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Parking lots are turning into modern spoils system with PC overtures
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

I believe there is a special place in hell reserved by those who park in handicapped spaces that have no handicaps and the prerequisite placard or plate.

I get that there are those that abuse the system and somehow manage to either get the DMV to erroneously issue them one or else “borrow” one from a legitimate handicapped person.

I also do not assume that someone using a blue placard who looks perfectly healthy is indeed perfectly healthy as they could have an invisible handicap – heart or breathing issues – that aren’t readily telegraphed at all opportunities.

Keeping that in mind I’m not the person who circles a parking lot for five to 10 minutes trying to get as close to the front door as possible. I’m more of a park and get out of the car and go into the store kind of guy as opposed to those who undertake a massive hunt for a stall that is five feet closer to the one that they just passed up.

I will never understand how some people relate to parking.

Back in 1992 I overheard two ladies talking about the fabric section at Walmart. This was before the happy smile emoji people gave the fabric department the deep-six treatment when Bentonville realized they couldn’t squeeze enough profit from selling fabrics after successfully driving every small town fabric store out of business.

One said they still preferred a hometown fabric store as the selection was much better, the clerks more knowledgeable, and the prices weren’t all that different. The second lady said she had stopped going to it as she was tired of walking a half a block or so from where she parked her car.

If you have ever been to any Walmart even the handicapped parking often is not all that close to the front door. The fabric section was at the farthest possible point from the entrance in the far southwest corner.

Yet the lady was arguing when she made a trip specifically – and exclusively – to buy fabric that it was easier to do so at Walmart because of the parking.

I get if she was talking about parallel parking in heavy traffic. I avoid parallel parking between cars whenever I can. But she was referring to the actual distance between where she parked her car and where the fabrics were located.

I’ve been going to InShape City since 1991. For the last 25 years I’ve driven to the gym less than five times. I have jogged there in rain, fog, darkness, below freezing, and even twice when it was snowing ever so slightly. I go a minimum of three times a week. It is a nice warm-up and cool down jog given it is 1.75 miles each way.

I get why people drive to the gym – time, distance, other appointments. What I don’t get are people who drive to the gym, bypass available spaces, and circle the parking lot several times looking for a closer stall.

These people are not handicapped and more often younger and in better shape than me. It is not uncommon when I come out of a group fitness class they are on a treadmill. If that makes sense to you we have to have a serious talk.

I’m not the type of person to be miffed about not getting close to a store entrance. However I’m beginning to wonder what retailers think of me as a customer given how subtly they work to relegate me to the back of the parking lot.

I was never wild about the idea that the “Employee of the Month” is carved out a special parking space from the prime stalls. Show how special they are by giving them a $100 bonus without sending a message to paying customers that employees count more than they do in the pecking order of the parking lot.

I get why spaces are set aside for online pickup orders although it is a strange way to tell traditional brick and mortar in-the-flesh shoppers what they mean to you.

What I’m not getting is the proliferation of “carve out” spaces for the remaining customers.

The ones for “expectant mothers” don’t raise too much ire given being pregnant can impact your physical movements as handicaps can. But spaces reserved for “mother with young children? What makes them more special than “90-plus-year-olds who are still relatively agile but don’t need a handicap placard” customer? Are young moms with children more harried than “young fathers with children”? Why aren’t the gender neutral police coming down on whoever is in charge of carving up the parking lot?

What about spaces reserved for “people with emotional service animals”? Are their struggles much different than someone that qualifies for a blue handicapped space?

And why wouldn’t you cater to VIP customers defined by those that spend $1,000 or more a month at your store? If anyone deserves preferential treatment its loyal customers that shop at your store as if they are on an outing to Costco.

By the way, who verified those that use preferential parking spaces that they are legit? One store has spaces reserved for veterans. Either I missed something or is the military now recruiting preteens who – after they are discharged – are barely old enough to qualify for a driver’s license and who rebel against four years of military service by wearing nose plugs and opt for a hairstyle right out of a KISS music video with the attitude to go with it? That’s who parked in such a “veterans” space outside the Modesto Lowe’s store.

I really don’t have an issue with veterans parking closer to the storefront but if you’re going to do something like that don’t cheapen the gesture by letting anyone abuse the privilege.

Perhaps since retailers are placing such a big emphasis on being understanding of customers with concerns du jour having to perhaps walk an additional 20 feet or so to enter a 140,000-square-foot store where everything is not conveniently located, perhaps they should go whole hog and create fully segregated parking lots. That way instead of mingling people can park with “like” people. There could be space for Trump supporters, anybody-but-Trump supporters, country music lovers, rap music lovers, Game of Throne fans, Big Bang Theory fans, those paying with cash, those paying with credit cards — you get the picture.

Then there is the issue of charging stations plopped down at newer stores for electric vehicles. Historically charging stations such as the ones Tesla puts in place are convenient but not on top of the front of stores. But retailers in a mad dash to cater to every splinter group they can are rolling out stores with charging stations having almost as prominent placing in parking lots as handicapped spaces.

There is a real danger in this. Forget for a moment most e-vehicle drivers get tax credits and have most of their use of streets and freeways in this state subsidized by draconian gas taxes paid by non-electric vehicle drivers. The real issue is that the demographics of those that drive e-vehicles show they typically have larger household incomes than those that drive vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Given we are under the jurisdiction of the federal 9th District Court of Appeals it is only a matter of time before homeless advocates succeed in getting the rights of non-customers stores chose to “discriminate” against codified. 

I can see it now. The court mandated pecking order for parking lot spaces – first the handicapped, then the homeless living in vehicles followed by e-vehicles. Then after that those who are protected classes under court rulings get preference in descending order of political correctness until the last stalls are set aside for middle class and working class families that are paying customers, have no other genders in their family besides male and female, and who pay their taxes on time.

It kind of makes you yearn for the days when parking lots were just that – parking lots – and not a politically correct spoils system.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.