Putting the system on trial

Posted on March 4, 2004 @ 5:40 pm

I received an invoice from campus parking services in the mail today saying that I had a $40 balance on my account. It seems that I parked “out of zone” on February 23 and received a citation as a result. Fair enough, but try as I might, I couldn’t recall parking outside of my designated lot — much less receiving a ticket for doing so. So, I went to parking services this afternoon to sort things out.

Once the parking services employee finally managed to pull up the original citation in the database, she revealed that I was ticketed for parking without the proper permit — in a lot where I have never parked during my two and a half years at the university. Stranger still, the car that was ticketed was a blue Honda with Georgia tags. My car is a white Honda with Virginia tags. Obviously, they sent the ticket to the wrong guy, right? Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.

I explained to the parking services employee that I hadn’t parked in the lot in question and that it wasn’t my car to begin with, suggesting that perhaps another student had been issued a parking sticker with the same barcode (the entire ticketing system is based on scanning the barcodes).

“No, that’s not possible, sir. Our system prevents that from happening.”

I then hypothesized that it might be an error in the database, listing someone else’s car under my record.

“No, the barcode system more or less rules that out, too.”

At that point, I explained again that I don’t own the car described in the original citation. Obviously, it couldn’t have been me, right?

“Are you sure that you didn’t own a blue Honda at some point in past and sold it recently, sir?”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Realizing that I wasn’t really getting anywhere, I gave in and asked the parking services employee what possible explanation there could be for me receiving a ticket for parking somewhere I’ve never parked before in a car that I’ve never driven.

“Sir, have you loaned out your parking sticker or allowed anyone to copy it?”


“Could someone have stolen your parking sticker?”

No, it’s never left my windshield.

“Well, sir, you have to realize that we can’t just take your word on this, right? After all, if we believed everyone who walked in here told us they didn’t really violate parking regulations, there wouldn’t be any point in issuing tickets in the first place.”

So, I’m going to have to pay this ticket even though someone who wasn’t me and who wasn’t driving my car is the one who parked in the wrong place?

“Well, you always have the option of appealing the citation — but it’s very rare that citations are actually overturned.”

And, just to recap, there’s no chance whatsoever that the whole thing could be the result of a clerical error or a problem with the barcode system, right?

“That’s correct, sir.”

I filled out the appeal form, but I get the distinct feeling that I’m going to be $40 poorer in the very near future.

Posted by Jess | Filed Under Life in a Nutshell |

10 comments so far...

  1. Anastasia March 4, 2004 5:50 pm

    Jess, have you thought that you should force them to run the tag through the state of Georgia database to show that you don’t own the car or have never owned the car. They can’t legally enforce a ticket for a car you don’t own. That is how my sister fought some tickets issued to her on a car she doesn’t own.

    Here at UAB, we call the Transportation Services people, the Parking Nazis.

  2. Jess March 4, 2004 6:12 pm

    I mentioned the possibility of looking up the tag, and the parking services drone said the committee “may choose to pursue that course of action” during the appeals process. She went on to note, however, that even if they could prove it wasn’t my car, it wouldn’t rule out the possibility that I had loaned my pass to someone or had it stolen.


  3. Evil Doug March 4, 2004 9:46 pm

    Heck. Fight it. Get melodramatic. I recommend memorizing some Shakespeare or something for the occasion.

    Present your facts. Then, if they don’t seem persuaded…

    “You can’t HANDLE the TRUTH! Yea, I deride your truth handling ability you no truth handler, you!”
    -Sideshow Bob

    “Yeah, you got me. You are SO brilliant. You have fallen into my ploy of getting myself tickets for cars I don’t own or drive. Mwahahaha! You petty fools think you have won, but it is *I* who have won! Go home, now, and think, as you turn into bed, that “Yes, I have outwitted Jess…”. GO AHEAD AND THINK THAT! It’ just what I WANT you to think. And to close my defense, I now recite the lyrics to epic ballad by Criss Cross…’Jump Jump. Criss Cross’ll make ya, Jump jump…’

  4. Jess March 4, 2004 10:06 pm

    Initially, I tried being assertive, using the “this is not acceptable” approach to dealing with bureaucrats. After about fifteen minutes, however, they had reduced me to just shaking my head and saying, “You’re kidding, right?” over and over again.

    That being said, I wish I had thought of that Kris Kross defense. It would have been much funnier and, I suspect, just as effective. ;)

  5. Andy March 4, 2004 11:11 pm

    DO NOT PAY IT! FIGHT IT! If you pay it, you pretty much admit guilt and fighting it becomes useless.

    I am in a similar situation on a larger scale. Someone logged into my PayPal account and attempted to transfer $500.00 into their account. When I got the email notifying me of the transaction, I logged in and disputed the transaction, which immediately cancelled the transfer from my linked checking account and halted the transfer of funds into the other person’s accounts. After many emails and two signed and notarized affidavits mailed to their Investigations Dept. stating that I was telling the truth, PayPal decided to lift the hold and allowed the transfer complete to the other person. So now my PayPal account became negative by $500.00. Since they cancelled the transfer from my bank account, I am not physically out any money (except for the money I’ve had to spend on the notary and postage) PayPal is now missing $500.00 and they have records of where the money went, but do they go after this person? No. They have now sent collections after me. I refuse to pay it. I have been fighting this for almost 7 months now and I’m not giving in. So, um… my point is that when you know you aren’t guilty of something, no matter how minor, you should never give in for any reason. That’s just my 2.

  6. Jess March 5, 2004 7:08 am

    Good luck fighting off PayPal, Andy. I plan to appeal this ticket as much as possible, but they ultimately have an advantage in that failure to pay will prevent me from being able to register for classes or teach next semester. Needless to say, this causes a huge headache.

    I’m going to drop by again today and see if someone else is working. It could be one of those things where just finding the right person at the front desk could bypass the appeal process altogether.

  7. Jay Solo March 5, 2004 9:26 am

    That is so wrong!

    And so is Andy’s PayPal tale. Not the first time I’ve heard a PayPal horror story.

  8. jp March 5, 2004 11:10 am

    I suggest getting physical with the next person you deal with, or go in there with firearms demanding justice, or both. Loud profanity, combined with death threats can also be extremely effective. Is making you pay this fine really worth dying over? I think not. Problem solved. Your welcome.

  9. Richard March 5, 2004 11:49 am

    This sounds like the set-up for an episode of the Simpsons.

    You have to ask yourself: “What would Homer do?”

  10. Jess March 5, 2004 10:52 pm

    Thanks for the advice, everyone! The ticket is still going through the appeals process, but I’ll be sure to update the situation when I find out something. I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting story…

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