Impark’s Scheme to Force People to Use Their Parking Lots [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on October 22, 2007

UPDATE (Monday October 22 @ 2:16 EDT): There’s been an interesting development in this story — see the end of this post for details.

Photo of Impark employee placing pylons to block people from using free street parking
An Impark employee places pylons along Commissioners St. before the Cirque du Soleil show, preventing motorists from parking free of cost. Photo taken from the Toronto Star — click to see the original.

One reason I bike whenever possible is that it frees me from having to deal with this city’s Parking-Industrial complex, the worst of whom are the parking lot operators. Once, after my car got stolen from a parking lot, I had to deal with a parking lot attendant who did his level best to prevent me and a police officer from looking at the space from which my car got jacked. He insisted that I had never parked there nor had my car been stolen from there in spite of two corroborating witnesses and a bunch of suspicious-looking broken glass where I had parked. I understand that they’re not liable if your car gets stolen, but they’re not supposed to actively hinder my recovering my ride just to preserve the lot’s reputation, either.

As a result, it wasn’t terribly surprising to read in the Toronto Star that employees of a lot run by Impark close to where Cirque du Soleil have been performing have been running a little scam. Prior to performances, they’ve been placing pylons in front of the curbs on Commissioners street, where parking is legal and free of charge in order to fool drivers into thinking that they’re not allowed to park there. Since Cirque du Soleil is a special limited-time event, the fee for parking at the nearby Impark lot is $15.

The Star approached an Impark employee who was placing the pylons prior to a Cirque du Soleil show last Thursday:

Impark logoOn Thursday afternoon, we went to Commissioners just before 5 p.m. Shortly after, we observed a man taking pylons out of the trunk of his car and placing them on Munition and then Commissioners Sts. We asked if there was no parking on Commissioners.

“That’s right, no parking,” he said.

We asked who he worked for.

“The parking,” he replied, motioning towards the Impark lot.

We asked him several times if he knew what authority or permission, if any, that his supervisor had to restrict parking on a public road. He refused to answer and finally sped away in his car.

A follow-up article in today’s Star reports that Impark stopped placing cones to block access to free parking after their ran their article. Impark has yet to return their calls for their side of the story (which I suspect is “We are scum”).

Some tips for not being scammed by parking lot operator schemes like Impark’s:

  • Movie location company pylons usually have the location company’s name or logo on them — often it’s an “@” sign, the logo for that location company that seems to handle every film shot here.
  • If free parking has been cut off by the city for an event, there are usually signs posted indicating so.

Update

A commenter informed me that the Star has pulled both its stories about the pylons scam and posted this odd correction:

Contrary to two articles published on Oct. 20 and 22, Impark (Imperial Parking Canada Corporation) did not operate the parking lots near the Cirque du Soleil performances at Commissioner and Cherry Sts., and they have no lots in that area.

The Star regrets the error and apologizes to Impark.

My questions are:

  • How’d they get something as simple as the ownership of the parking lots in the area wrong? The ownership of parking lots is generally easy to discern — it’s usually clearly marked, as far as I can tell.
  • So who owns those parking lots, then?
  • The actual pylon incident did happen, didn’t it?
  • Who got to you, Toronto Star?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

P October 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Looks like The Star pulled all the articles off their site and have this up today: http://www.thestar.com/article/269212

You can still find the originals via Google cache. Of course, the “correction” doesn’t say who *does* own the lots…

-P

Joey deVilla October 22, 2007 at 2:35 pm

@P: Thanks for the heads-up!

Daryl October 22, 2007 at 3:57 pm

“The actual pylon incident did happen, didn’t it?”

I think that’s the most important question! I could care less who owns the parking lot; If the issue exists, and I believe it does, it should be addressed by the city!

Chester Pape October 24, 2007 at 7:37 pm

At least some of the parking down there was run by “Unit Park” not Impark, I don’t recall ever seeing Impark’s logo down there.

Jacob January 4, 2008 at 2:56 am

The bad news is that Impark are still issuing illegal parking tickets even though they claim they don’t.

The good news is that the consumer is now better equipped to a hassle free time when parking at an Impark lot.

http://www.europark.ca is your one stop shop to be educated and a chance to stop this furor of illegal parking tickets.

I have linked to the website through my name. Happy parking to all and to all a great 2008!

