He parked his car and they took it for a joyride

It’s like a scene from the 80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Minus the Ferrari, maybe. And the Star Wars soundtrack.

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And it happened to Richard Nadler when he parked his car at Premier Parking USA at the Port of Miami before taking a recent seven-day cruise. The $63 price was right, but what he says happened next was not.

When he returned from his vacation, he noticed a warning light: low tire pressure.

“We wanted to get home quickly so we went looking for a gas station to add air to the tires,” he says. “As we were traveling, we noticed a pile of sand in the back seat and that all the mirrors had been moved.”

Nadler hadn’t been to the beach before taking his cruise.

“When we turned on the radio we found all the stations on AM, FM, and Sirius radio had been changed,” he says. “Looking at the odometer we realized that there were 25 more miles on it from when we left the car.”

Nadler concluded that someone had taken his car for a spin while he was away. He was not happy about it.

He called Premier Parking USA immediately.

I’ll let him describe what happened next.

I reached a recording which stated no one was available to take my call. It said to leave a message and that I’d hear back in 24 hours.

I called back three hours later hoping to speak to someone, but received the same message.

I never received a return call, so I called again the next day. I received the same message, left another to be called back with my telephone number.

I went to the website and wrote an e­mail. After two days, I still did not receive any replies. I e­mailed again.

After a few more days I called again and I finally spoke to a representative who said they’d handle the claim if I’d send them a copy of the police report that I filed on the day of the incident.

I told him that I didn’t file a police report because I waited to find out what Premier Parking wanted me to do. I told him that if he’d called back and told me to file a police report I would have.

He told me he was sorry that there was nothing he could do and he hung up. I called back and no one answered.

Well, OK.

“Employees were joyriding in customers’ cars while they were away,” he says. “I am requesting a full refund of $63.”

Does he deserve a refund? The terms he agreed to say: probably not.

Disclaimer of Consequential Damages

Premier Parking USA, its suppliers, parking lot owners and managers, hotel owners and managers, or any third parties mentioned on this web site shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever including, but not limited to, incidental and consequential damages, loss of profits, loss of income, or damages resulting from lost data or business interruption resulting from the use or inability to use the web site and the information, whether based on warranty, contract, tort, or any other legal provision. You agree to hold harmless Premier Parking USA. and its Associates whether or not any party is advised or has knowledge of the possibility of such damages.The aggregate liability for Premier Parking USA. and it’s Associates, parking lot owners, and hotel owners to you for any and all claims arising from the use of this web site and information is limited to no greater than the cost of the parking reservation.

Should Nadler have read this? Probably. Or maybe one of these scathing reviews about the company posted online. Phrases like “do not use” and “scam” tend to be big red flags flapping in that warm offshore breeze in Miami.

I asked Nadler for a paper trail and he sent me his outbound emails, but no reply — not even an acknowledgment — from the company. That was troublesome. So, in breaking with tradition, I sent an email to Premier Parking, asking if it could help answer his query.

I say “breaking” with tradition because this feature, “Should I Take The Case?” is supposed to be an unvetted case where you tell me if I should be the advocate. By sending an email, I’m technically advocating.

But let’s not get hung up on technicalities. Unsurprisingly, Premier Parking USA ignored my email to its general inbox. So should I take this to the next level and push for a refund for Nadler? Or should he have known better, and is this a lesson learned?

Should I take Richard Nadler's case?

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Update: I just heard from Nadler. Perhaps my email got through to the right person, after all. Here’s what he had to say:

Heard back from company and spoke with William Garcia, who identified himself as the director of the claims department. He asked for particulars, which I gave him. He said he’d get back to me in 24-48 hours after investigating. I have not heard from him since. I called twice yesterday and left messages today also.

I’ll keep you posted on this case.

75 thoughts on “He parked his car and they took it for a joyride

  1. I’d take the case at this point, but largely just to get their side of the story.. I don’t know what happened here, and at present we have only one side of it. I don’t know if Premier or it’s employees did wrong, or if it was someone outside of Premiers control… or if we haven’t been told the whole set of facts and without omission.

