ParkWhiz said it didn’t charge me for parking in Seattle — but then it did!

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By Christopher Elliott

When Grant Erwin tries to pay for parking at Seattle’s waterfront, a website called ParkWhiz charges him $115 — even though it claims his transaction didn’t go through. Can he get a refund?

Question

A parking lot on Seattle’s waterfront at the foot of Union Street ripped me off for over $115. When you park there, you have to go to a website called ParkWhiz and give them your credit card number. 

When I did that, the site told me definitely the transaction did not go through. After repeated attempts, I gave up. When I got home, I saw $115 in credit card charges. 

ParkWhiz answered my initial request for a refund, asking me to send a receipt (which I did), but since then, they have not responded at all. Their behavior is outrageous and shows Seattle’s new waterfront in a very bad light. Can you help me get my money refunded? — Grant Erwin, Kirkland, Wash.

Answer

I’m sorry to hear about the extra charges for parking. You were only there for a few hours and it looks like ParkWhiz charged you four times for the same spot. This should have been a no-brainer.

ParkWhiz is an online platform that lets you search, compare, and reserve parking spaces in various locations across North America. The platform connects drivers with parking lots, garages, and other parking providers to offer spots at up to a 50 percent discount.

But there are a few things you need to know about ParkWhiz — otherwise, you could end up with an unexpected parking charge or two.

How to use ParkWhiz

Using ParkWhiz is simple. Just visit its website or download its mobile app. Then enter your destination, and select the date and time you want to park.

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The platform will show you available parking options in the area, along with prices and reviews from other users. After you’ve selected your preferred parking spot, you can book it online and receive a confirmation email with instructions on how to access the parking lot. (Related: A full parking lot and a partial refund from Premier Parking.)

But there are a few things you need to be aware of:

Read the reviews, please

Multiple sources, including some of our readers, warn that you need to read the reviews before making a reservation. Some parking spaces have significant restrictions or are in areas that are difficult to reach or may have crime problems. (Related: Why won’t Econo Lodge pay my parking ticket?)

Mind the response time

ParkWhiz has a reputation for responding slowly to customer questions or not at all. ParkWhiz sees itself as an online platform and that should tell you everything you need to know. Watch for chatbots and other evidence of AI being used in its customer service interactions. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Don’t be afraid to go nuclear

If ParkWhiz stops responding to you and it owes you money, don’t be afraid to initiate a credit card dispute to get your money back. It may be necessary if ParkWhiz continues to send you automated responses or gives you the silent treatment.

What went wrong with your parking charges in Seattle?

ParkWhiz asked you for a receipt of your parking spot, which you readily provided. And that reminds me: It’s not just important to keep a receipt. If a website says your transaction didn’t go through, and you suspect it may charge you again, take a screenshot. That will prove that something glitched on your end of the transaction and it will make a refund easier to get.

It’s unclear why ParkWhiz stopped communicating with you after you furnished it with your receipt. But I have my suspicions. ParkWhiz works through an app on your phone. It issues a mobile parking pass once you’ve paid for your spot. But it’s difficult to verify if a car has actually used that spot. (Related: Help! I got a rental car bill I don’t think I deserve.)

ParkWhiz, which is just an intermediary between you and the parking lot operator, would have to contact the operator to ask if it has any records that the spot was used. That might explain the wait time.

ParkWhiz parking passes are fully refundable before the start time on the pass unless otherwise noted. So you could have canceled your reservation at any time up to the start of your reservation. But since you were already past the start time, the passes would have technically been nonrefundable if they existed.

Here’s how you could have avoided a parking charge

Lesson learned? If a transaction doesn’t go through, contact the company or your bank before trying again — and again. Otherwise, you could have multiple charges for the same product on your credit card and no way to get rid of them.

You contacted me 10 days after your parking fiasco, which was understandable. But you might have given ParkWhiz a little more time to resolve this. Personally, I think showing it a receipt should have been enough, and who pays for the same spot four times? But still, I think a fair amount of time would have been two weeks. You were close enough.

I contacted ParkWhiz on your behalf. 

“It worked!” you said in a follow-up email the next day. “Today, they refunded all charges!”

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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 three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and 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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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