The internet is full of stories of people dishing out petty revenge after someone takes their spot or blocks their vehicle. But, can the issue be solved without escalation? Of course.
In general, when asking someone to move their car you should approach them from a polite point of view. Chances are that it was just a mistake. Tell them that they are blocking you and unless it is just a quick stop they should move their car.
We are going to explore 5 different scenarios you may encounter, as well as a note when asking someone to move their car is actually impolite.
The tone and approach
It’s very easy for someone to perceive your request as demand and/or entitlement if you employ the wrong tone of voice. If you have encountered people that behave like they own the world, you may assume that the person you’re talking to did as well.
So, it’s quite likely that they will think you are one of those people as well. Add a bad day or another bad experience, and they will think you’re starting a fight.
A friendly opening is key. There are not many people who will react badly to a sincere smile and a calm demeanor.
No matter how much frustration someone’s parking habits cause, try not to show it. A great trick is to remove all the negative emotions by pretending like you’re asking for something mundane, like passing the salt or the answer to 2+2.
When your emotions are in check, you also project the image of someone who is in full control. This, in turn, will make people respect you more and be more likely to respond to your request promptly. Not to mention that it’s less likely that you will slip and start behaving like a shrew.
And never forget your thank yous.
Scenario 1: Someone blocked you in
The issue: Someone is parked temporarily (blinkers on) or long-term in such a way that prevents you from leaving. They know they have caused the inconvenience, but do they care?
The magic words:
“There is a car of model X. Can you set me free?”
“My car is that one behind you and I have to leave, would you mind moving?”
“Beeeeep. Smile. Shrug. Wave.”
You would be surprised how often the whole “aww, shucks” approach works miracles. If a person is blocking you because they don’t have other options, they will already feel guilty if they see that you can’t leave because of them.
The kind thing to do is to assume an “ah, such is life” attitude and let them know everything is fine and it’s not the end of the world.
If you’re in the mood, maybe throw in a joke.
But some don’t care. It’s a place, their car fits, and that’s that. In that case, you staying calm and polite will prevent the situation from escalating. If you come in ready to argue, they are more likely to argue back and eventually waste your time.
Paste a smile on and calmly state (and if needed, repeat) your request.
Scenario 2: Someone took your space
The issue: A vehicle is in your assigned parking space at work or building parking lot.
The magic words:
“This company/apartment building assigns parking spots for workers/residents. That one’s mine. It’s no big deal today, but you can get in touch with XYZ to find out where’s yours. Or if you’re a visitor, their section is just over there.”
Unless there is a huge plaque with your name in clear sight, chances are that this is an honest mistake.
Throwing a fit from the get-go is the wrong thing to do. The reason why you should offer patience, understanding, and even assistance is because it’s a mistake you could have made as well.
Even in the case that someone parked there on purpose, they are more likely to feel shame when caught if you are really polite and helpful. Coming in with guns blazing may actually make them want to do it again from pure spite.
But if they keep stealing the spot, politely inform whoever has the authority over this issue (ie building manager or security, or even a towing company if needed).
Scenario 3: Someone is parked in the restricted area
The issue: You’re dealing with an unauthorized car in residential, guest-only, or employee parking. Or someone is usurping a disabled parking space. In the former case, there’s a chance that people may not know they are not supposed to park there, in the latter, they usually don’t care.
The magic words:
“This is a restricted parking area. If it’s not a quick stop, I’m afraid you will have to move.”
“Hi, I need that spot for my mobility issue. Since I’m still in the car I can scout another space and hold it for you.”
Unless it’s a top-secret military facility, there is no reason to order someone away just because they don’t have an appropriate parking pass.
Offering them to stay for a quick stop is kind and polite, and it’s better if you follow it up with a recommendation of an alternative.
In the case of people stealing disabled parking spots… Well, you can try. Some people find it works when you make them believe you’re doing them a favor. Not only are you offering to find them a new spot, but you’re saving them from a ticket as well.
However, in the end, the kindest and most polite thing to do for the people who actually need those spots is to report it when someone able-bodied steals them. Some battles are more important than others.
Scenario 4: Someone is blocking the road or access
The issue: The person parked in front of a loading gate, garage door, at the end of the driveway, etc. This can be anything from an inconvenience (i.e., you can’t leave for work until they move) or a major setback (blocking access to the emergency center door).
The magic words:
“I don’t know if you have noticed, but this is the direct access to the XYZ establishment/residential area. Would you mind parking just over there? It’s not too far and inconvenient.”
This is another type of person where you must sound like you’re doing them a favor.
Throwing in another “boss may call the towing truck” while making it seem like you’re on their side will not hurt either.
It’s just another case of sheer entitlement and the driver thinking that no parking signs don’t apply to them. It’s very rare that they genuinely don’t know they should not park there. Yet, it’s easier to behave like you believe they didn’t notice the signs or that they don’t know they shouldn’t park in another person’s driveway.
Plus, offering an alternative spot will not only make you look less like you’re ordering them away from your property, but it will also prevent most from starting an argument.
Scenario 5: A person’s car needs to move to allow you to continue your work
The issue: You work for the electric, gas, communications, etc. company and you can’t access what you’re called to repair because there’s a car parked in front of it. Or any other scenario where a parked car will impede your ability to do your job well (or at all).
The magic words:
“We are from XYZ and we are currently doing some work here. If your car is parked there, it will make our job more difficult and it may even lead to damage. Would you mind moving it to a different spot?”
The key is to identify yourself, the type of work you’re doing, and why the vehicle presents the problem. Most importantly, don’t forget to mention the risk of damage to the car if it isn’t moved.
The driver is far more likely to respond well if you provide them with information and not only issue a quick order.
Don’t forget to offer to pay for the meter and/or inform them when your work is done. And, if your work will last for several days, offer to help them find or grab a good spot to make up for it.
Know when to walk away
There are times when you have to be gracious and walk away. One of the obvious cases is if you have a preferred parking spot (think of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory claiming his favorite spot on the couch).
If it’s a minor inconvenience, there is no point in risking an argument.
But here are the cases when you would be in the wrong if you insist on making someone move their vehicle.
- In the case of an emergency – Obviously, ambulances and fire trucks have priority over you in this case.
- The driver or the passenger is disabled – Disabled drivers and passengers need both easier access to the venue and room to maneuver their mobility aids. Be kind and understanding: it’s good for the soul.
- It’s a service vehicle that is currently performing a service – You can find yourself on the other side of the fifth scenario. Feel free to negotiate, but back off when you’re given a valid reason why that repair or moving truck can’t relocate.
- The vehicle is broken – Another obvious one, but you would be surprised how many people get insulted because someone can’t magic their car issues away. Either offer help or walk away.
- You’re at fault – We don’t always recognize our own entitlement. Just because we don’t want someone’s car to be in a certain place doesn’t mean that the Universe should bend to our will. Always take a moment to check your inner Karen before you let her go rampant on others.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.