UPDATE Paper Source Erases Great Blues, Views & BBQ Vibe

An alert “06880” reader loved loved loved this weekend’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But the ending left a sour taste. Here is the reader’s report:

At the end of yesterday — as my friends and I were all on a high after such an amazing weekend — I heard a story that almost ruined everything.

Paper Source — the store between Restoration Hardware and Bank of America — had every car towed that was parked in their lot.

They didn’t have to. The store was closed on Sunday. [UPDATE: As noted in John Suggs’ comment below, the store was open for business.]

Yes, they technically were within their rights to do this. But as the saying goes, just because you can does not mean you should.

The police are incredible each BBQ Fest weekend. They allow everyone to park everywhere. I believe that no tickets have ever been issued during a Festival weekend.

Cars parked behind Paper Source were towed during yesterday Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Cars parked behind Paper Source on the Post Road were towed during yesterday’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

I could not be more upset that this was how the Festival ended for some Westporters and our visitors. Can you imagine a family, exhausted and ready to go home, only to find their car gone? An officer told me the charge to release the car was $212.

The police did not know this was happening until people started to call with complaints.

I myself am a rule follower. But even I would have parked in the Paper Source lot, knowing the store was closed!

I can’t imagine why anyone would do such a mean-spirited, anti-community thing. Someone said that because this is a national chain, with maybe a manager who lives far from Westport (and possibly because managers change all the time), they just don’t get it.

They aren’t a true part of the community, so they don’t understand that we are one. I am not anti-chain at all. I hope this was just some jerk making a stupid, stupid decision.

The only thing I can do is let “06880” readers know what Paper Source did.

And tell everyone that I myself will never shop there again.

Huge crowds attend the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. Parking is tight -- but most businesses realize the importance of the event to downtown. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Huge crowds attend the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. Parking is tight — but most businesses realize the importance of the event to downtown. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

53 responses to “UPDATE Paper Source Erases Great Blues, Views & BBQ Vibe

  1. Wrong on so many levels. Paper Source should be embarrassed.

  2. Ugh…that is awful and so mean-spirited. Are you sure it was Papersource who had the cars towed? I just bought a bunch of envelopes there last week.

  3. I was informed of this during the festival. Totally unacceptable. This was a community event and everyone should work to make it a safe and wonderful time. As head of the Chamber of Commerce I will be talking to the powers that be and find out what happened, why it happened and ensure everyone is on the same page for the next festival.

    • what page is that, Matt? are you speaking for the entire Chamber when you tell a merchant that there are days when no parking signs are optional?

      • Matthew Mandell

        Don.

        Working with all merchants to ensure a smooth and hamonious community is what we all strive for. Towing did not have to occur, see below. The goal is not to have a repeat, illegal parking or towing, that’s the page I am on.

        MM

  4. Yes, this is sad.
    But does blame rest with Paper Source, or the towning company that monitors the lot and saw an opportunity to make some quick $$$, as policy is posted.
    Doubt Paper Source would have called to instruct / aurhorize action.
    I suspect the towing company seizing an opportunity.

  5. I’m pretty sure Papersource is one of two businesses that are tenants in this building. I have no clue whether the other was open Sunday but I sure did see the tow-fest going on as I walked home from the Blues and BBQ event. There was a flatbed truck with someone’s SUV on it as well as tow truck going after a passenger car. I also noticed a kinda scary sign posted at the rear entrance to the lot in question that said stuff about private, etc., etc. in big red letters. I’m thinking that the building’s manager had something to do with what happened. Maybe no so much Papersource? So sorry.

  6. Susan Shuldman

    Before everyone bashes, trashes and boycotts Paper Source, are you sure it was Paper Source that had the cars towed? Could it have been the other retail store that shares the building? Was it the property owner or management company?

  7. Just posted on my FB page — help them close the other six days.

  8. While the letter writer has every right to be frustrated, I agree with John. We should be cautious to jump to conclusions about Paper Source, which actually is (at least is supposed to be) open on Sundays 10-5 and in my experience is staffed by gracious and helpful people. Towing companies are notorious for being opportunistic. For future large town events, the event organizers should arrange with property owners for designated overflow lots to prevent this from happening in the future.

