These boots are made for parking

Elizabeth Cook

Matt Palmieri parked his truck behind Domino’s Pizza on Oak Street Southeast and went to a nearby florist shop Wednesday afternoon.

The entrepreneur management junior said he was gone only three minutes, but when he returned he discovered his car had been “booted.”

Palmieri said it cost him $119.50 to get the boot removed.

Vehicle immobilization, or booting, is used to lock a vehicle’s front left tire so the car can’t be driven, and only a key can remove it, according to a city of Minneapolis ordinance.

Palmieri had to pay cash to remove the boot. He said the company told him that if he paid with a check, he would have to mail it and wait to get his car; if he paid with a credit card, he would have to go to the main office to pay.

Alex Oman, supervisor for CPES Parking Enforcement, the company in charge of booting for that parking lot, said cash and checks are accepted. But he wasn’t sure of the protocol for check payment, because, he said, part of the ordinance was new. He said his boss, who wasn’t available for comment, would know.

Oman said getting a car booted is better and cheaper than getting towed, and when it happens, a student knows where their car is.

“Out of all the options, this one’s best,” Oman said.

It costs about $100 to get the boot removed, but there may be additional service fees, depending on the lot.

Palmieri said the time in which he got booted “was probably the worst possible time.”

He just drove back from Chicago after his mother’s funeral, and when he explained this, he said the man who removed the boot was nasty.

“He told me to basically shut up and that I was wasting his time,” Palmieri said.

Oman said his employees normally try to make the best of the situation and act courteous, and if Palmieri really feels wronged, he can write a letter to the company and may get a refund.

According to the city ordinance, booting is legal, but only if the business doing the booting has a license. Also, the workers must wear some sort of uniform or name tag, and payments must be accepted in any way the Minneapolis Impound Lot accepts payments, which is cash, check or credit card.

Ron Reier, spokesman for Minneapolis Police Department, said booting is done only for private businesses and not city streets.

“We have received complaints about booting,” Reier said. But, it’s not affiliated with the city; it’s a civil matter, not criminal.

Grant Wilson, manager of licenses and consumer services for the city, said there is a complaint system set up for when someone believes illegal activity has taken place.

“We follow up on every complaint,” Wilson said. “Sometimes, we find violations, others we don’t.”

People have filed many complaints with the city about the Dinkytown Hollywood Video and Pizza Hut parking lot, but Wilson said the signs on the building are clear enough.

Jacob Walls, a University of St. Thomas global studies junior, said he parked his car in the lot three weeks ago, and then went to the convenience store across the street.

Walls said he was gone for about five minutes, but when he returned his car had a boot that cost $100 cash to remove.

“I don’t like the idea that they don’t accept checks,” Walls said. “What’s gonna stop this guy from pocketing five cars, putting 500 bucks in his pocket?”

Matthew Becka, owner of Parking Solutions Inc. said Hollywood Video has hired his company to watch its parking lot.

There is a sign at the entrance saying someone is watching the vehicles, Becka said.

Hollywood Video hired the company because occasionally customers haven’t been able to find a place to park because others were illegally parking in its lot, Becka said.

They were using a towing service, but that wasn’t working as well. With booting, it takes only 30 seconds, Becka said. But they normally give people five to 10 minutes after leaving the parking lot, in case they were going to an ATM to rent a movie.

Parking Solutions charges $99.75 to remove a boot.

When asked about the night Walls was asked to pay cash, Becka said, “I have no idea why that would happen.” He went on to say it must have been because the mobile credit card machine was down.

No money is exchanged between Parking Solutions and Hollywood Video, Becka said. His company makes all its money off the vehicles that are booted.

Pizza Hut shares the parking lot, and customers going there also must be careful.

There are a series of spots designated for Pizza Hut in the parking lot, which Pizza Hut customers can use. But, if they park in the Hollywood Video parking spots, especially during the weekend, they could get booted, Becka said.

Parking Solutions used to work for Pizza Hut, but Becka said it doesn’t anymore.

Hollywood Video and Pizza Hut employees said they were not allowed to comment for this story.