The most Aashish Dalal says he's ever paid to park his own car is $36, but he will gladly sell you a premium parking spot at the Super Bowl for more than a grand.
Continue Reading Below
At last year's, Super Bowl at Cowboy's Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Dalal sold 30 spots at a nearby Taco Bell for $330 apiece (gordita not included).
This year, he's already sold a spot near Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for $900, which includes room for an RV and a bodacious tailgate party.
Last year, the top price for a spot spiked well over $1,000, and Dalal suspects he will see that price again before the playoffs are over.
Dalal, 34, is chief executive of Chicago-based ParkWhiz.com, a website that allows you to reserve parking spots at major sports and entertainment venues. "There's always plenty of parking, yet it's never there when you need it," he explains.
The average parking price for this year's Super Bowl, including room for those space-eating RV tailgaters, is $184, up from $140 last year, Parkwhiz.com reports.
The closer the spot, the more it costs. In addition to spots that cost more than a private limo ride to the game, ParkWhiz.com lists some relative bargains.
If you want to park at AAA Bail Bonds on Super Bowl Sunday, there are still reservations available for as little as $89. It's an 8/10ths of a mile walk to the stadium, but you can throw a helluva tailgate party. And if the bash gets out of hand, the bail bond company might be able to have you and your pals out of the pokey by kick-off.
For $89, you can also tailgate at the equidistant India Gardens--which on Super Bowl Sunday will be transformed what Dalal calls "a parking lot with a restaurant inside."
If you've already scratched up maybe $5,000 for a ticket to the U.S.'s largest showcase of shameless consumption, you should check out the parking spots at http://www.parkwhiz.com/super-bowl-parking/.
You don't want to be screaming expletives at your windshield, driving around some gritty Indianapolis industrial park, looking for a parking space, and listening to the first quarter on your AM radio with a really pricey ticket in your pocket.
Since 2006, Dalal has quietly built an online market for reserved parking spaces at major events across the nation.
He got the idea after his wife suffered an excoriating classroom dress-down from a professor in Boston. She was late for class because when she drove to her monthly parking space near Fenway Park, the lot attendant told her to park somewhere else: "Sorry, we have Red Sox fans here." She hadn't read the fine print that said her spot would be golden on game days, and therefore not hers.
Dalal was fascinated with Internet commerce and was looking for something to revolutionize. In 1999, he graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., as a pre-med student, but his wife's experience helped him forget about healing the sick and corner the market on game-day parking spaces instead.
"We think we can revolutionize the parking industry, the same way Expedia did for the airline industry, the same way OpenTable did for the restaurant industry, and the way that StubHub did for the ticket industry," he said.
His first plan was to install sensors in parking spaces across the country that would feed a database with real-time information on availability. He soon realized this was too capital-intensive, so he decided to call owners of parking lots near major sports and entertainment venues. Now, he scalps parking spots the way others scalp tickets.
His 10-employee company has no venture capital investors or significant debt. It grows on its revenues, which he says have risen at an annualized clip of 300%.
His friends call him the "Parking King." But he says he is only supplying market information to anyone who wants a reserved parking place at a critical moment in time, like the Super Bowl.
"We don't set the rates," he says. "The market sets the rates... The parking lot owners set the rates."
Which sounds like something a utility company executive would say at a rate-hike hearing.
"People say, "This is ridiculous,'" Dalal says. "'This is a scam. This is gouging." But the reason the parking lot owners are doing this is because people are buying it. ...We live in a gluttonous society."
(Al's Emporium, written by Dow Jones Newswires columnist Al Lewis, offers commentary and analysis on a wide range of business subjects through an unconventional perspective. Contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org or tellittoal.com)