    I do agree that perhaps an immediate call to the police would have been helpful as in most jurisdictions the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (UUMV) is a criminal act, not an infraction. So, it’s possible there *may* have been a crime committed here.. as such, I’d want to get it officially documented so that IF later on there are serious issues, there’s an official record to fall back on or to supports ones position.

    I do however agree that at this point, the companies silence on the matter is disturbing, but to me, is not an omission of fault or liability.

    1. I like to think of myself as a pretty savvy customer, but it honestly never would have occurred to me to call the police over this, not unless there was actual damage to the car. I’m betting that the lot counts on that kind of thinking: no police report from the day of the incident? Oh, so sorry, but we can’t help you.

  2. Part of me certainly wants to see Nadler’s cause followed up with, because no one likes to hear about creepy companies. But the other part of me says that you need to check out a company’s reputation (either through online reviews, the BBB, etc.) before entering into business with them. If it sounds too good to be true (and as mentioned, the “$63 price was right”, then there had to have been somewhere where the company was cutting costs, that gaffe apparently being loose rules in the care of the cars entrusted to them. Also given that Premier barely gave Nadler the time of day despite several follow-ups, this might be, very unfortunately, time spent to no resolve. (I just pulled up Premier on the BBB site, and their grade is an “F”. Nearly 82% of the 146 complaints registered with Premier over a three-year period were due to problems with products or services. It doesn’t get any sleazier than that, and I’m surprised they’re even still in business. (In fact, I think a particular Seinfeld episode was inspired by Premiere-esque shenanigans!) Shame on this establishment.

    1. They are still in business because the vast majority of consumers make decision based on price alone, never bothering to do any research or read any reviews.

    2. One thing to remember, most reporting anything to the BBB are doing so due to an issue. How many of us contact an organization like the BBB when nothing went wrong?

      1. The BBB rates companies based on both how many complaints they have and how many of those complaints have gone unresolved. If they have an “F”, that means that they’re not taking care of customer complaints. No one reports good service to the BBB, because that’s not how the BBB works. Someone makes a complaint, and they talk to the company to see if the complaint is valid. If the company doesn’t respond to the BBB or doesn’t settle the issue in a way the BBB approves pf, it counts against their record. The grades are not based on a percentage happy versus percentage not happy system.

  3. Those terms do not waive them from liability. When a company’s employees do something that is so clearly out of scope of what you are paying them for (parking), something possibly even criminal, it doesn’t matter what they do or don’t print on their contract.

    1. Exactly this. Chris should stop trying to be an attorney because he’s not one. Their terms and services went out the window when their employees perpetrated a criminal act.

      1. The issue is that if they have that in their terms, that’s something to be wary of, I think. They’re obviously trying not to take any responsibility.

    2. Agreed. That “waiver” doesn’t really waive anything. Its so vague and general and doesn’t specifically release the company from negligent acts or intentional acts in connection with its parking services.

      1. That’s the thing… no matter what you print in your contract, it’s simply not possible to waive yourself from liability for gross negligence or criminal conduct by your employees.

        Of course, you could just write an arbitration clause in there, so the luckless consumer is barred from small claims.

  4. Its early and I haven’t had coffee…..the only thing I am thinking is “I hope it was a cool car”.

    It would kind of suck to get fired over a Hyundai.

  5. So, he wants his parking fees refunded. A business with some customer service aspect to it might agree, but there’s no doubt in my mind that this is a flight-by-night outfit that’s only interested in what a customer needs before they get paid for parking. Afterwards — if the customer tries to reach them, they see it as a waste of their time, and generally ignore them.

    As he discovered himself.

    So, he’s not getting a refund. Taking this case would be a waste of time.

    Does he have any damages? Well, what’s the going per-mileage reimbursement rate, set by the IRS? I think it’s somewhere around 60 seconds per mile now. So, if he could document the mileage, he’s entitled to somewhere around 15 bucks.

    Good luck taking this case to small claims court. If you can actually prove the extra mileage.

    Lesson learned: document the mileage when you drop off the car for parking, and when you pick it up. Examine the car for damage, as if you were the one returning a rental.

