The Home Team: It’s the Principle
A marketing exec my wife knows through business lives in a 15,000-square-foot house in Greenwich. He has a stable of fine cars — Porsches, Mercedes and the like. He runs his 35-foot-whatever across Long Island Sound in November just to pick up an apple crisp pie from Briermere Farms in Riverhead for Thanksgiving dinner.
He also shops at BJ’s to buy paper towels in bulk. And clips coupons to use on an Armani silk sports jacket at Bloomingdale’s.
If you kid him about this, he’ll tell you, it’s not so much the money. It’s the principle.
I had my own “it’s-the-principle” moment last week. But let me back up a bit ...
It’s April, in Portland, Ore., on my most recent cross-country road trip with my Duck Toller. I’d just found a parking spot on Southwest Broadway, fed the meter, pocketed the receipt and rushed off to Courthouse Square, where I was meeting my son Matt for the start of a group walking tour of downtown Portland.
After the tour I returned to my car ... and saw a ticket on the windshield. Wait a minute. I knew I’d put enough quarters in the meter. What was going on here? I read the citation: “Failure to place receipt face up on dash.” Were they kidding? I’d paid for that parking spot!
“No freaking way I’m paying this parking ticket!” I announced loudly to my son, my dog and everyone else on Southwest Broadway between Taylor and Salmon. In a huff, I jammed the parking ticket in my backpack. And, of course, eventually forgot about it.
Last week, when I was finally filing away all the paraphernalia from my trip, the ticket resurfaced — and so did my fury and indignation. Did I want to contest the ticket, the fine print on the back asked? You bet your sweet you-know-what I did!
I typed out my defense — after all, I did go to law school for two months — in great detail. I photocopied the citation, front and back. I also photocopied my response. Then I did the whole thing all over again, in order to send a separate package of documentation to Audi Financial Services, who had informed me they’d pay for the ticket if I didn’t take care of it (it’s a leased car), and then penalize me on top of that.
Now this wasn’t my first rodeo — I’ve contested other traffic violations by mail in the past — and I knew a rock-solid paper trail was a must. So at the Greens Farms Post Office I filled out all the necessary forms to send my packages both to the Circuit Court Parking Citation Office and to Audi Financial Services via registered mail, signature required, with proof of receipt to be sent back to me. All of this — preparing my defense and doing the copying and paperwork at the post office — took me well over an hour. And then the clerk told me what I owed in postage: $24!
Twenty-four dollars? And more than an hour of my time? To contest a parking ticket? I’d never even looked to see how much I’d been charged. I took out my copy of the citation. Hmm ... let’s see. Only $60. And there was a fair chance that after all this, I’d wind up having to pay it, anyway.
But still. It’s the principle. That marketing exec would understand.
“The Home Team” appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.