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Ringing in the New Year at the Eastside Lot

Dec 28th, 2012 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

As we approach the end of another year, New Year’s Eve brings back a particularly poignant memory from my driving career. I worked several years for an impound company that expanded its operation to a second storage facility approximately 10 miles from the original location. We got on the police rotation in that area and began taking our private property impounds from that side of town to the new storage location. However, the original location remained our central location, where the dispatcher answered the main phone lines, the trucks were stationed, and where the drivers reported to work. Since much of our work came from the downtown core area of the city, within two or three miles of the original location, it became like a death knell for the driver who was dispatched to the “Eastside” for a call or a vehicle release.

Worse was being dispatched to the Eastside near the end of your shift because it took forever to get out there, complete the call or vehicle release, and then drive back to the central lot to turn in your truck and complete your shift.

My shift, as it happens, ended at midnight every night. Maybe you can see where this is going.

Although I had no particular plan to celebrate the New Year as the clock turned to 12, I was looking forward to getting off work at midnight to join whatever party that was going on with family and friends. It was relatively slow that night, but around 10 o’clock the dispatcher informed me that I had a couple of vehicle releases at the Eastside lot scheduled for 23:59.

23:59? What in the world? Most of the time when a vehicle owner discovers his or her car has been impounded they either want to get it right away or they have to make arrangements to pick it up at a time more convenient for them. If the vehicle is impounded after 6 p.m., or on the weekend, there is usually a financial incentive to pick it up the next day because the overnight storage fee is normally already in effect and the after-hours release fee increases the total. Couple this with the fact that you wouldn’t think anyone would want to celebrate the annual calendar change at an impound lot in NE Portland and you can see why I was confused.

After some investigation, we discovered that one of the new dispatchers had been confused about how vehicle storage charges were calculated. She thought we charged by the calendar day but in fact we charged by 24-hour period. So everyone who called about picking up their cars was told that at midnight the charges would go up. A couple of vehicle owners whose vehicles were impounded together from the same location got the idea that they would get their money’s worth and wait until the last minute before the charges increased. Apparently they were unhappy about getting their cars impounded and they were making a statement of some kind.

So just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I drove out to the Eastside lot, the armpit of the world, and rang in the New Year sitting in my truck waiting for angry vehicle owners who never showed up. The after-hours release fees would be applied to the tow bills, and I would get my measly commission on the small fees, but clearly they just wanted someone else to suffer, which is why they had set up the phantom lot meets. I watched a few cheap fireworks being shot off from residential streets in the distance, listened to conspiracy theorists on AM radio, waited the required one hour from the time of the appointment and began the drive back downtown at 00:59 of the New Year. In was a very inauspicious beginning to the New Year.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper