you were wrong.
Tim August 15, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Google "how to remove a parking boot" ... its really rather easy.
Jeff K August 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Google "Getting arrested for removing a parking boot" it's really what you need to know.
Dave August 15, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I go to that Starbucks all the time. I have had to park in the pay lot across W. Peachtree numerous times because the Starbucks parking lot was full. When I walked into the store on those occasions, it was empty. Starbucks is likely being aggressive about enforcement because of people parking and walking off the property, which is exactly what you did. I sympathize with you because you ended up buying something at Starbucks shortly after going to Einsteins. But, Starbucks has to draw the line somewhere. What if you walked over to the High, spent a couple hours there then bought a Latte on your way back? Having a non-metered lot in midtown is great - just don't leave the property and you'll be fine.
Tim August 15, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Its on private property...Atlanta Police stated to me they would no arrest for that.
Midtown Resident August 15, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Or if you are tired of driving into the city for everything and dealing with parking woes, move in! There are 4 Starbucks in Midtown, so one is always within easy walking distance. That way you get some exercise and enjoy a stroll, avoid car/parking stress, live the walkable lifestyle you are promoting in your piece AND reduce air pollution at the same time. RE: train lines out to the suburbs. All you suburbanites concerned with the wise use of taxpayer money - THAT would be a waste! Build rail for areas designed to handle rail (streetcars included). Quit building massive highways 50+ miles out to handle densities of only 1,000 people in an entire square mile. What we have now is a state that spends almost less money per person than any other state on transportation, yet is growing faster than almost any other state. Unfortunately most of that growth is low density suburban/exurban growth requiring expensive massive highways that serve low density communities inefficiently spread out. Better than curbing parking laws, can the state, ARC and the various counties/municipalities come together to curb laws that allow sprawl to happen? That will save taxpayers boatloads of money and do much more to promote walkability, health, and will allow us to spend what little infrastructure budget we have on more people more efficiently (if we can get densities up and plan better).
Dee August 16, 2012 at 12:17 AM
If the Einstein and Starbucks were blocks apart, I could understand the rationale of some of the folks who have posted in favor of being booted. But anyone who frequents Starbucks on 14th knows Einstein is practically in the same building. This was beyond crazy and completely unnecessary.
rodney August 16, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I was been booted in this lot 6 months ago. I have called Starbucks and Einstein's and told them I will not be patronizing their businesses anymore. I have had 6 friends do the same. I used to eat/drink there about 1x/month.
A Midtown Res August 17, 2012 at 03:49 AM
I gotta go with Starbucks on this one. By your logic, you should be able to disobey parking rules on private property if the businesses are next to each other. Then would it be wrong if you went two stores away? One block? Five blocks? Regarding not clearly seeing the signs, what intown large city in America has automatic free parking then would allow you to wander around? Put on your big kid pants. You broke the rules and got busted. You just received a $75 diploma on being in a big city.
Jim A August 19, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Yep I think you were wrong as well. I also patronize this Sbux quite often, and waaaay too many times the lot is filled, and it's obvious the store is not as full as the lot. It's very frustrating when I just want my morning coffee and am in a hurry on the way to work. They own the lot, or pay rent for it. They lose business when there are no spaces, it's that simple. And for all those who are threatening to never go there, that is really OK; they don't have enough spaces anyway! LOL. They will not miss your lost business, because there is still a line of cars to get in most of the day. ;-) I have witnessed people screaming at the guard when they walked to Einsteins, it's actually kind of amusing. And you'd have to be blind to miss the signs! Seriously. I WISH that the City of Atlanta would be smart about ADDING parking spaces on the streets etc (yes, 14th is not wide enough but they built GIANT sidewalks that almost no one uses, and REDUCED spaces from Einsteins last year). But parking spaces isn't something that ATL plans very well. Now THAT would be good for business, a parking strategy. (and then maaaaybe Sbux would not have to resort to nasty booting tactics).
Jim A August 19, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Love your reply!! So accurate. Where is the guard supposed to draw the line... when you are next door, or in the next street, or what.....?? Waaaaaah.
Eileeen Vajilik March 08, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Read the signs. Obey them. No booting, it is that simple
Eileeen Vajilik March 08, 2013 at 08:00 PM
we cut them off all the time with a battery powered cutoff tool
Lois Maharger March 10, 2013 at 03:57 PM
losers get booted. Winners win

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