    Otherwise, well, you’re SOL.

  6. They may use language to indemnify themselves, but obviously they had his keys. I’m not sure of Florida law, but wasn’t there a bailment created there? They can’t write their way out of liability. The only issue is that it was not addressed as soon as the car was picked up.

    Carver might have some insight on this one…

    1. I would say if it is apparent that the car was driven with the keys, (ie, no signs of hot-wiring or bypassing the regular starter system) they’re legally liable.

      I’ve seen cases where the parking company was able to deny damages done to the car while it was in their possession based on the fact they’d secured the car but vandals or thieves broke into the lot to get at the car. But here you’re talking about somebody getting access to the keys and actually taking the vehicle out of the lot, then returning it to the lot, all without detection. The car was never secured so how can they not be liable?

  7. I wonder if they tried running it in reverse to take the mile off?

    The only thing that wasn’t clear is if they had his keys while he sailed. If so, this is a pretty slam dunk case (note to self: If this ever happens, file a police report ASAP).

    If not, the company might have some wiggle room but it begs the question… who steals a car and then returns it.

    1. I concur. It appears the poster left his keys with the car. This reminds me to choose a parking lot where I park the car and take the keys with me.

    2. Reverse no longer works. Feds mandated that reverse won’t run the odometer backwards any more.
      You are right: file report immediately. Photograph mileage when you leave it and when you get it. Lock the gas tank if possible, and leave only fumes in the tank – just enough to let them move the car around the lot.

      1. Have you seen Ferris Bueller’s day off?

        I guess I could have put … “I guess they didn’t try running it in reverse since it didn’t end up in a ravine…”

  8. When one takes a car to a car park for parking, one expects it to be parked. I’d hope that is somewhere in the contract, as well — and I would think driving the car around by an employee off-lot is not a case of incidental damage,

    Were I the owner, I’d be asking fair market costs to rent his make and model in that market, since that’s what happened.

  9. Makes me wonder how bad you have to be to get such bad reviews and “F” rating simply parking cars. If they are truly as bad as it seems, advocating will more than likely get you nowhere. Sounds like they just need to be put out of business permanently.

    And curious, was this valet type parking? I wouldn’t leave my keys with anyone if at all possible.

  10. I voted NO. The parking facility appears to be an unethical operation and I suspect it would be a waste of time for the Elliott staff to deal with them. Their valuable time could be spent elsewhere. (PS: I don’t like leaving my car keys with any parking facility, especially for a week.)

    1. In some parts of the country, or with some lots, leaving your keys with them is an expected, and quite reasonable, thing. There’s no getting around the fact that parking lot aisles take up a lot of space, and if land costs are high, not having the keys can drive up the land costs by 30-50%. If your land costs are high enough, it more than pays for the additional employees you need to shuffle cars around.

      1. OK, I’m trying to figure that one out. How would it save them money if they had your keys? If your vehicle is in a space, how would moving it help? The space the vehicle was occupying before is still a space in which the company owns and has available. I’m missing something….

        1. In a self-serve environment, the lot must be set up like your typical store parking lot or garage, which means at least 1/3rd of the lot space must be dedicated to aisles for cars to get in and out.

          If they keep the keys, they can stack cars bumper-to-bumper without aisle access for every single car; this saves tremendous space. Cars are parked by expected return date/time. If somebody shows up way out of order, the lot can shuffle the surrounding cars around to get the “trapped” car out.

          (In some dense inner-city lots, vehicles are even put on hoists so cars can be stacked on top of one another… obviously if the person on top shows up, the car underneath needs to be scooted out of the way.)

          1. When I was at UC Berkeley, some of the student parking lots were packed tighter with attendant parking in the aisles. At the time the daily parking rate from additional cars probably wasn’t enough to pay for the attendant, but it was a matter of finding more parking for students in a place with little parking.

        2. We have a lot of lots like this in NY. Also in Boston when I was working there, though they were more surface spots in Boston.

          1. Even in little Albany, NY there is at least one lot that has spaces that are two-deep. If the rearmost car has to leave, the car in front of it will be moved by an attendant to allow for that to be done. (I don’t park my car in that lot).

