Wrongful, Unlawful, And Unfounded
Grudges are long-lasting. And sometimes rightfully so. Even after 20 years, a story will be worth telling because of its bitterness and frustration. However, they usually entail fascinating details about a time some of us may have forgotten about. Struggling to have your voice heard or to fight injustice was a lot different two decades ago than it is now.
One of the biggest disparities for people defending themselves was money. Money made things accessible. Well, it still does. However, there were things 20 years ago you may not have had as free access to as you do now. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.
One of the most impressive finds was the internet. It was confounding and fascinating and expensive. Only the wealthiest or those with certain jobs were able to readily access it.
And so begins the story of a son who used his privileged access for justice, in a time where there seemed to be none.
Making Things Difficult
It was 20 years ago, and as I mentioned, the internet was “a new and wondrous thing.” Only the rich and certain companies had it. Around this time there were many other things being taken over and ruled unfairly. One of these things being handled poorly was parking. “Parking on private land was (essentially) unregulated and cowboy companies were clamping and/or fining people for parking with absolutely no saving throw for any violation.” This created a very tenuous relationship between parking companies and the public since they were “universally loathed.” The companies had gotten smart and realized they didn’t have to put a physical address anywhere for the company. The parking companies had been getting so much hate and complaints, they made sure not to disclose their real location. These companies rarely even had a phone number associated with the company. “They really did not want angry people walking in to see the manager.”
The only way to communicate with them was a PO Box number. This was the only way to reach them if you felt you were being treated unfairly. And this was the only way of paying debts owed for parking violations.
Basically, the parking people only wanted people to be able to send a check to them for violation and nothing else. So they made it very difficult to make complaints. This wasn’t going to stop “Tyler” though. And a parking violation plus access to the internet became a very successful combination in his mother’s favor.
Movie Ticket Turned Parking Ticket
Tyler’s mom went to the theater for a movie. She parked in a blue spot, the disabled parking. She came back to her car to find a ticket on her windshield. It stated she had wrongly parked in the disabled spot. Tyler’s mom “Cathy” was taken aback. The blue badge was where it always was, on the dashboard, clear as day. There was no mistaking it. So either the officer was blind or they did not care. It was most likely the latter. Lately, parking had become something of a hot spot for wrongful fining.
Cathy was beside herself because she knew she had kept the badge on her dash. She knew she was wrongfully fined, but had no idea what to do about it. Unfortunately, this was before photo evidence was a thing, so it was her word against whoever wrote the ticket. And let’s take a guess whose side they’d be taking? It wouldn’t be Cathy’s.
Cathy was stuck in a really tough position. She knew this was unfair and wanted to do something about it. However, the only thing she could do was to write a complaint to the PO Box listed on her ticket. She “explained that she had a disabled permit and was allowed to park where she did.” Sweet, simple, concise, and honest. She had done all she could and now she would have to wait.
She finally got an answer from the parking authorities. They responded saying her fine was now doubled and she had only seven days before they would take action in court. This sounded like a threat. It was almost as if they don’t expect anyone to actually let it go to court, they expect people will just give in and pay the money.
So now Cathy had been wrongfully fined, filed a complaint, and now her fine was doubled and she was expected in court. Things had escalated very quickly. She finally called Tyler, in tears over her situation. She explained all the details from the beginning.
Tyler immediately went to her house to go over everything with her. This was the first he was hearing about any of this and wanted to “comfort her and collect the papers she had,” so he could figure out a solution. There had to be a fix to this problem! Tyler was determined to figure it out.
The first thing Tyler did was to get Cathy to sign a document allowing him to take over authority from her in the situation legally. This way he could act on her behalf during the process of getting this mess cleaned up. He gathered up the materials: “the original fine ticket, their reply to Mum’s letter, and her blue badge.”
Tyler assured his mom he had everything under control and she had nothing to worry about. Tyler was sure he could deal with this predicament. He worked in insurance and his specific company was fairly large and well known. There was one specific advantage to Tyler’s position and this was his access to the internet in the work library.
Remember, the internet was a hot commodity. And the parking company didn’t know who had access and who didn’t.
Without the internet, Tyler’s plan would have taken months. Just getting a little bit of information would take weeks. However, he was in luck, well his mom was. The internet was new so there wasn’t much on it compared to nowadays; however, there was one very important site and this was something called “Companies House, where you could get the information companies must disclose to be lawful.” Even then, there were laws put in place to protect people from corrupt business practices. It was hard information to find, but Tyler would do anything to help his mom out.
