From The Ethics Alarms “Somebody’s Got To Point This Out, And It Might As Well Be Me” Files: Reserved Parking Space Inflation

I’m not going to complain about handicapped parking at retail stores and malls, even though the privilege is widely abused, and there are usually far too many spaces of the breed. I am pretty tired of watching someone with a handicapped sticker pull into such a space and walk jauntily into a store, but OK, I can see the social utility.

But now that virtue-signaling is the current fad—had I ever found the time to complete last year’s Ethics Alarms Awards, that would have received the “worst trend” prize—establishments are searching for new ways to suck up while dividing us. I have seen “expectant mother” spaces. I just returned from a crowded Harris Teeter parking lot where there were two conspicuously empty “Reserved for Veterans” spaces. (This made me want to dig up my old Ouija board and ask my veteran father in the Great Beyond what he thinks about such a privilege.) Away from the parking games, many automakers now offer rebates or discounts to recent college grads.

I’m sure most people just think all of these special privileges are nice, and kind, but what they really are do is make class and virtue distinctions that shouldn’t be made in a pluralistic society. Why special rates for college grads, and not, say, parents with kids in college? Parents with special needs kids? Parents who work two jobs? Why parking spaces for veterans and not police officers,fire fighters, or elementary school teachers? What about medical students? Social workers? Struggling artists? Ethicists? Maybe all of the spaces should be assigned according to social utility: if you are on the pubic dole, maybe you should have lousy parking space—or maybe the best one? Such open stratification would, I am sure, rapidly be extended to racial, gender and ethnic  political categories if it wasn’t illegal. Wait, shouldn’t those noble progressives and Democrats trying to save the United  States from democracy get the courtesy of reserved parking spaces? Brave journalists? Black Lives Matter activists? #Me Too survivors? Shouldn’t the “privileged” have to take a hike to lug their groceries to the car? That’ll teach ’em!

I’ve got a better, more American and more ethical idea. How about businesses not picking favorites and signaling value biases, and instead have them try to treat all customers with equal consideration and respect, to avoid creating division, resentments, and entitlements? How about that?

I assumed that’s the kind of society our veterans fought for.

50 thoughts on “From The Ethics Alarms “Somebody’s Got To Point This Out, And It Might As Well Be Me” Files: Reserved Parking Space Inflation

  1. I don’t mind the handicapped parking…those who are actually handicapped would much rather be able to function as the rest of us do than benefit from a closer parking space. And those who abuse it…well, there will always be people who abuse perks; just as there will always be people who abuse Constitutional rights.

    I do mind the special to-go order pick-up spaces, especially at fast-food or casual restaurants.

  2. The new grads thing is not the same class surely? Millennials don’t drive nearly as much so it is a teaser. And anyone can usually get a similar discount.

    But the parking thing has always driven me nuts. Other than handicap spots which are likely mandated, the rest is so absurd and makes me run the other way.

    So no seniors discount for you?

    • I’m sure the new grads thing is a marketing move rather then trying to favor anyone. Many people will go back and buy from the same manufacturer when they replace their car in the future. College grads are a decent bet at getting jobs where they can purchase future cars. So they’re trying to hook them early and hopefully get a customer for life (or at least the future).

  3. vet·er·an
    a person who has had long experience in a particular field.
    synonyms: old hand, past master, doyen, vet; More
    a person who has served in the military.
    “a veteran of two world wars”

      • Do the Vietnam ear guys who were spat upon when they came home get to park there as “thanks for their service?”

      • Just considering the provided image on the post, the sign begins with an American flag and then “Veteran Parking Only”. I assume it means having a long experience having survived in America, and yes, I do consider paying my taxes a valuable service. 😉

        Onward to my other thought – I actually don’t mind parking “where ever” because I can park and walk faster than someone can drive to the front and hunt for a spot. I also get the additional benefit of a few more steps in my day which is physical activity I need after sitting at a desk all day. Anywhere I can get a few extra steps is a good thing and I wish others of able body felt the same.

  4. Nuts! If there were ‘Veterans Only’ parking spaces in Texas, I wouldn’t use one. Yes, I am a veteran, and am eligible, for several reasons, for VA benefits. However, I managed to get through my 6 years with only a few problems, lost no limbs and am apparently not suffering PTSD. Let’s leave those spaces for people with actual problems…missing limbs, TBI, etc. What’s that? We’ve already got ‘Handicapped” parking? No shit, Sherlock. Vet’s can use ’em too.

    • There are parking spaces reserved for military veterans in Texas. My wife spotted one the other day as we were parking somewhere (I was driving). She could not understand why, or at least seemed annoyed because, I declined to park there. There is deference and mutual respect among veterans, so I’ll just keep that choice for myself, too, thank you.

  5. I fully agree. Our local grocery chain has reserved spaces for seniors, expectant mothers, mothers with toddlers ( but not fathers with toddlers), along with handicap.

