Can this trip be saved? A full parking lot and a partial refund

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Christopher Elliott

Gene Fayvusovich has a little parking problem, and he wants to know if he got ripped off.

Earlier this summer, he prepaid for 12 days of parking at Newark International Airport through a company called Premier Parking.

Total parking fee paid more than three weeks before his departure: $64.

“When I arrived, I was not allowed to park my car at their location, because lot was full,” he says. “I was advised by the parking lot attendant to park nearby on the other parking lot.”

But the price to park in that lot wasn’t the same. It charged him more than twice the rate he’d paid Premier — $130.

So now Fayvusovich has paid two parking lots for the same service. And here’s where it gets interesting.

He sent an email to Premier, asking for a refund. It took a while, but he finally received the following reply:

I am so sorry that you were turned away and that no one has responded to you. I have credited back to your account the amount $64 onto your card.

Also I am giving you two free days of parking with a reservation of five or more days. When you want to use those days please e-mail me directly. I will be happy to make that reservation for you.

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Again, I apologize for the delay.

But wait! Fayvusovich didn’t want the $64 refunded — he wanted the company to credit him for the $130 he had to spend on the other parking lot.

“Needless to say, it was not even close to what I expected from the Premier Parking, and what was requested in my e-mail,” he says. “The denied admission to the parking lot at the day of my travel left me absolutely unprepared. Being constrained in time, I didn’t have any chance to investigate further and ended paying the outrageous fee.”

He adds, “Could you please help me if I’m right — or tell me that I’m wrong?”

The issue of oversales is never directly adressed in Premier’s terms. But it mentions substitutions, which kind of applies:

Very seldom a service a lot was providing may be change without notice. Say from valet to self or covered to uncovered. If a change results in an upgrade to your previous service there will be no extra charge.

If a change results in a downgrade to your previous service we will credit you the difference in price it would have cost you.

Applied to this situation, it would mean Fayvusovich should get a refund of the difference between the Premier lot and the substitute lot.

I can’t find a policy that specifically addresses oversales. But if this were a rental car or a hotel, the industry standard would be to offer him the product he paid for from a competitor at the same cost — in other words, to refund his $130.

I can understand why Premier would want to refund just the $64 and give him a voucher. It’s far less expensive. Also, neither its terms, nor any of its employees specifically promised they’d cover the cost of the second lot. He was simply told to use another parking facility.

I’m conflicted about this case. I know if I were in the same position as Fayvusovich, I’d be upset. I should have received a parking spot for $64. End of story. But technically, Premier made no promises of an available spot when it took his money, and it never said it would cover the cost of the second parking lot.

Should I step in and ask Premier to help this customer — and if so, what do you think he’s entitled to?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, Forbes and the Washington Post. He also publishes Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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