Parking: A Thankless Job
By Arishna Lastinger
I have now been in the parking industry for five short – but seemingly long – years. During those five years, one thing that I’ve realized, more than anything, is that parking really is a thankless job. From the parking lot attendants to the front desk employees, to the back-office staff, all the way to the heads of each parking department, there is so much that goes on that most people have no clue of. Parking attendants spend hours in enforcement vehicles, getting in and out to scan license plates and check for physical passes or hangtags. They do this in the heat of the summer, the cold of winter, rain or shine. Front desk employees are expected to exude excellent customer service, regardless of what’s going on at home or in their personal life. They must put a smile on their face and assist each customer that walks through the door regardless of how they feel on the inside. Back-office staff must also provide excellent customer service to those who are calling or emailing. Unfortunately, sometimes the worst interactions are those that can be done over the phone as opposed to face to face.
Let’s be honest, being customer-facing every day can sometimes be exhausting. Now mind you, those who aren’t familiar with customer facing jobs probably have no clue what it’s like, but regardless of the excellent customer service provided or the time and effort put forth to ensure that parking rules are being followed and that our campuses are safe and accessible, there are still those customers that are having a bad day. There are still those customers that take out their frustrations on parking employees. Don’t we deserve respect too as we are just trying to do our jobs? In the five years that I have been in parking I have had many interactions and encounters that have left me unpleasantly surprised. It is almost as if people forget that parking employees are human too and that we have emotions. Words are dangerous and it is vitally important that we are careful how we use them. Parking employees don’t deserve to be disrespected and abused just for doing their job. Instead of bashing the parking department with words, instead of pouring out disrespect, anger, and hatred towards us, instead of belittling and degrading us, why not simply say “thank you!”? Thank you for doing such a great job goes a long way in a parking office. Saying “thank you for assisting me and having such a great attitude while doing so” also goes a long way.
Some people will never understand what really goes in the parking world and why a parking department is necessary. Some people will never realize the way parking employees are treated and talked to. However, you don’t have to know or witness these realities in order to express gratitude. Express gratitude anyway. After all, it is free to say thank you.
Whether it’s enforcing parking or being an emotional punching bag for a stranger, working in parking really is a thankless job. The next time you encounter a parking employee, I encourage you to say, “thank you”. Let them know that they are important and that their jobs matter. Because they really do!
Arishna Lastinger is associate director, parking services for Auburn University and a member of the Research & Innovation Task Force.