Ask LH: Should I Pay This Private Parking Ticket?

Dear Lifehacker, A couple of weeks ago I received a settlement letter from a private parking company offering a deal where I only would have to pay half a fine I apparently owe. The bill is for $44 for a supposed infringement in a private parking at a local McDonald’s four years ago. Though the parking was free the letter claims that I didn’t display the free ticket on my dash. Should I pay the fine? It was four years ago and I don’t recall having parked at that McDonald’s then, and it doesn’t have visible signage even today. Any advice? Thanks, McTicket

Photo: foxypar4

Dear McTicket,

Private venues can set their own rules for parking as they see fit, but if as you say there’s no visible indication that there’s any kind of ticket display system in place even now, I’d say that it’s more than likely that the letter you received is extremely suspect, to put it politely.

In order to be able to fine you for what amounts to a contractual breach, you’d have to enter into a contract with them in the first place. There are undeniably McDonalds locations that do have paid parking — mostly in areas where parking is at a premium and they don’t want local workers clogging up the car park — but you’ll always find a set of rules and regulations for parking at those locations. Very few drivers actually read them, because we’re mostly all busy trying to get into the car park in the first place, but they exist so that the private company can enforce its rules. There will usually be a clause to the effect that by entering the car park, you agree to abide by those terms and conditions.

I’d suggest heading to the restaurant and photographing the lack of such a contract, so that if they contact you again, you can simply provide evidence that no such contract exists.


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