  11. Take this to the Port of Miami. All the businesses that operate have to have license/permit to do so. Tell them you are going to take it to the Florida Attorney General. This will at least get their attention.

    1. This is an interesting angle. I can imagine that cruise passengers tend to leave more high-end cars in parking lots than most airline passengers. The temptation for attendants to joyride would therefore be less resistable.

      1. This is not one of the parking lots operated by the Port of Miami. He wanted a cheaper option, and this one was – unfortunately.

  12. “Does he deserve a refund? The terms he agreed to say: probably not.”

    They say nothing of the sort. In fact, they say “The aggregate liability […] is limited to no greater than the cost of the parking reservation”, which is exactly what the LW is requesting.

    Additionally, the reference in that clause to “…any and all claims arising from the use of this web site…” doesn’t say anything about the use of the parking lot. So how do you conclude that they can take a customer’s car and drive it without any consequences?

  13. I had to vote no on this one. Not because I don’t think the case is valid and deserves to be resolved in favor of the LW, but because dealing with this company has already proven to be a waste of time due to their non responsiveness.

    I believe it is time for small claims court.

  14. I voted yes on this one, they had no business taking his car for a joyride and getting sand in it. Though I am curious if there was any actual damage to the car? Tire pressure can drop when a car sits for a long time or when there are barometric pressure of temperature changes. It also just drops over time and it could have been time. The lots that take the keys so they can move and re-arrange cars should be adjusting the mirrors when they move the cars for safety. I’ve also had cars that if you hit 1 button on the dash, it reprograms all of the presets which I find quite annoying. The 25 miles seems excessive, and the sand seems troublesome, which is why I voted yes, but I really don’t know what would be fare to give to the OP. Maybe a car wash and a partial refund would be fare? I wonder what kind of car the OP had that someone with access to a plethora of cars to joy ride in would want to choose this car over the others? I’m just curious, I don’t think its necessarily relevant to the case.

  15. Nothing in Premier Parking’s boilerplate absolves them of damages resulting from the theft and intentional misuse of customer property.

    Damages go far beyond $63.

    Parking not fulfilled: $63
    Full detail: $200 (interior and exterior)
    Rental fee: $560 (Hertz, no lead time, average car, fees included)

    Subtotal: $823

    Triple damages (punative): $2469 (yay…this falls within small claims)

    I’d give Premier a choice. Either they settle within two business days for $823 or they will be sued for triple damages of $2469. I would also make it clear that if they choose not to pay a judgement against them, my agents will impound and immediately sell their cash registers, computer systems, and any other tools and equipment until restitution is achieved.

    1. I agree. I think Premiere Parking is getting off too easy with just a refund of the parking charges! Sadly, I also think that without a police report or really strong photo documentation, he doesn’t have legs to stand on to get the damages beyond the parking charges.

    2. In Court.

      Parking lot owner “what a ridiculous claim. We would never use a customers car. What proof do you have?”

      LW”I found sand in the car and it had another 25 miles on it”

      Judge “What documentation do you have? None? Case dismissed.”

      Parking lot owner”This was a frivolous lawsuit filled with intent to harm our business, we ask for our attorney’s fees.”

      The judge could now make this a very expense trip to court.

  16. I’d definitely file a police report–the law doesn’t allow for their disclaimers to hold up if they took it for a ride–jusk because you signed it doesn’t give them rights to “break” the law by taking it for a 25 mile ride. Just because it’s in their writing doesn’t free them according to Fla laws. I hope he took pictures of the sand and radio stations, and has copies of emails (and maybe get a phone log from phone company) Police Report!!!!!

  17. I leave my car at those parking lots around the airport. You do wonder if it will actually be there when you return but I have never had a problem. I think I would put this one down to experience. There was no real damage done but an apology is definitely in order and perhaps a voucher for next time with the assurance it wouldn’t happen again.

  18. Yes, take the case. The standard form disclaimer covers things that happen to your car whole it in their lot, such as bird poop or a dent while it is being moved on the lot. If LW can prove that someone took the car out for a joyride, the disclaimer doesn’t apply.

