DENVER (CBS4)– A downtown Denver parking lot admits its instructions to drivers paying for their parking spaces were wrong, after a CBS4 Investigation began looking into why people were getting expensive tickets at the lot, even after they had paid for parking.
“If this happens all the time, maybe there’s an issue,” said Kristen Bauer.
She parked in the Focus parking lot at 23rd and Larimer in March and paid $3 to park there for the day. But when she returned to her car, she had received a $60 ticket, even though she had her payment receipt and other documentation verifying she had paid.
“It’s the principle that bothers me more than the money,” said Bauer, who presented her proof of payment to Focus parking systems.
The company said Bauer had entered several digits on her license plate incorrectly on its payment machine and should therefore cough up the extra money for her mistake.
“I think they are trying to make more money than they are really letting on,” said Bauer.
Her ticket said she was being cited for “no payment in advance… license plate not paid.”
When Bauer refused to pay the $60 fine, Focus parking sent her case on to a law firm which threatened “legal action against you and proceed to collect this debt through the judicial system.”
A search of Better Business Bureau records found several similar complaints against Focus parking for the same issue. One person noted the payment system “is not user friendly… numbers and letters are displayed on the same shared hard keys so it’s very easy for a user to make mistakes.”
Another driver wrote that “Charges should not be issued to customers who act in good faith.”
When CBS4 visited the lot, it became clear that part of the problem is an instruction sign on how to use the payment machine. It tells consumers that to get the letter “B” in the system, they should press the “2” key twice.
Following that advice would enter the wrong letter, a problem acknowledged by Focus parking manager Tony Deaser after it was pointed out by CBS4.
“My sign is wrong. That’s the first time I noticed it. I’m glad you brought it to my attention,” said Deaser. “You are right. It’s an error on our end. I just noticed that. Its Focuses fault, I take full blame for that. Anybody with a ticket, we’ll have to take care of that.”
Within 48 hours, Focus parking changed the erroneous sign, but Deaser claimed that was not the reason why people had been getting tickets.
“The typographical error in our signage… would only affect customers with a “B” in their license plates,” wrote Deaser, “and even then would result in them being one letter off which we don’t issue a violation for. Nearly all of our parking customers (over 97 percent) input the correct information and do not receive a ticket.”
He acknowledged that his office receives about three calls every day from drivers who mis-entered their license plate information into the payment system.
“The instructions are as simple as we can get them,” said Deaser.
However he acknowledged the old style payment machine, which does not have separate keys for letters and numbers, can be confusing. He said the machine costs about $8,000 but a newer, simpler payment machine would cost about $16,000.
“So you guys don’t want to pay for a simpler system?” Deaser was asked.
“At this point not right now,” he replied.
Several patrons who used the lot with CBS4 present agreed that the keypad and instructions were confusing.
Two women paying for a space said, “We do have college degrees but we got it wrong the first time.”
Greg James said after he used the keypad, “I can see where you would maybe mess up on it.”
Deaser emphasized the vast majority of patrons enter their license plate number correctly and if they only have minor errors, “we void the ticket. Unfortunately, there are customers who use our lot without paying. This is almost always the reason that a ticket is issued.”
Kristen Bauer said she plans to avoid parking in any of the five downtown Denver lots owned by Focus.
“I think the whole thing is a scam,” said Bauer.