Parking Lot Plot

So we get a call, an anonymous tip from a concerned citizen, a Deep Throat for the new millennium, as it were, that a little bit of price gouging is going down over in the parking lot nearby the federal building on Smith. It’s passport season, lines are long, and odds are even longer that you’re gonna get a cheap parking spot, according to our tipster.

Seeing as how it’s a mere three blocks from HouStoned’s World Headquarters, I head over there and check out the scene, and yes, there are tons of folks standing around outside the building. Across the street there’s a lot operated by Central Parking System, complete with a sign that says “public parking for IRS and passport office.” This has to be the place. There’s one of those self-pay boxes set up, but there’s also a big piece of yellow tape across the entrance and a dude monitoring the lot.

First off: Kudos to these guys for a little bait and switch action, considering how the sign on the front of the self-pay box says parking is $3 but on the other side of the box, the side where you actually pay, it says $6. Say you’ve already gotten out of your car and then you realize the price is double. You need a passport. You don’t want to wait. You’re probably gonna toss in that extra three bucks. Smooth move, Central Parking System.

But all of that would happen on any other day. Today, it seems, the price is $10. So I talk to the attendant, tell him I’ve heard there’s a little bit of gouging going on, and he tells me the price has been $10 for some time. I ask him why the sign says six bucks, and he tells me that’s an old sign and that’s why they put up a new sign. Apparently my eyes aren’t too good, so I ask him where the new sign is. He walks around the front, looks around like someone who’s just lost his keys, and says, Oops, looks like the other attendant took the sign with him when he went on a break. But there is a sign, he swears.

So there you have it: No price gouging going on. Just an honest mistake. The price has been $10 since the beginning of time. Happy travels. – Keith Plocek

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