Troubles plague winter parking pass sale
On the morning of Nov. 2, Chelsea Phillipo rolled out of bed at 7 a.m. and joined hundreds of other Mount Royal students online in hopes of obtaining a coveted open-lot parking pass for the winter semester.
Phillipo learned her lesson after last semester when she failed to buy a fall parking pass in July before they sold out in a record time of four days. Instead, the second-year psychology student acquired a fall pass for the S-10 lot located across the street from campus inside Currie Barracks.
“S-10 isn’t a bad parking place except for the fact that it is unpaved, there are no lines on the ground, people park where they feel like, there is no organization, people park too close and I have dents in my door that were not there before,” said Phillipo, who travels to campus from the southeast community of Forest Heights. “My car has since been keyed while parking there and I have almost been hit twice while trying to cross the street at the crosswalk.” Fed up, Phillipo made a conscientious effort to gain an on-campus pass for the winter semester.
According to Mount Royal’s parking and transportation services manager Stefan Durston, 1,300 open-lot passes were available for daytime parking this winter semester at $180 apiece to service Mount Royal’s ballooning student population of nearly 13,000 — the majority of whom attend daytime classes on campus.
An email sent out by Mount Royal’s parking office the week prior to the sale stated that passes would become available at 8 a.m.; however, Phillipo quickly learned that the sale had started early. She logged on and got through on her first try at 7:57 a.m.
“I was on the phone with my boyfriend who said it was already open so I went and checked and sure enough it was open,” Phillipo said. “When he tried to open the paying page, it was overloaded, but I tried after him and got through, so I typed all my information in and it went through.”
Moments later, Phillipo received an email to her myMRU account that confirmed her order, pending approval of her mother’s credit card which she had used for the transaction.
“This led me to believe that everything was fine and I didn’t think twice about it,” she said.
But the Mount Royal student learned two days later via a second email that she wasn’t exactly out of the woods.
“I got an email saying: ‘This email is to inform you that your credit card transaction to purchase a parking pass on Nov. 2 was not approved. Please visit us at the parking office located in the Faculty of Arts building by Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2009 to discuss your parking options for the winter semester 2010. After that date, a permit will not be available to you.’”
Phillipo quickly made sure there was enough money in her debit account and headed down to the parking office. The person behind the desk informed her that she likely typed in the wrong credit card number and now only S-10 passes remained available for purchase.
Angry, Phillipo asked for the numbers that she had entered during the transaction and phoned her mother to verify them. “I called my mom and read the number to her,” Phillipo recalled. “She said that those were the correct numbers and expiry date.”
Upon further inquiry, Phillipo says her mother learned from the credit card company that no attempt had been made to complete a transaction that morning.
“I was pissed,” Phillipo said. “If it had been that I made a typo then that would have been my fault and I would have to deal with my mistake, but it wasn’t a typo, and it wasn’t a maxed-out card.”
As it turns out Phillipo wasn’t alone in her struggles. Durston says that more than 100 transactions made that morning were declined. “In most cases it was a simple mistake, they put in the wrong credit card number or something like that,” he said.
Realizing the problem, the parking office held back enough S-10 passes to cover the declined transactions and sent out emails to the affected students. Durston says there was simply no way to hold open-lot passes because they had all been sold before 10 a.m. that morning.
“The fact of the matter is, they didn’t pay us for an open lot pass: they attempted to,” he said. “Personally, I think S-10 is actually better than the open lots. A lot of times you will get to the open lots and spend 15 minutes driving around looking for a parking spot whereas with S-10 you generally can just drive right into a space.”
Attempting to connect with fellow Mount Royal students who shared in her frustration, Phillipo decided to create a Facebook group called “I F***cking Hate Mount Royal Parking.” So far, the group has attracted 55 members, many of whom have their own horror stories to share. “I had to give my car to parents because I couldn’t get a pass and I live in residence,” wrote one member.
Despite the Facebook group and the transaction issues dealt with by Phillipo and others, Durston says the sale of winter parking passes actually went very smoothly in his eyes and only a few people were “unable to control their emotions.”
“Kids are kids, sometimes they don’t think things through,” he added.