‘It felt like a bait and switch’: Downtown Houston parking customers charged 5 times the posted rate

HOUSTON – Parking anywhere in downtown Houston is going to cost you. But drivers who parked in one garage on Franklin Street were shocked when their credit cards were charged five times more than the advertised rate. They’ve asked Amy Davis for help so other drivers aren’t duped.

The company that manages this particular parking garage and 600 others all across the country is a fairly new AI tech firm that said it has created “next-generation parking.” It wants to bring “parking lots into the future,” but Houston customers said what they encountered was a good, old-fashioned bait and switch.

Sign posted at 805 Franklin parking garage. Customers say they were charged $26.00 instead of the $5 posted rate. (KPRC)

Right on Franklin between Milam and Travis, Tina Rubio said she’s parked in the garage at 805 Franklin several times in the past with no problems. When she pulled up on a Saturday in May, she said she saw two attendants.

“There were two guys at the gate and I asked, you know, ‘How much is the parking?’ The guys both pointed at the sign and said, ‘That’s the fee,’” explained Rubio.

They pointed at a sign that clearly said the rate is $5 for 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday. Rubio pulled in and followed the instructions to scan a QR code to pay.

“So we all logged in, paid for our parking, and went on about our business,” Rubio said.

But later, Rubio discovered she was actually charged $26.25.

“Basically to me, I felt like it was a bait and switch. We’ll get you in the garage for like $5, but we’re gonna charge you $26,” she said.

Rubio and three other friends who also parked in the garage that night sent emails to Metropolis Parking. A Metropolis support agent told them they were “unable to issue any kind of refund” because “Our garages and lots are based off of the Metropolis platform. All rates and times are within that site.”

“Why would I go online if you have a sign at the front of your garage that states ‘This is how much your parking’s gonna be for this many hours?’”

After multiple emails, Metropolis did finally refund Rubio and two other drivers what they overpaid and then the company changed the sign. It now reads “Weekend rates may vary.”

KPRC 2 Investigates parking garage complaints. Several viewers say they were charged five times the amount posted. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

We parked inside a Metropolis garage to see why there are so many complaints

The only way to find out what those rates are is to go to the Metropolis website or scan their QR code to get there. The QR code is only on the inside of the garage. We navigated the whole process to find out and understand why a slew of drivers posted negative reviews about the company’s pricing discrepancy.

We parked at the garage on a Monday morning. The rates posted on the sign outside said we would pay $7 an hour for every 12 hours. When we exited, we received a notification that we were also charged a .99 service fee, bringing our total to $7.99.

Metropolis response:

When we reached out to Metropolis, a spokesperson admitted this was a mistake. He said Metropolis does occasionally adjust its fees. He said they missed replacing one of the signs in the garage. It used to say $5 Saturday and Sunday. Now it reads, “Weekend rates may vary.” They replaced the sign when it was brought to their attention. Customers affected by this temporary oversight were reimbursed.

We told the representative that the only QR code for customers to scan is inside the garage. Customers would already be inside in order to find out how much they will be charged. He told us that rates are available on the Metropolis web and mobile apps and that customers have a 10-minute grace period to exit the garage before being charged. He also said that the company would take this feedback into consideration.

About the Author:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.