So I'm on the way back from the prosthetist's office yesterday and I decide to take a detour through Shepherdstown, WV because it's so nice outside. Shepherdstown, for those not familiar, is home to a university and a small strip of trendy stores and restaurants. I figure I'll grab lunch, get coffee at a little place I know, and browse the stores for a bit before my next appointment.
Being a weekday, downtown is deserted. Parking--often a pain to find in Shepherdstown--is abundant today. In fact, My vehicle is only one of three on the whole block when I leave it to duck into this Thai place that I saw. I put some money in the meter and head in to try their Pad Thai.
It was fantastic. This could be a new favorite place of mine. And like downtown, it was practically deserted, with only one other couple in there.
So after my meal, I went outside and started my walk to the coffee shop, noting also a new book store that I'd not seen before. I live for book stores.
But before I could get to either of them, I noticed something orange on my windshield. Yep--despite my paying for 41 minutes on the meter with the last of my ash tray change, apparently I'd overstayed it by...three minutes per my phone clock. And in that three minutes, some little ticket nazi had pegged me and disappeared.
So I thought about it for a bit and decided that I’m pissed.
For starters, Shepherdstown is a college town, and they control parking by making every spot either a meter spot or residential parking where a sticker is required. There is very little free or unlimited parking in Shepherdstown.
I understand that there is a need to put out meters to ensure that people move their cars and don’t just hog up the few spots that are available all day, but come on…when I got back to my vehicle, there were still only three occupied spaces on that block. It’s not as if my being there was somehow denying someone else a space. But hey—if that’s how the people of Shepherdstown want to run their town, I really can’t object now, can I?
Actually what I can do is take the rest of my money elsewhere, and that’s what I did. I gave the town the ten dollars that they demanded for my “offense”, and when I dropped the money in their payment box outside town hall, I wrote on the envelope that this was money that I would otherwise have spent at local businesses. And then I did not go and buy the iced coffee that I’d planned to buy. I also did not go to the book store that I’d planned to visit, and I didn’t stop into the bike and kayak place in town. I would have liked to patronize all three places, and I would likely have spent a fair bit between them, but on principle, I’m taking that money to other businesses on other places where I can park without being hassled. And as it turned out, I got a coffee that was just as good in Harpers Ferry, just down from a bike shop where I got a few things for my bike—things that I would otherwise have bought there in Shepherdstown. I’m going to be getting a kayak this year and might have bought one of that shop’s used ones on the spot had I found one to my liking, but we’ll never know now because I didn’t go in there. After all, it’s not as if used kayaks are hard to find in this area. As for my passing up the book store, there’s always Amazon. Now I may go back to Shepherdstown one of these days, or I may not. The Pad Thai was very good, but it was not worth the menu price plus the ten dollar parking hit, especially not when no other locality in the area is as aggressive with their parking enforcement as little Shepherdstown apparently is.
So the moral of the tale, if one exists, is that if you run a town that’s dependent on customers patronizing your local businesses, it’s probably not in the town’s long-term interest to drive those customers away, especially in this ecomony. I hope that local business owners there take note and engineer either a policy change or a regime change before it’s too late.