LOCAL NEWS

Better Business Bureau Calls Booting Practices In SLC Shopping Center Lot ‘Unethical’

Jul 3, 2019, 7:40 AM | Updated: Jul 12, 2019, 1:41 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The Better Business Bureau called booting practices at a popular shopping and dining center “unethical” amid complaints from customers and a neighboring sandwich shop, as the company behind the boots defended its work.

Jane Rupp, president of the Utah BBB, said Parking Solutions Utah—the company contracted to enforce parking in the lot northeast of the intersection of 400 South and 600 East—was operating under a “bad business model.”

“They have a ‘F’ rating because they’re not responding to complaints,” Rupp said. “They don’t care. I mean, it’s obvious they don’t care. Their business model is boot the people, get the money, get out and that’s it. They don’t have a business model of trying to take care of customer concerns.”

The public statement came after multiple complaints, including that of Jenn Davis, who maintained she was booted even after making a purchase at one of the tenant stores.

Parking Solutions, in a statement issued more than a week after KSL’s attempts to seek a response, blasted the methodology behind its poor BBB rating and also disputed Davis’ claims.

“It is perfectly legal, and ethical, in the state of Utah, to immobilize a vehicle with an immobilation device (a boot) if someone violates the posted rules, which the woman in question was witnessed doing,” the statement read. “The parking lot in question has no fewer than 18 easily-read signs, making it abundantly clear that parking at the Fourth South Market, then leaving the property to patronize Jimmy John’s, is a violation of the parking rules, which will be enforced.”

Davis said on June 13 she stopped at Jamba Juice to grab a drink for her teenage son, who just had surgery. She then went to grab him a sandwich at Jimmy John’s, then returned to her car to find it sandwiched in by another vehicle.

“I was just like, ‘what’s going on?’” Davis said. “Then he jumped in the back of his car, got a boot and put the boot on.”

Davis said she procured a receipt from Jamba Juice, but was told by the parking attendant it didn’t matter.

During the subsequent conversation, which Davis recorded on her cellphone, the attendant could be heard telling Davis he did not accept credit cards—only cash or debit cards, and that she could go to an ATM to get a cash advance with her credit card.

“So, you’re not going to pay then?” the man said.

“No, I’m going to pay, I want to pay,” Davis said.

“You have to bring debit or cash—those are our forms of payment,” the worker said.

Rupp noted that according to Utah code, vehicle immobilizers “shall accept payment by cash and debit or credit card, and said not accepting a credit card violated that code.

Parking Solutions in its statement said “only with the approval of the owner do we accept personal credit cards, due to the high rate of credit card fraud when personal credit cards are used.”

Rupp acknowledged beyond that issue she saw nothing illegal with the booting practices.

“There’s no reason, no incentive for them to change their business model—which means they’re going to continue to do what they want to do,” Rupp shrugged.

Jimmy John’s, which operates on an adjacent lot with a different landlord, posted its own signs cautioning potential customers against parking in the shopping area’s lot, and it has recently staffed a worker outside the business to verbally warn people approaching the business about the booting danger.

“We’re doing everything in our power to try to let people know what’s going on so they don’t pay $80 for a sandwich,” said the business’ human resource manager, Travis Taylor.

Parking Solutions blasted back in its statement, blaming the sandwich shop for the parking issues.

“They are responsible for this unhelpful dynamic, because they chose a very unfit property to locate the franchise location in question, which requires more than triple the parking they offer during the lunch rush,” the statement read. “They attempt to manage public perception by blaming Parking Solutions and the property management of the 4th South Market, and by paying employees to keep Parking Solutions from effectively enforcing against their customers, but this problem is of their making.”

An attempt to reach the shopping center’s property manager for additional comment about the situation did not result in a response.

“We’ve tried for a number of years to reach out to them through phone calls, emails when we talk about some of the situations that are happening,” Taylor said. “They’re just kind of turning a blind eye to that. We’ve even invited them to lunch to kind of take a look at the scenario and they’re really not willing to come out.”

Taylor said the sandwich shop was having recent documented success cautioning customers, but it was at great expense.

He questioned whether the booting practices were good for any business in the area.

Rupp said, barring a change in local or state law, there may be no recourse and she cautioned customers to simply beware.

Davis recently started an online petition in hopes of change.

“You don’t even have to leave the property and they can boot your car,” Davis said. “It’s just a dirty way of going about it.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated July 12, 2019, following a written response from Parking Solutions, which came eight days after our request that they respond to the BBB’s concerns.

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Better Business Bureau Calls Booting Practices In SLC Shopping Center Lot ‘Unethical’