Problem Solver: Chicago parking meter fast to take money, slow to refund

LAZ Parking company doesn't pay back claim for months

By the time Dawn Benavides realized what had happened, it was too late.

The Jefferson Park resident parked in a city-owned lot near the Logan Theatre on North Milwaukee Avenue the evening of July 1. She swiped her credit card in the meter box and, knowing she would be there for about three hours, hit "max," thinking that was the maximum number of hours she could park in the lot.

When the price popped on the screen — $19.60 — Benavides realized she had made a mistake. The $19.60 would pay for about 12 hours of parking, she said, much more than she needed.

She immediately hit cancel, and added three hours of parking using the buttons.

She then hit the pay button and waited for her receipt. Instead of charging her for just three hours, the meter box charged her for the maximum, $19.60.

Benavides called LAZ Parking's toll-free phone number that night and explained what happened.

By her calculations, she should have been charged about $4, she said.

"They were very nice and accommodating," Benavides said of the initial call. "They told me where to find the (refund request) form and that they would take care of it promptly."

On July 8, Benavides went online, filled out the form and emailed it to LAZ.

Three days later, LAZ emailed a response, saying it had received her refund request and was processing the information.

After not hearing anything more from LAZ, Benavides sent the parking company a follow-up email in mid-August.

"Please advise the status of this refund for it is August 18 and I still have not received my refund," she wrote.

When she received no response, she emailed again Sept. 3.

"I have left several phone messages regarding this request and have sent the below emails but I still have not heard back from LAZ nor have I received my refund," Benavides wrote. "Please advise when I will be receiving my refund for the below claim. I have been more than patient."

This time, LAZ responded immediately. On Sept. 4, it sent Benavides an email apologizing for the delay.

"Your request has been approved," the email said. "You will be receiving a check for the total of $19.60 in the next two weeks. We will provide a full refund, in appose (sic) to deducting the desired time from the total of the receipt. Thank you for your patients (sic)."

But the check did not arrive. So Benavides emailed LAZ one last time Oct. 5.

After receiving neither the check nor any response from LAZ, she emailed What's Your Problem? on Oct. 15.

"It's a small amount of money but it's so frustrating," she said. "Just do what's right and send me the money."

Benavides said the $19.60 wasn't life-changing, or even all that important financially.

"They need to just live up to their word," she said.

The Problem Solver contacted LAZ last week.

An LAZ spokeswoman thanked the Problem Solver for bringing the situation to her attention.

On Thursday, two LAZ employees hand-delivered a $19.60 check to Benavides at her workplace.

She said she was shocked — and pleased — at LAZ's ultimate response.

"It was really nice of them going over the top like that, but I thought, just fix your processes and you wouldn't have to do that," Benavides said.

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Twitter @wyp_tribune

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