Consumer Beware

Parking Meters Are A Scam


parking meter, scam, duped

Note:  Today’s post is a little tongue in cheek humor, mixed in with a little grumpy rumblings of someone that didn’t put enough change in the parking meter, topped off with just a little bit of truth.  Enjoy!

I parked my van, plugged some change into the parking meter and entered the building where my wife works. I sat down in a chair and waited for her to finish up for the day. I drop her off and pick her up each day so she doesn’t have to worry about finding and paying for parking.  I’ve done it a thousand times. On this particular day, she was running behind and it was a half an hour before we got back to the van.

There was a red envelope on the windshield.

I opened the envelope and inspected the piece of paper inside. The time on the ticket showed that it had been issued just a few minutes earlier, but well after the 15 minutes of parking I had purchased with my quarter. Doing a little investigation, I found that by paying my $17 ticket I would be contributing $12 to the general budget fund of my state, and the remaining $5 would go to my local county.

The parking meter is designed solely with the purpose of ripping you off. Seriously, think about it:

  • Overpayment : It’s almost impossible to know exactly how long you will be parked in that specific spot. Everything in life takes a variable amount of time. How many traffic lights you’ll have to wait for, how long you’ll stand in a checkout line, and whether you run into an old friend will all affect how long it takes you to finish whatever task you are engaged in. With that in mind, we plug enough change into a parking meter to cover the worst possible scenario. I commonly pull away from a parking meter with time left on the meter, which means I paid for more time than I used. In other words, I got ripped off.
  • Parking Violations: If you decide not to feed the meter, or you misjudge how long your task will take, you run the risk of getting a ticket. In my case, had I put in an extra $0.25, I would have avoided my ticket. That $0.25 that I didn’t put into the meter turned into a $17 fine. That fine represents a 6800% markup from the parking fee I should have paid. Rip off? Uh, yeah.
  • Location: Have you ever noticed that these devices are usually located in places that are the best parking spots for the hardest to reach businesses? Think about it, parking meters are usually located in downtown areas right outside businesses. Want a premium parking spot? You’re gonna pay for it.CleverDude_ParkingMeterScamPicImage courtesy of Stuart Miles at

The parking meter is a device designed to rip you off. Either you overpay or you run the risk of getting a fine that is a huge markup from the actual parking expense. So the next time you pull up to a parking meter, just know that it’s your city or county drooling at the prospect of ripping you off.

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • Weird! I just used a parking meter today for the first time in ages. We’re visiting a small town and it was 25 cents for 30 minutes. I honestly think we could’ve parked there all day and no one would’ve noticed.

    But you’re right, it is a scam in the same way gift cards are a scam: You either don’t use the whole amount and the store keeps the free money, or you go over the amount and the store sells more than they were expecting.

  • @Norm – True story about the gift cards – I can’t tell you how many gift cards I just throw away with 57 cents (or some stupid little amount on it) away.

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