    Even though I meet the senior category I won’t park in them because I feel young at heart. I’ll be damned if I let someone decide that I can’t walk a liitle farther because they think I’m a dottering invalid because of my chronological age.

    Not sure if I want to know who is on the pubic dole. Didn’t know that was available.

        • I’ve been hearing for some time now that gender is a “social construct” with no basis in biology. If that’s so, then why couldn’t a father self-identify as a mother, and thus garner any benefits normally conferred to moms?

          • I refer you to the comment upon which you commented.

            Men are a valid target because… reasons. End of story.

            I cannot use the female restroom in Target just because ‘I feel pretty,’ even if it is funny to say so (Disclosure: I have not darkened Target’s doorstep, nor have my wife and daughter, since they made this policy)

            I would be arrested no matter what the Target policy is, here in Texas. I would not put your hypothesis to the test even in a progressive state, as I have several other disqualifying characteristics besides male: white, Christian, conservative, poor, Texan…

          • Gender is about 80% socially constructed. Another 10% or so has some biological basis, often tenuous, statistical and amplified far beyond rationality.
            And… 10% really is biological, there are degrees, it’s statistical, we should treat individuals as individuals etc etc but biological it is.

            This pleases no one. Reality often doesn’t conform to Ideology.

            I suppose I better give some evidence here. Again.

            “Prenatal hormones versus postnatal socialization by parents as determinants of male-typical toy play in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia” Pasterski VL, Geffner ME, Brain C, Hindmarsh P, Brook C, Hines M Child Dev 76(1):264-78 2005

            Data show that increased male-typical toy play by girls with CAH cannot be explained by parental encouragement of male-typical toy play. Although parents encourage sex-appropriate behavior, their encouragement appears to be insufficient to override the interest of girls with CAH in cross-sexed toys.

            You may now as an exercise for the reader figure out how a toy can be cross-sexed, what is male-typical toy play etc.

            Hint: kinetic vs homuncular.

    • I don’t mind expectant mother parking at ToysRUs. That is not virtue signaling. That is catering to the customer. Same with a hospital setting aside patient parking closer to the entrance than visitor parking. I don’t have problems with pharmacy parking at the grocery store or to go parking at restaurants. They are trying to give a convenience to short-term Parker’s. It helps them to make a convenience to those customers.

      Worst of all is the hybrid or electric vehicle spots. Caveat: if they have a charging station for an electric car, they rightly want to restrict parking in those spots. It is a mix of virtue signaling AND catering to a specific customer.

      Veteran parking? Maybe at the VA or VFW, but not at Wal-Mart.


      • Uncompleted thought: I have seen hybrid parking spots at a PARKING RAMP. Some have had charging equipment.


  6. On a thought, is there a valid legal punishment for using these spots if you’re not a member of that “privileged” class it’s put up for, outside of handicapped spots? As a non-veteran, if I parked in that spot, are there any actual consequences they can do to me? I suppose it might be they own the parking lot, so they can enforce it as they please, but not sure about that?

    • They might have grounds to tow you, but a ticket or fine? No. To the best of my knowledge, only handicap spots have legal fines attached


      • I once ran a grocery store that was located close to an active construction site… The work crews would park closest to the store and leave them there all day, and often overnight. This was a problem, specifically, but not limited to winter snow clearing… So we put up signs that said no overnight parking, and one of our managers was given the power of The Pad by the municipal government… Basically, we were able to write legally binding parking tickets on our own lot. There was a process, but we could do it. Basically, so long as there’s a sign, and so long as there’s photo or video evidence of you contravening the sign, depending on your local bylaws…. You can probably get a ticket.

  7. I am a little embarrassed that I need to educate you on this subject. One of my good friends is disabled but does not look it. She is in her 30s and weighs 130 lbs. She also has more metal in her back than I do in my knife drawer — her chute did not deploy while on a mission and she broke her back. She lives in chronic pain but refuses to show it whenever possible. She does use her handicap sticker — and at least once a month someone challenges her on it. Sometimes she is polite — other times she is not. It is not her — or anyone’s job — to look disabled enough for your comfort. Please accept that people can be disabled in many ways that do not involve crutches.

    • So: I have an artificial hip, bad feet and periodic gout. Am I handicapped enough? What is “handicapped”? So the fact that one genuinely handicapped person looks sound, all those other 30 year-olds I see jumping out of their cars and skipping into the CVS must also be in pain?

      Should I educate you on logic, statistics, the probative value of anecdotal evidence, and sample sizes?

    • This is why I don’t think bad thoughts at anyone who parks in a handicap spot, regardless of outward appearance. You simply cannot know. But I will say that there never seem to be enough of these spaces for the people who use them.