    If he can’t get satisfaction that way, take the case to the Court of Internet Review Site Appeals. It’s the one venue in which the little guy can always be heard.

  19. “Does he deserve a refund? The terms he agreed to say: probably not”

    If it was employees of the parking company that took the joyride, or if the car was “borrowed” because the parking company didn’t properly secure his key, those terms almost certainly do not matter.

  20. I’d like to hear what Premier Parking USA has to say for themselves, which is probably “not our fault. . Nadler might have to file a lawsuit given how they’re stonewalling.

  21. It’s too bad he didn’t spot the problem before he left. I had a similar issue once, with an automotive repair shop, and what saved me was that I saw it immediately. Although my story has a bit more drama to it. 😉

    I’d dropped my car off for a minor service, and used an independent service shop instead of the dealer because it was a minor repair and they were cheaper. I came back to pick my car up and noticed immediately that there were oily footprints in the carpet and dirt on the seats, and when I checked the mileage it was 127 miles higher!

    I told the manager that he was going to have to get my car cleaned and reimburse me for the miles driven. He refused, and in fact denied that anything had happened and challenged me to prove it…even though I had the receipt on which the mileage at drop-off was noted! He just said it must have been written wrong, and stood his ground. I refused to pay for the repair and left.

    Later that night my husband and I snuck into their lot and, using our extra key, drove the car away. Yes, I realize this could have been construed as a criminal act, but we took that chance. Sure enough, the next day I got a phone call from the manager and I told him yeah, I took my car, and I would be happy to pay him for the work he did if he deducted what he owed me. He said “I’ll see you in court” and hung up.

    So I took it to a car wash and had it fully cleaned and detailed. I typed up an invoice for that amount, plus a per-mile amount, and deducted it from what I owed him, which left $65. I went back to the shop with the $65 in cash and my invoice in an envelope, walked in and handed it to the manager, and walked out.

    I never heard from him again. And I told everyone I know not to use that shop.
    It went out of business two years later.

  22. You can tell by my “name” I live in Miami. A few thoughts:

    1. After reading the remarks of customers, anyone
    who parks there must be daft.

    I don’t believe the Port itself has any parking,
    so all parking has to be at a distance.

    3. We have a new tunnel for access from major highways (I-95) which makes access to the Port very easy.

    4. For those who plan on spending a night at a hotel before boarding the ship: most hotels have parking and a cab ride is most economical and efficient.

    5. If you’re flying in, consider parking at the airport and taking a cab to the Port… you will have to return to the airport to fly back home.

    6. If there are insufficient taxis after the boat trip, consider UBER.

  23. Dang it. My brain isn’t remembering the proper legal term, and Dr Google isn’t helping. But in short, in most places, the laws state that when you pay someone to take care of something for you there is a ‘reasonable expectation’ that there won’t be intentional acts causing damages.

    The waiver is for things out of a business’s control. If you park in an open-area parking lot and a seagull drops a clam on your windshield and shatters it, the business is not responsible because there’s no ‘reasonable expectation’ that this is going to happen. On the other hand, if you pay a company to watch your house while you are away and an employee uses it to have a wild party and causes damage, the business IS responsible because there’s a ‘reasonable expectation’ that your house won’t be used in such a manner.

    1. I can’t recall the term either, but you nailed it. The company is absolutely responsible for their own irresponsible or criminal acts, disclaimer notwithstanding. The disclaimer does not give them license to do whatever they want with their client’s property. So I’m not really sure why Christopher stated that the terms mean the LW is “probably not” owed a refund…I think he’s putting too much stock in that disclaimer.

      Your analogy is perfect: hiring a security company to watch your house does not give them legal license to have a party there. And paying a company to store your car does not give them legal license to drive wherever they want with it. I’d like to see an attorney try to make a legal claim otherwise.

    2. The legal term you’re looking for is “bailment”. The car owner is the bailor, and the parking lot is the bailee. In a case such as this, the bailee owes the bailor an obligation of care, which has certainly been violated here. Get a full refund; sue in small claims court; publicize what happened on as many social websites as you can; picket; call the cops; bring down the wrath of H— on ’em. (yeah, I’m really annoyed with this one)

      This was absolutely unacceptable, from the way they treated the car to the way they treated the owner. There’s no excuse for what happened, and they can’t absolve themselves of liability by saying they’re not liable. Doesn’t work that way.

