HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two car owners have complained about what they claimed was "unfair" parking enforcement that involves attaching a boot to cars at parking lot near the Varsity Building off University Avenue.
But the owner of Hawaii Boot Removal said he's following established procedures and people are just upset because they failed to pay for parking and are forced to pay $160 cash to have their cars released.
The sign at the parking lot on the site of the former Varsity movie theater tells people who park there at night to pay a $4 flat fee, inserting their cash into small slots corresponding to their parking place number.
"Now it's our word against theirs, because we just placed our money in the box. So we want the public to really be aware," said Cathy Lee of Mililani Mauka.
Lee said she and her husband Larry parked in a stall there and paid their $4 March 30 then went to see a UH baseball game.
And when they returned, they found a yellow boot on their car. The cost to remove the boot was $160 cash.
"The fact is they didn't pay the box and they got booted. They've been parking there forever and they haven't paid the box. They just got caught this time," said Sean Starn, owner of Hawaii Boot Removal.
Starn emailed Hawaii News Now a date and time-stamped photo that showed no cash in the box for stall 150, where the Lees had parked.
Cathy Lee said, "We felt like we were robbed and there was nothing we could do about it. We called the police. The policeman came to the lot and they said their hands were tired because it's on private property."
Another woman, Marjorie Dureg, emailed Hawaii News Now, telling us her car was booted after she and her children, ages 1 and 3, went across the street to Bubbies for some ice cream.
She's upset parking employees who saw her leaving her car never warned her it was a pay lot.
"We have been to Bubbies a dozen times and parking in the same lot. I understand that we didn't read [the sign] but I mean I came out of the car with my two kids. They didn't give us any mercy to tell us that this is not a free lot. Where is the Aloha now days?" wrote Dureg.
Starn said, "In this case, she didn't pay for parking, she went across the street and ate some ice cream for a half an hour, and she was booted. You have to pay the pay box to park there. It's like anything."
Starn added that at $160, his fees are lower than some tow truck companies and customers' cars remain in their original parking lot, so they don't have to travel to a two lot to reclaim their vehicle.
But Cathy Lee has this advice: "Don't park in parking lots whose payment boxes don't dispense receipts. If we had a receipt, then there would be no question."
Starn said people are just in an uproar because the parking boots are relatively new to Hawaii, since they've been here only about five years.
He said he gets lots of complaints, such as: "'I didn't pay for parking.' 'I parked here and went across the street.' 'My ticket expired.' I mean, these are all reasons that you get booted. Pay for your parking, come before your ticket is done and park where you're supposed to and then you never have to see me."
Starn said he started using "the boot" in a small 14-stall parking lot in Waikiki and now has contracts with more than 10 parking sites, including hotels, shopping centers and apartments.
He said once a few people at one parking lot get "booted," the amount of parking revenue there usually goes up by about 40-percent, with word-of-mouth spreading to pay up, or get "the boot."