      On a related note, the past few months have given me a renewed appreciation for some of the handicap accommodations. After tearing my quadriceps tendon in December, I’ve had a fairly lengthy rehabilitation. Getting about on a walker and now a cane leaves one with a better understanding for flattened curbs, ramps, and not least closer parking. I never minded parking wherever because it just meant a bit longer walk – and I expect to resume that attitude in the future.

  8. I’m a veteran and I never use the parking spots marked for Veterans. I also never use veteran discounts of any kind. The only Veterans benefit outside of the military that I’ve ever used is the GI Bill to help pay for college that was included in my military contract. I didn’t serve in the military to wear it on my shoulder for the world to see once I was done and expect the public to provide me with special benefits beyond what I got in my contract. Most of the people I know don’t know I’m a veteran. That’s me.

    On the other hand; one time I was having dinner at a Denny’s counter and a Vietnam vet sat down next to me and we struck up a very enjoyable conversation while we ate. I have a really good army buddy that’s a Vietnam vet and my brother-in-law is also a Vietnam vet so I had some of those stories to share, this vet was on the same post as my brother-in-law just at a different time. We were both Infantry soldiers and we had a whole lot in common beyond our military experiences, we had a really good time. I thanked him for the conversation and I left before he was done so I could get to my rehearsal. I paid my bill plus the entire bill for his steak dinner plus an additional piece of apple pie (he liked apple pie) including the tip and told the waitress not to tell him until he asked for the bill and she showed up with the pie and no bill. I never saw him again.

    That’s the kind of Veteran benefit that makes a real impression on vets, it’s personal.

  9. They have parking spaces set aside for Purple Heart recipients at my local Lowe’s store. So not just the broad category of military veterans, but a specific, much smaller subset of veterans. It’s a little bit ridiculous.

    Automobile discounts for recent college grads isn’t virtue-signalling, though, it’s just smart business. Young people who haven’t yet developed much financial savvy who are receiving a substantial paycheck for the first time in their lives? That’s a sucker market ripe for the plucking.

      • Hey, I didn’t say it wasn’t discrimination, just that it doesn’t seem to be motivated by virtue-signalling.

      • Most anyone can choose to become a veteran and most anyone can choose to go to school, “discrimination” in that context means something a little bit different from what we normally consider discrimination, because we aren’t talking about factors the subject is not able to control.

        I disagree with you here, Jack… If you want to call the signs exclusionary… You can, and you’d be right, but people would be excluded or included based on choices they themselves made, which is probably the best way to have exclusive policies.

  10. Biggest problem I see is that PROOF is wanted by the public, even for the handicapped parking. Like the discussion above, if you have legally proven the disability to get the placard/license plate, we should all leave you alone, even in our thoughts. But we don’t, necessarily. And with the other ‘classes’ that are being called out, except for largely pregnant women or ones who have their visible kids along, how do you prove the rest? Are any of you vets here proclaiming it with a VFW gimme cap every time you leave the house and/or license plates? It’s weird to put those parking signs up since there’s no proving it. It would be even weirder if someone tried to tow one of those cars because they’re sure the driver isn’t in the ‘class.’

    • I can vouch for the fact that the DMV issues those special handicapped signs with no verification at all. My mom, the sociopath in the family, just asked her doctor for a letter. She wasn’t handicapped. She was old (and wouldn’t even admit that.) But in her view, if an edge was there for the taking, take it. Now my Dad WAS handicapped (he had just half a right foot and was in constant pain) but refused to give in to it. She got the sign (she said) on HIS behalf, but she was the one who wanted to take advantage of it, and did.

    • Just so you’ll know, the VA issues an ID (with a picture) to persons receiving VA benefits. Many veterans do not avail themselves of these benefits and, thus, do not have the ID card.

  11. On a related note, automakers tend to have better parking lots reserved for those who drive a car made by that company- it’s a perk to the employee for keeping it in the family, and often is a very visible lot that looks good full of in-house cars. Workers driving competitor’s (especially, gasp, foreign!) vehicles are relegated to a back lot.

    Viable incentive to purchase the company’s product? Or unfair arm-twisting? Are they obligated to treat all cars equally? Does it matter how good the back lot parking is- if the front lot is amazing and the back lot is merely OK?

    And although that’s commercial at it’s face, there’s certainly virtue signaling involved when a whole factory full of GM workers get to see who takes the “I bought a car from someone else” walk of shame every shift change.

      • Ah, but is it fair to punish your employees for not choosing to pay out of their own pocket to advertise the product? And then it’s getting into that sticky question- are they providing acceptable parking for all and a bonus good spot for some, or good parking for some and punishing the rest with bad parking?

        • I bet there’s a half dozen ways to describe that arrangement as an exchange of value between private owners of the valued items. I don’t think it’s unethical.

          “Good” parking is probably too subjective to define.

          • I agree, just arguing the counter to help follow the idea track. Personally I wouldn’t say it’s precisely unethical, but it’s a bit icky to me.

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