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'Faulty' payment machines leave drivers with parking tickets, towed cars

Preferred Parking refunded a woman nearly $400 after WCNC Charlotte asked questions about her experience at a lot in Uptown this year.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Charlotte woman received an almost $400 refund after a Preferred Parking pay station likely malfunctioned, resulting in a wrecker service towing her car.

"This was wrong,” Takeshia Price said. "I did everything that I was supposed to do."

Price thought she paid for parking when went out to dinner in May. She said the machine printed a partial receipt, but Preferred Parking maintains there's no record of payment. Price's bank statement even showed a $13 Preferred Parking transaction marked as pending in the hours before her car was towed. 

"I believe it was a glitch in the system with their machine," said Price, who is an elementary school behavioral specialist. "I read the screen. I put my card in, it told me, 'Thanks for your payment,' and then it let me know when it would expire."

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Credit: WCNC Charlotte

That "glitch" cost her $396 to recover her car and Price demanded a refund from Preferred Parking. 

"That's a big hit to my bank account," she said. 

Preferred Parking initially denied her request, so she filed a complaint with Attorney General Josh Stein's office and contacted WCNC Charlotte for help. 

Price isn't the only person who's had trouble with Preferred Parking's lots. Antonio Coleman said he had something similar happen in June at a different lot. He said Preferred Parking incorrectly ticketed his fiancee's car for parking in two spots without paying. 

"Man, I was upset," Coleman said. "People put their cards in the thing. It's not our problem your machine is broke."

WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing money@wcnc.com.

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

Coleman said he also thought his payment went through.

"I stuck my card into the machine. It said remove your card, so I removed my card. I put it back in there. It said remove your card again. No ticket came out,” he told WCNC Charlotte.

Preferred Parking shared a picture of the car covering two spots and told WCNC Charlotte there's no proof of payment on the night in question. The company added its helpline received no service calls at that location on that day or week.

“Preferred Parking takes great pride in our service,” the company said in a statement. “Our enforcement department is dedicated to fairness and consistency in our company standards. Our 24/7 customer service team is ready to answer questions and assist parkers. When issuing citations, we investigate payments via stall and payment reports, take photos of the vehicles in question and upload the data to our system. Customers can access general ticket information and photos taken on our website. Each customer has the opportunity to appeal their violation(s) by clicking the violation number on our website or emailing PPSNotices@PreferredParking.com. During the appeals process our team investigates and follows up with the appellee."

The company said it did not receive an appeal in Coleman’s case. He said his fiancee paid the ticket before he learned what Price went through.

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

Preferred Parking, which operates dozens of lots in Uptown and South End, warns it’s on the customer to make sure a payment went through. 

“…in cases where people did not receive a receipt for their payment or are unsure their payment cleared, they can call our 24/7 customer service department for further assistance,” Preferred Parking told WCNC Charlotte. “Our customer service team can quickly access all payments on the pay station and ParkMobile. Our phone number is posted on all equipment and signage.”

The company's customer service numbers include 704-375-6014 ext. 2 and 800-313-7275.

After WCNC Charlotte pressed the company about Price’s case, Preferred Parking gave her a “courtesy refund.” In a letter to the attorney general’s office, the company conceded that "there may have been technical difficulties with the kiosk."

"The money has posted. Thank God for that," Price said. "I had been trying and I couldn't do it without your help and I guess when you called, that's when they finally called me and told me they're going to give me a courtesy refund ... I really do appreciate that. I just feel as though my voice was heard."

Credit: WCNC Charlotte

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