In preparation for an upcoming trip to LA, I went to the Park ‘N Fly website to book my parking. It’s annoying that they actually charge you a $3 reservation fee to book when you’re actually helping them manage their capacity better, but the idea of showing up and having the lot full is a little too risky for me.
I know what to expect — about $10/day. So I was suprised when I put in the dates (6 days total) and my quote was a “special internet rate” of $26.70. HALF OFF! I thought it must be a mistake, and eagerly clicked through the next few buttons until I hit the final payment screen.
And that’s when I saw it. My grand total was actually close to what I expected it would be before I logged on: $64.64 including taxes and fees. How can the taxes and fees more than double the price, you ask? Here’s how. I was charged a “Daily $5.50 Shuttle Charge” for each day. In the end, it brings the price right back up to where I thought it was, but it still confused me. Why do I have to pay $33 for shuttle service if I park for 6 days, when I’m only going to take the shuttle twice. Heck, if I’m staying for two days, I’m still doing to use the shuttle the same number of times: once to the airport and once back from it. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what they call it — I got a huge break on parking but was then assessed a new fee, and I’m right back where I started.
So why the special fee? Taxes. The sales tax paid was only $1.94, the normal sales tax rate on my $26.70. By shifting more than half of the total cost from a service to some newly created “fee,” Park ‘N Fly avoids paying half of the regular taxes. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m not a tax attorney. And it might not sound like a lot, but by doing that they’re easily saving between $5-10K per week, I think closer to the higher number — probably enough to pay almost all of their labor costs.
Ultimately, I don’t care. I’m still paying $10/day. And chastising a business for trying to avoid taxes is like chastising a child for trying to get out of cleaning up its bedroom. It’s what they’re supposed to do. I’m just wondering how long it will take for the state of Minnesota to catch on, pass a new law, and force Park ‘N Fly to find some other way to limit its tax liability.