Illegal to feed other people’s parking meters?

Over at Lose It or Lose It, we’ve been making short videos demonstrating what we’re doing with the money that folks forfeit when they miss a weigh-in. We mean to be funny and upbeat — Randy is going out and making people happy with the money, but he is getting the credit. The point is that you should keep your money by hitting your goals, so you can go out and make people happy!

In our first video, Randy went out and tipped big at Salad Stop and Fennario with JP Toto’s forfeited fifteen bucks, and in the video below, Randy donates fifty bucks from Corey Floyd to the United Way:

We’re thinking about what else Randy can do: stand at Wally’s Wiener World and buy everyone’s hot dogs? “Thanks, RANDY!” folks will say to the camera. “You’re the best, RANDY!” Or, for instance, Randy can feed all the parking meters up and down Gay street in West Chester, becoming a hero to the townsfolk.

While we were discussing the parking-meter idea, the nice woman behind the counter at Salad Stop told us “you know, it’s actually illegal to do that. It’s illegal to feed someone else’s meter. Crazy, huh?”

I was intrigued. This sounded an awful lot like urban folklore (no, it’s not really illegal to write on a dollar bill, for instance.) So I Googled up the phone number for the West Chester Parking Department and asked the woman who answered the telephone if it was illegal. “Why would you that?” she asked, laughing. “Can I have the money instead? Anyhow, I don’t know, I’ll ask the manager.”

A pause of a minute, and then a gruff male voice came on the line. “Why would you do that?” he asked. Except he wasn’t laughing. “No, really — WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?.”

The bizarre thing was, he really sounded angry, as if I had offended him. I told him it was just a hypothetical question, that we were talking about it and it sounded like urban folklore to me. Was it true that-

“Yes, it’s true”, he said, “and if we see you doing it, we’ll call the police and have you arrested.”

Now, let me be clear — this is not a blog post about a parking services manager being grouchy. Fine, the guy was grouchy, I’d expect that. But why did he sound so deeply angered? What previous history was I unaware of? Had West Chester been beset by a lawless gang of Bolshevik meter-feeders in the sixties, and this fellow was duty-sworn to enforce the draconian meter-bolshevik measures enacted forty years ago?

The answer, says Snopes, is “maybe”. In some towns, apparently, folks would follow ahead of the meter-readers, stuffing quarters in the expired meters, then putting an envelope under the windshield wiper announcing what had been done and asking for a donation – more than a quarter, less than the fine that had just been avoided. If I were a meter-reader, I would be annoyed by that. Was that the explanation?

After reading Chapter 104 of the West Chester Ordinances, I can’t see anything about feeding someone else’s meter at all — only a prohibition on feeding a meter so that a car overstays its maximum time. For instance, if you’re parked on Gay street in West Chester, you’re only supposed to stay for two hours max. If the car had been there for an hour and forty-five minutes, and I went up and pumped the meter so that an hour remains, I’d be violating the ordinance by allowing the car to overstay its welcome. Is that what the problem is?

Or is it just as simple as “full meters don’t generate tickets, and tickets are where the money is?

UPDATE: some more googling reveals this Jackass clip of “The Meter Fairy” involving a mincing ballerina. A lot of Jackass stunts started as Camp Kill Yourself pranks here in West Chester… yeah, that might explain the anger.

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