Recently in a downtown Oak Park parking garage, I put my ticket in the machine, and inserted a $5 bill to pay the $3 fee. The machine issued a receipt for $3. It did not return the $2 it owed me. Instead, it spit out a second little piece of paper which said: “Change Shortage, Amount: $2.” I pressed the assistance button, and a nice attendant came over. He informed me that I needed to go to village hall. 

“No! Not Parking Services!” I wailed. 

“No,” he replied. “Go to the cashier’s window.” 

Relieved about avoiding Parking Services, and because village hall is on my way home, I decided to go claim my $2.

Luckily, there was no line at the cashier’s window, so instead of weaving my way around the zig-zag stanchions, I simply went up to the window. After a few seconds, the cashier raised her head, looked at me and said (not politely), “Move back until I call you.” When she did call me, I presented my receipt and the “change shortage” message. In response she said, “I can’t just give you $2. You have to go to Parking Services first for authorization.”

At Parking Services, I pull a number from the machine and sit down next to two other people waiting. I looked at my number: 362 and I looked at the digital sign showing the number being served: 486. Conferring with my two neighbors, we did have consecutive numbers, agreed on our 1-2-3 order, and to ignore the digital sign.

My turn. At the counter I notice that behind the “front line” employees is a row of more employees in cubicles and behind them are offices with doors. I present my documentation, stating that I needed authorization to get my $2 from the cashier. The employee has no clue and leaves to consult with a cubicle person. Several minutes transpire. She then goes to a container hanging on the side of the partition and starts going through file folders, finally returning with the form I need to complete … by hand. After entering information into the computer, she says she now needs to get an approval signature.

She goes to one of the offices. No one is there. On to another office where she enters and exits after a few minutes. She does not return to her station, but rather passes by me and explains she needs another signature and walks to a different part of village hall. Sometime later she returns, staples the two pieces of documentation to the form I’ve completed and sends me to the cashier.

Now there are eight people ahead of me in the cashier’s line — all of them apparently with very complicated transactions. The line moves slowly.

My turn. I get my $2, but I will never get back the 45 minutes I spent getting this done!

Think of the overhead: Parking garage attendant, cashier, Parking Services counter, cubicle lady, staff signature, another staff signature, and cashier (again!).

A small, closely monitored petty cash box in each parking garage office would offer customers immediate resolution in situations like this.

Jim Kelly is a longtime Oak Park resident.

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