Mike O'Connor January 4, 2008 at 12:43 pm

@Jacob

I looked at the website you referred to. The way that card works is that it masquerades as a valid credit card. Have a look at section 342(c) of the Criminal Code. Use or possess stolen or forged credit card – up to 6 months/$2000 for a first offence. Up to 10 years if the Crown elects to pursue it as an indictable offence.

Vlad January 8, 2008 at 10:54 am

Mike,

Use or possession of stolen credit card (as per section 342(c) of the criminal code), refers to possession of a physical card, in which you maintain “unauthorized” possession, this can and does include individuals who have possession of their “own” card after declaring the card stolen. Since the customer does not hold “full ownership”, once the card is declared stolen, the “title” of the card passes back to the issuer.

In the case of a “forged credit card”, that refers to either credit card data that has been duplicated from an existing card, or an actual card that is made to look and indicates it is an actual “credit card” on the card itself.

That being said, I looked at the site, and unless those cards have skimmed data, I personally do not think those cards actually work. The video never shows the back of the card, it could be real card with a sticker pasted on the front, made to give the illusion they function.

Mike O'Connor January 8, 2008 at 2:00 pm

@Vlad

IANAL, but the way that card works, based on my education in electrical engineering and computer science, is that it says to the machine “I am a credit card issued by the following bank with account number X.” You put it into the slot labeled “Credit card”. The machine is clearly not verifying this information in real time, which is why it works.

If you use this card and get caught, you are going down. If it’s not 342 it’ll be some other fraud or theft of service charge. Believe me, the free parking is not worth the criminal record.

Andrew January 8, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I noticed the debate on parking, and had to join in. I work for a parking company (and leave it at that). The company we outsource to supply the meters which we use on our lots, does the programming of the meter firmware. What Mike stated about the cards is essentially correct, a little more complex then that actually, as Ivan the programmer, says our card readers employ verifications, which are not known by individuals outside the industry, and are rarely utilized anymore, as almost all forms of transactions are live nowadays. He says that attempting to create a card with all the correct information (without stolen data), is not as easy as it sounds. Even with stolen data, the problem remains with the timing. The machines we use have readers which suck the card in at a constant rate and have been programmed to reject the card if the written data is not the correct density. So even those that can get their hands on stolen data, if they use a manual swipe writer, the data density wouldn’t match, and it would not accept the card as valid.

The supplier of our meters is friends with the regional manager, so they create “VIP passes” for us, which we give as incentives to lot owners (to let us manage or lease the lot from them), since it basically gives them free parking all over the GTA, including TPA and private lots (which use the same machines that are supplied to us). We did have an issue a while back, in which some of the machines did not do any checks and even allowed non-valid algorithms (they said it was faulty firmware) to print out a valid ticket. We attempted to get the police involved, but they stated there was nothing they could do about it, as people using these cards were not breaking any laws. I don’t get that!

According to them, it’s our problem, and we should use attendants or employ meters which do real time verifications. The only time they actually helped us was when people were selling tickets on our lots (using stolen credit cards, before limiters were put on the machines…which allowed one card to print out hundreds of tickets). The only thing they could charge them with was selling without a vendors license. What a joke!

Anonymous March 2, 2008 at 1:20 am

The parking meters in Toronto (pay and display) are not real-time. They batch transactions before actually processing the credit cards. Any card with a valid checksum and valid bin number on the card mag track has the ability to be used on the machine. Andrew is correct. If the machines do not validate the transaction prior to printing the ticket, the vendor is at fault for not verifying. The Eurocard is it’s own type of card using a specific bin range that is accepted on the machines.

Tara Gorecki June 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

So went to see the movie “Epic” with the kids and my dad. We parked in the Impark lot beside the Cineplex where we noticed all the pay booths were covered in garbage bags, so we figured we didn’t have to pay just like all the people at the parking meters on the street. Since there was NO sign or any barricade indicating we shouldn’t park there, we did, as did a number of other people. After the movie we came out to find EVERY single person got a ticket for $65!! Lots of pissed off people who pulled out their phones to video tape this scam!!! Tomorrow city hall and the Star Phoenix paper is going to hear about this, don’t think any judge in small claims will let this fly. $50 for the movie and $65 ticket after? now THAT was Epic!!

Tara Gorecki June 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

The Impark lot where the meters were covered with garbage bags is at the Cineplex Odeon theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan…

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