Parking Turns Ugly in Kakaako, Sparks Debate

Squeezed April 4, 2007

A friend of mine sent me an e-mail about CompUSA, that was forwarded from someone else, from someone else, from someone else, ad infinitum. The length of it prevents me from posting it in its entirety, but you can read it here.

Normally, I take most forwards that comes in my mailbox from this person with a grain of salt. It irritates me no end when e-mail forwards reach me telling me to do this thing or warning me that that thing is going to happen, because more often than not they’re hoaxes.

So naturally, I was skeptical at first. I couldn’t find the 24/7 Towing company mentioned in the e-mail in the phone book (either white or yellow pages), and basically said unless I found compelling evidence, I wouldn’t put much stock in that e-mail.

But then, I visited and this was one of the hot topics there. And apparently, there is a name and face associated with the originator of this e-mail. The Charlie who signed the e-mail is apparently one Charlene Aldinger, director of public relations at Bishop Museum, says the Honolulu Advertiser.

Apparently, her daughter parked in the lot at about 7:45 a.m. before the store opened and went across the street to get something to eat with the intention of going back to the store to get some headphones. The car was towed at 8:18 a.m. Another customer found herself in the same predicament. Turns out the car was towed all the way to Waipahu, and that’s where the fun…if you call it fun…began.

Long story short, Ms. Aldinger took about three hours to get the car (a rental, apparently) back from the impound. And then, out came the curare-tipped keyboard.

Now, it’s no secret that parking is at a premium here in Honolulu, and in Kakaako in particular. And with Restaurant Row across the street and several other establishments (including a scrappy competitor) within walking distance, CompUSA is a really tempting place to park. But the fact remains. It’s a place of business, and any parking place in front of a business is presumed to be for that business’ use. Especially when they post signs, which CompUSA did. You park there and go someplace else, and the place has every right to tow you. Simple as that.

A few questions do come to mind…why all the way to Waipahu, when there are quite a few tow companies in town? And the way the tow company acted is reprehensible, if true. You just don’t treat customers that way in this day and age.

But for its part, on the Advertiser page, the tow company has its own rebuttal, basically calling Aldinger a name-dropping idiot. Believe me, I can sympathize. In my work as a technical support person, I take a lot of abuse from people who think they’re the center of the universe. And I personally think anyone who tries to pull rank on someone else deserves what he or she gets.

Ryan Ozawa of HawaiiBlog says as much on HawaiiThreads, saying that he intends to patronize CompUSA as much as he can “in honor of Charlie and Stacy Aldinger” and “to stop stupid from spreading.”

Indeed, the whole issue has sparked a lively debate on HawaiiThreads, with some joining in the boycott and others pledging to support CompUSA; some sympathizing with Aldinger and others with CompUSA.

For my part, this won’t affect my habits at all. I’ll just make sure that I don’t get tempted to see Personal Touch Computers across the street.

UPDATE 6/19/07: Updated the link (the original Craigslist link is dead).

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