      And who (13%) thinks that Chris (and by inference, the LW) should just lie back and accept this???

      1. From some of the comments in here I suspect most people voting “no” on this one are doing so not because they think the LW should lie back and accept it, but because they think the company is a scam operator and it’s a lost cause, so why bother.

        I can’t imagine anyone thinks that this is a reasonable risk in utilizing the services of a car park.

        1. Okay. I can understand that. (Although it seems that in fact there are perhaps some avenues to follow to get some satisfaction.)

          1. I certainly hope so! I’d like to believe that when a US-based business commits a crime against me or my property (as obviously happened here) that I am not just screwed.

  24. I also say to escalate it if he hears nothing further. This happened to me at a parking place too – except there was no joyriding, but the drivers seat of my car was pushed all the way back as if someone had been sleeping in it and the radio station was changed.

  25. From what I saw in the “disclaimer”, it was relating to the use of the website, not to employee use of an individuals vehicles.

    As taxed mentioned, they should report it to the police as he never gave permission for his vehicle to be used by the staff there. If the company drove the vehicle to where it was parked (valet), that’s one thing, but a 25 mile trip? I hope he took pics of the inside of the car and any other evidence he could gather.

    1. We have a car park at SFO that you drive up, leave your keys with them, get on the shuttle and head off. When you get off the plane, you call them, they pick you up, your car is brought out and is waiting for you. Love it and I trust them. Same with the park and fly hotel we use. We leave our keys, they move the car after we take the shuttle to the airport. Then on the return, they drop us off right at our car. Love it! This hotel does so much business with their park and fly that if something like this situation were to happen, they would be out of business within days of word getting out.

    2. That hardly would save you from all parking lot issues. I’ve heard of problems with people having their cars broken into, even to the point of finding their cars up on blocks with all the wheels stolen. Christopher had a case like that at a hotel parking garage maybe a year ago. And much like this case they argued their fine print exempted them from responsibility.

  26. Learned this from an owners forum of relatively expensive cars:

    1. Never valet

    2. Never park without keeping the key

    3. For specific models, make sure your service adviser knows you marked mileage when you dropped off the car for service. Request them to call you for authorization if test drive is necessary. Some of these cars were very famously (went viral on Internet) been wrapped around telephone poles while joyridden by service techs.

    Since I take pride in ownership of my even “normal” cars, I follow the three points above for all cars I own – minus the phone authorization in point 3. If business doesn’t leave me a choice, I don’t do business with them. Nobody gets my car’s keys. Period.

    Oh, by the way … my wife worked in car dealerships for 20 years before completely changing career. This is not Internet infection with best-of-the-month paranoia, this is from good source.

  27. Catching up after being on the road. Like many people I check my mirrors before setting off. Rear view mirrors can get moved when you are shifting around getting things out of the front seat. Side mirrors can often be folded in by either the driver or someone goofing off. I have a difficult time believing he did not notice the mirrors had been moved until he was driving. I guess I am too much of a skeptic but a few of his details are hard to believe. Noticing the pile of sand in the back while traveling? Really?

  28. There was a recent instance, fairly parallel to this, in the Portland, OR area: family brought a car into a local independent repair shop with a good reputation. A call from the shop told them they’d be getting a red-light-camera ticket soon, from the foreman of the shop taking the car out for a test ride. When the ticket showed up (with photo proof), the time noted was 2:59 am, the morning of the day after Halloween, and the foreman, the shop owner’s son, was accompanied by a woman. Publicity from a local tv station led the shop owner to back down from his original position that this was fine and dandy to forbidding their staff from driving customer’s cars after hours and refunding the entire $2K plus of the bill the family had paid for the original repairs.

  29. That’s why I use official airport parking, worth the extra price to know who you are dealing with. I know that some of the other parking companies are reliable but who’s to know which ones are?

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