A Spot of Trouble?

What happens when brand extension over-reaches? When cross-sell is at cross purposes with customer satisfaction?

I experienced this on a recent trip to

The Parking Spot

I’ve been a fan of this business since it came to KCI several years ago. Started with a simple surface lot, well away from the bustle and chaos of terminal traffic. Priced at $6 per day, $1 more than public parking but the shuttles were there almost immediately, on the lot or at the airport. Friendly, helpful drivers. Courteous cashier … always graciously offered a free bottle of cold water as you left the lot.

Quick. Convenient. Refreshing.

Then they added a covered lot. Charged a bit more, of course, but it was worth it. Especially when it meant you wouldn’t be scraping snow or ice on your return. Or worried about a springtime hail storm.

Textbook marketing. Clear concept. Exceptional service. Well executed. And cleverly communicated.

Like the loyalty program they introduced, "The Spot Club." All those "little spots (points) looking for a home." Naturally, I signed up.

"They’ve done it again," I said to myself a few months ago when I saw the signs on the bus for car cleaning services.

Pretty handy. Your car’s already there; you don’t have to take it anywhere, or stand around and wait.

A range of options, from a simple wash to complete detail. A bit pricey, perhaps, but it’s like having your shoes shined at the airport. Sometimes you just do it.

Everything’s rosy, right?

Until I pulled up a couple of weeks ago. Ready to spend a week on the beach relaxing.

I noticed, with concern, the cone in front of the covered parking lane.

“Can we wash it for you while you’re gone?” the attendant asked.

“No," I replied, "but I would like to park in the covered area.”

He shook his head.

“I may have a couple of spots left. Go on back to row 11 (or whatever the far end is numbered…)”

My initial reaction: I’m glad they’re busy.

But then I saw all of those empty spaces (in the close rows, mind you) with cones in front of them ... the cones promoting valet wash jobs.

Dozens of spaces being held. What started as a seed of frustration began to grow as I went to the back of the lot, but couldn’t find an available space. One of the shuttle drivers finally waved me down and directed me to an open slot up by the gate.

The only open space I saw had a sign, reserved for handicapped.

Of course, had I agreed to pay that extra $14.95 for a car wash, I’d be parked and riding toward the terminal by now. Suddenly the clean car offer felt less like a service and more like a threat. Blackmail.

As the driver waved me on in to the handicapped space, my frustration eased toward anger. Well, not eased, exactly. And not exactly the relaxing start of vacation I wanted ….

So, how does that affect me as a customer?

Checking out, on my return, I realized the price has more than doubled from what I first paid. I hadn’t given much attention to that in the intervening years.

But next trip, I think I’ll shop around.