Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Parking Spot

No system is foolproof as fools are ingenious
- Corollary to Murphy’s Law

This is a longish post. Better get a coffee.

Oh for the good old days of the Tukang Parkir. Back in the day the man with a whistle had an almost arcane power over all vehicles in his domain. It was always interesting to me how he could guide cars reversing back to the left, right, or straight with the exact same series of gestures. Maybe the cars could understand him? The Tukang Parkir lived on the tips of his clients and seemed to recognize whether you had paid him or not from memory. Nowadays the tukang parkir is slowly being phased out in the name of automated billing systems and toll booth attendants. This trend away from the human element may make sense from the business standpoint but there are some rather glaring disadvantages which occurred to me while using one of these newfangled parking systems.

A while ago I had occasion to head down to Tuban where there was a shop in a well known mall that carried exactly what I was looking for. Heading into Tuban is always a challenge. It’s a maze of one way streets that serve no particular purpose that I can fathom (probably deserves a post of its own). The mall is located on a single lane road that is shared with taxis, buses, motorbikes, horse drawn buggies and pull carts. The buses and taxis are forever stopping to pickup passengers and nothing moves faster than the horse carts. The motorbikes weave from side to side opportunistically looking for that momentary gap between 2 vehicles to slide in and past. All part of the fun in blistering heat.

Having finally reached the mall the next thing is to get a place to park. Now at this point some explanation to the byzantine parking process is required. First you get your parking ticket. The ticket has to be paid inside the mall where the clerk validates the ticket. The gate attendant then takes the ticket at the parkade exit gate. Having received my parking card dutifully time stamped by the gate attendant I made my way cautiously into the dark recesses of the parking lot - the space reserved exclusively for motorbikes. Nosing in I was shocked to see the degree of disorganization and chaos. There was not a space to be had. There were bikes everywhere! Bikes were even parked on the access ways, constricting the path to the point where I to edge my way around the corners as I desperately searched for a spot to park. Damm there is absolutely nothing here. With nowhere to park I headed towards the exit. My plan now was to park a few blocks away and hoof it back to the mall.

This cunning plan began to go pear shaped when I tried to get past the parking attendant.  Just between us I'm not sure what sort of qualifications is required to to be a parking attendant. From the outsiders view they appear very much like a failed immigration officer - someone with a tiny bit of power combined with narrow view of their own duties. They are not persuaded by commonsense arguments such as why should I pay for parking if there is none available nor possess the comprehension that to pay one's ticket, one needs to park - the cashier is inside remember? What they are capable of understanding is two things: first to take the ticket and open the gate and second; let security deal that those miscreants and shit disturbers (namely moi) who refuse to pay for the privilege of driving through a dark stuffy underground parkade. So when faced with my complaint you can surmise what happenned next.

It’s surprising how quickly security can turn up. Even more surprising is how many. Within a few moments of my discussion with the parking attendant a sea of blue uniforms surrounded me and my bike. I wondered if this was how General Custer felt riding over the hill to find all those Indians waiting for him. Where did these guys come from? Two goons put a firm grip on my bike, (to keep me from getting away I suppose) and the rest did their best tough guy imitation. You know the look: arms crossed, unsmiling, shoulders back - they must practice that in a mirror -waiting for me to make the next move. I had a brief hilarious vision of going all Chuck Norris on their assses but I simply repeated my claim to the senior security fellow that if I was sold a non-parking spot then I shouldn't have to pay. By now there were people lining up behind me patiently honking their horns and trying to drive over us to get to the gate. The head guard thought furiously for a few moments then hit on a solution.

"It’s useless to complain to us Pak" he intimated to me. "We are just the staff. The management office is just upstairs so why don't you head on up to complain to them. We will look after your bike for you." As there was no other real option a parking spot was allocated to me (next to the booth actually- sweet!) and off I went in search of the admin office. At this point I really had what I wanted in the first place but I decided to find out for myself how the complaint process was handled.

If this mall is anything to go by I strongly recommend that all customers in all malls complain as much as possible. The reason being that the PR staff at the mall is extremely well spoken and easy on the eyes. You might even get a free cup of tea out of the process - I did. The complaint form itself was pretty small – mayhap they couldn’t imagine that anyone could find something to complain about. There was however a space for name, telephone number and email address which I dutifully filled in. The PR girl assured me with her 1000 ship smile that I would be contacted soon by the senior management who would deal with my complaint.

Yeah Right....

Several months later I am still waiting.........hello....i'm here....anybody there?????

In the good old days the tukang parkir who would have had this sort of issue sorted out in no time. Using the modern method and filling out all that paperwork I have yet to receive even the acknowledgment from the mall management that a problem exists. Don't even get me started on the whole empowerment issue that there is not a single manager in a major shopping centre who has enough fiduciary authority to comp a 1000 Rp parking ticket . Apparently this can only be done in Jakarta. Some progress!

I want my tukang parkir back.

1000 Rp – about 10 cents. Its not about the money

Tukang Parkir – Parking can be a chore in Indonesia. The tukang parking is a guy that helps people get parked and unparked. Armed with a whistle and a 3 word vocabulary they are uniquely skilled and getting you in and out with a minimum of fuss.


H. Nizam said...


Many office/apartment/mall parking area managed by parking companies in Jakarta cannot accommodate incoming vehicles but keep letting more vehicles enter. The worst thing is that they they charged us although we do not park, especially during rush hours. Those companies know that it would be very difficult for us to argue because many cars queue behind us.

Re: tukang parkir
In some open air parking area of shopping center or RUKO in Jakarta, tukang parkir still exists and collect money although a parking co. already managed the area.

pj said...

Hi Harry.

Aha so its an imported Jakarta phenom. Apparently this kind of action also happens in Surabaya. I thought it was just me.

I know what you mean about the difficulties of complaining - there is that weighty queue behind you. In my case the queue was trying its best to drive over me hehe.

oigal said...

I agree..its a regular occurance in our little province..charging you to drive through an underground car park with no spots..

I love the screen saver face you get..when you ask the questions you (and I) do.

Tis fun to watch the traffic bank up when you have the time and mood not to pay..

Although by far the best one..Drive in..sorry mister no out..sorry mister no ticket ,must pay maximum amount 10,000Rp??...huh

pj said...


It was annoying and amusing at the same time so I posted it. There ought to be a word for this sort of petty scam don't you think?

It is indeed fun to hold up the queue when you have the time. Payback for all the times I've been cut off.