Tuesday, September 30, 2014
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'Have a nice day,' and a parking ticket

In a city that relies heavily on tourism and at least aspires to show the brotherly love it’s named for once in a while, discouraging gratuitous hostility in the public workforce is a good idea. But it’s a good idea in the sense that the wheel and agriculture are good ideas — the kind we should have pretty well figured out by now.

'Have a nice day,' and a parking ticket

In a city that relies heavily on tourism and at least aspires to show the brotherly love it’s named for once in a while, discouraging gratuitous hostility in the public workforce is a good idea. But it’s a good idea in the sense that the wheel and agriculture are good ideas — the kind we should have pretty well figured out by now.

Leave it to the Philadelphia Parking Authority to test the outer limits of the adage “Better late than never.” The authority decided last week to subject itself to hospitality training under a program being developed by the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Authority officials plan to spend $60,000 on online courses to teach their ruthless army of parking enforcement officers and other employees how to be more friendly and helpful.

These people are doing a difficult and necessary job, often with professionalism and efficiency. But a little roaming of city streets, reading of letters to the editor, or watching A&E’s Parking Wars — a show born largely of the misfortunes of city parkers — reveals the agency’s dire need for this sort of education. The very existence of a television series documenting the PPA’s excesses speaks to its backward approach to public relations, if it can even be called that.

Do you care if Philadelphia parking-enforcement officers get manners training?
No, would rather the parking agency ease up on ticketing
Yes, will improve city’s image with tourists whose cars get ticketed
No, won’t undo bad p.r. from ‘Parking Wars’ reality-TVshow
Yes, maybe a stiff fine will go down easier with a smile

Let’s hope the new training goes beyond teaching authority employees to disingenuously chant “Have a nice day!” while practicing Kafkaesque bureaucratic cruelty. Hospitality should be incorporated into not just the agency’s style, but also its substance — which would mean abandoning any aggressive, callous, or arbitrary enforcement tactics.

That said, the authority’s decision to pursue kindness training shows a welcome awareness of its faults and a newfound sensitivity to the visiting and resident public. To fail to acknowledge that would just be rude.

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