ANY local or outstation visitors to the city area of Ipoh are bound to encounter parking touts demanding for parking fees.
Equipped with a waist pouch as they gesture constantly to oncoming cars, it is not difficult to spot them.
However, avoiding them is another thing.
Senior software developer Jack Tan, 36, who was in the city for the first time, said he paid RM4 to a tout shortly after parking his car near Jalan Theatre.
“Some of these touts can get pretty annoying.
“All they do are wave their hands and ask you to park at a certain spot and just like that they would pester you for money,” said the Kuala Lumpur resident, adding that this was the highest amount he has paid for parking his car in the city.
However, he had no choice but to pay out of fear.
“I’m worried that if I do not pay them the amount they demand, they might scold me.
“Or worse, damage my car because they know exactly where I parked,” he told The Star.
Tan said it would be good if local authorities could step up their efforts to solve this issue.
“I think there should be enforcement officers patrolling the city area where these touts are becoming rampant.
“Maybe this way touts would feel discouraged from even thinking of earning cash the unethical way,” he said.
It was recently reported that city councillor Lai Kong Phooi had brought up the issue on the problem of touts collecting fees illegally in the city during weekends and weekdays after 6pm.
Some of the roads in the city that are thronged with them are Jalan Veerasamy, Jalan Leong Sin Nam and Jalan Laksamana.
He suggested for more police beat bases to be erected around the city and a hotline number that connects directly to the Ipoh City Council’s enforcement department set up for people to call in whenever they faced this problem.
Another visitor from Kuala Lumpur was Angel Fong, 36, who said she experiences this issue almost every time she travels here to buy some of Ipoh’s famous treats.
“The first few times I had encountered them, I was suspicious because they did not issue me a parking coupon after paying.
“And the only reason I was willing to pay them is because I’m scared that they might harass me,” she said, adding that they tend to intimidate female drivers more.
Fong said the issue of touts is becoming more serious and it might tarnish the image of Ipoh as a tourist attraction as well.
However, when asked if she would feel reluctant to visit the city again, she said she would not.
“It is my hometown and I visit my parents here when I can.
“But for the first-timers here and other tourists, I think it would not leave a good impression with them,” she said.
Businessman Beh Chin Seng, 35, said some of the touts had dared to ask for parking fees even during weekdays.
“I had just scratched the parking coupon authorised by the city council when I was in the city, which only cost me 30 sen.
“And one of the touts approached me asking me to pay him RM2 for parking fees,” he said, adding that he felt it was peculiar at first because he had to pay twice for parking at the same place and time.
He said he relented and decided to hand over the money to the tout to avoid trouble.
“The tout looked provoked when I asked about the parking coupon I had just scratched.
“He seemed adamant in demanding for money, so I just paid him and hoped that he would not damage my car after that,” said Beh.
A restaurant worker who only wished to be known as Peggy said she feels worried about the parking touts problem because it might drive customers away aside from leaving a bad impression on Ipoh folk and tourists alike.
“Some of the customers complain to us about them, saying that they have to pay for such expensive parking just to eat out in the city.
“I have even asked some of our previous regular customers why we do not see them eating at our restaurant anymore.
“And they said as if the lack of parking was not bad enough, parking touts were demanding for parking fees ranging between RM3 to RM5 from them,” said the 29-year-old who works at a restaurant along Jalan Dato Tahwil Azar in the city.
Peggy said during the past few years, it used to be some old vagrants walking along certain roads who probably just needed some money for food or beer.
“I have seen how they operate, and for the past year, I notice that it gradually became youngsters instead and now they are everywhere in the city area.
“They carry a pouch along and even designate parking areas amongst themselves for them to collect money as if it was a proper business,” she claimed.
She said she hoped local authorities, such as the police, could patrol the city area and even station themselves at a few touting hot spots.
“Hopefully, this would deter them from demanding money from the people so boldly,” she said.