Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Me: 2 / Vancouver: 0

An e-mail regarding a Canadian parking ticket:

It seems I was refunded the $45 fee twice, in one $90 check. I am happy to pay the city back … but I live in Washington. To pay back $45, it winds up costing me money, in foreign exchange fees and postage, or the gas in my car should I choose to drive to Vancouver and pay the ticket in person. If I pay by credit card, I pay a finance charge in addition to the foreign exchange fee.

The correspondence below confirms that this relates to the reimbursement for a wrongful tow on Dec. 3. I was parked perfectly legally and in fact had paid the meter, yet my car was towed. Through no fault of my own, I found myself stranded in a foreign city at 11 o’clock at night. I paid a cab $10 to get to the impound lot, where I discovered that the tow truck had damaged my bumper.

So you can see that this incident already has cost more than the inconvenience and the price of the tow and parking fine.

I think I was pretty understanding at the time that the parking sign was confusingly worded and parking enforcement simply had made a mistake. Everyone at the city was quite polite and it seemed that the problem was getting resolved.

I had charged the $45 fine to my credit card, so I thought the charge would just be reversed, in which case, Bank of America also would have reversed the finance charges and foreign exchange fee. Instead I received a check, which is a further inconvenience because I don’t live in Canada. I actually opened an account at RBC to deposit the reimbursement check for the towing, which I received in February.

This too cost me the gas it took to get across the border twice: to open the account and again to deposit this $90 check that apparently was issued in error. Now I’ve received an invoice for $45, to correct the city’s mistake in my favor. Did the city also correct the mistake(s) made in its own favor? Did you contact and refund money to all the other drivers whose cars were towed that night and every other night until parking enforcement learned (from me, it seems) that they had interpreted their own sign incorrectly?

As a journalist, my instinct is to find out how many other accidental tows there have been. I’m wondering if there isn’t a class action lawsuit here. For a city the size of Vancouver to have this kind of incompetence in its parking enforcement and revenue services is, frankly, offensive.

Again, I do not have Canadian checks, but I do have an RBC savings account. With an e-mail address or RBC account number, I think I can transfer money online to the revenue services division. However, this too costs an additional fee. So I’m not even sure how much I owe the city of Vancouver, after the $10 cab ride, credit card fees, an international phone call this afternoon, damage to my car bumper, and so forth.

What do you suggest?

Response:

This was quite the trip you had coming to Vancouver, BC. I would like to extend my apologies for our errors. I am preparing to write off this request that you pay back the city $45.00. I think you have been through enough inconvenience and therefore please disregard our invoice this debt has been removed.

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