After his search, he found out some good details. He now had “the names and addresses of the two company directors and the registered address” of the parking authority, who gave his mother the fine. What was even better was the address turned out to be “between where [he] worked and where [he] lived, and [he] passed it twice a day.” What are the odds? The address could have been so much further away. But now his plan could move forward easily. Well, or so he thought. When on his way to work the next morning, he realized the address was bogus. In place of where a building should be for the parking authority, it was a building site. The whole block was being torn down and re-built for new student housing for a nearby college. Tyler had to figure out a plan b.
Tyler told his wife, “Leah” everything to get her opinion. You know the phrase, wife knows best. And she did. Leah pointed out something so obvious yet so obscure. Where were the parking police getting their post? Tyler had a lightbulb moment. The parking authority, “must have told the Post Office they have moved and have not needed to change the PO Box number they are using.”
Tyler couldn’t wait to get back to the internet the next day at work. He began doing a bit of looking into “the Post Office and PO box numbers.”
He ended up calling the Post Office and made sure to “ask to speak to the most senior person available.”
The senior post officer answered, “how can I help you, sir?”
Tyler responded, “I’ve got a problem with Parking Co. They’re threatening my mother and ‘hiding’ behind a PO Box number, which I believe to be an offense. I know the company is registered at 201 and as you may know 201 is a large building site.”
The senior post officer said, “Can I call you back, sir?”
This was a very grueling wait while Tyler had no idea if his plan had worked. He knew there was something wrong with the whole building site address and PO Box debacle, but he didn’t know if he had all of the right information to get him what he needed.
It was a rough hour before they called back. It all came down to this conversation.
The postman said to Tyler, “Hello sir. I’ve inquired and you are correct. Even if we needed proof of the ‘threats,’ they’ve broken several post office rules and were only still getting their post as they have only moved 50 yards from where they were and have the same postman.”
It seemed more people than just Tyler was confused about this whole thing. Even the postman delivering the mail had been confused. Tyler had brought it all to the surface and now they had to deal with it.
Tyler asked the postman what would happen now this was all uncovered.
The postman replied, “I’ll block all their mail at the sorting office and will only release it when I’m satisfied you have been contacted.”
Tyler was still on edge and asked, “But how do I contact them?”
Clearly, their mail wasn’t going to get to them.
The postman said, “Bring a letter to the sorting office before 8:00 PM tonight, ask for me, and I’ll make sure it is delivered tomorrow.”
Tyler was more than happy with this arrangement.
Dear Parking Co
And so Tyler wrote a letter read like this:
“Dear [Parking Company]
Re: My Mum
I act with full authority of my Mum.
On [date] at [place], your company representative placed a penalty notice on her car for parking in a marked disabled bay. She admits this but maintains she was displaying her blue badge. I attached a copy of the badge.
In an effort to contact you, I contacted Companies House and thereby discovered you were not at the registered address you were supposed to be at. This is an offense and I have reported this to Companies House with a view to having the company and its directors struck off.
I subsequently contacted the Post Office and they also take a dim view of moving without telling them. As such, they have suspended your mail until you contact me with your address.
I actually care not what your address is! But I will tell the Post Office I am happy as soon as I hear from my mother that she is happy.
Tyler gave the letter to the Postman, who was smiling upon his arrival. They were all ecstatic to finally solve this issue. Postman told Tyler it wasn’t uncommon for the parking company to receive “around 500 letters a day usually but tomorrow just this one as he took my letter from me.”
Tyler went home calm and ready for what would come of his scheme with Postman. He poured himself a drink and called Cathy. She was elated a solution may have been found. She told her son she would call if the parking company contacted her.
And what do you know, “the call came just after 1:00 pm the following day.” Cathy recounted the details to Tyler and “said a lovely man had turned up on her doorstep with a letter saying the matter was dropped, apologizing for any inconvenience and carrying a massive bouquet of flowers.” Cathy said the man even mentioned she should call Tyler and tell him what had occurred.
The power was in Tyler’s hands when the Post Office called and asked if the matter was resolved and if the parking company’s mail could be released. And although Tyler still didn’t approve of what had transpired and everything he and his mother had to go through, he knew his job was done. And “as far as [he] was concerned they could have their mail again.”