  9. That will be just great for their business, I refuse to give my business and tell others too…short-sighted A-holes

  10. Putting aside whether or not it is “nice” to tow non-customers from a lot, the onus shouldn’t be on private business and property owners to handle the overflow parking from an event of this scale. Now that its popularity has grown to the point that the local public parking spaces are insufficient, the festival’s organizers need to explore alternatives (e.g. shuttles from school parking lots) and designate festival parking areas.

  11. I look forward to a response from Paper Source.

  12. i just met with the store manager at Paper Source, Darlah Dube-Roy to find out the facts. She confirmed that her assistant had indeed placed the call to have the cars towed. She also confirmed that the store was actually open at the time and not closed as you had originally reported Dan.

    I shared with her that I personally felt that what the store did was not the act of a “Good Neighbor” and showed poor judgement. I suggested that she consider making amends by writing notes of apologies to each family who had their car towed and to reimburse them the costs of the towing.

    Ms. Dube-Roy?

    John Suggs

    • Thanks, John — great info. I have updated the story to reflect that they were open. And I appreciate your suggestion to Ms. Dube-Roy too!

  13. Community spirit is one thing but preventing a business form earning a living is another. When Paper Source negotiated their lease I am sure they were concerned about parking and that’s why they have spaces that are strictly for their customers. Whether you like it or not, they pay for those spots and no one is entitled to park there unless Paper Source says it’s ok. If Paper Source was a doctor’s office, I have to assume that no one would have parked in spots reserved for a doctor. How is this different? Shame on all of you who defend the rights of those that parked illegally. If anyone in this town parks one inch outside the boundaries of a parking spot any where in town, everyone is in an uproar. So many of you post these pictures and now, you are upset when people park illegally? If you are passionate about something (like parking, really??), be convicted in what you believe. Don’t change your position because it suits you. Paper Source had every right to do what they did. I am going to show my support for them and buy something in their store today.

  14. Let the punishment fit the crime. If the Paper Source management has
    some common sense they will apologize and reimburse for the
    towing fees. That will be far less costly than the otherwise lost business.

  15. I’m walking into Paper Source right now and registering my complaint with the manager. How about you?

  16. It is ultimately Paper Sources choice to do what they did, but in the spirit of better promotion and community relations and goodwill overall would have been to welcome parking and a some kinda of moderate discount for those attending the Blues and BBQ festival. Sweet and tangy BBQ sauce instead of so much vinegar!

    • The original letter writer’s indignation came largely from the assumption that Paper Source was towing cars when its business was closed. An assumption that has been proven incorrect. What if, for example, Paper Source had a birthday party or workshop scheduled for which its customers paid $30/per person (one of Paper Source’s actual business offerings) and it actually needed the parking to satisfy its commitments. . . especially when all of the public lots were full. Should Paper Source be required to give up that business for the sake of community relations and goodwill?

  17. Susan Shuldman

    The fact that Paper Source was open for business changes everything! I just stopped by the store to show my support and was told both their customers and employees were unable to park — one employee had to circle around the area for quite some time, ultimately parked very far away and was late clocking in for her shift. There is VERY clear signage indicating cars parked illegally would be towed. Did any of the people that had their car towed go into the store to ASK if it was okay to park there? For those of you that feel it is okay to park wherever you want, whenever you want, please post your address so your neighbors will know it is okay to park in your driveway without your permission.

  18. Why did the people who parked in the spaces with the signage indicating they could be towed, think they would not be towed? Dan runs routinely pictures of people parking in a manner that calls into question their good citizenship. When the picture appears all manner or righteous indignation wells up and moralizing runs rampant. The car owners in this case were in the wrong, if they were not patrons of Paper Source.

  19. After reading all the comments – and seeing that they actually were open for business – I think that this is yet another case of Westport’s unfortunate growing class of ‘I can do whatever I want because I can…’ residents – I went to my favorite Starbucks at corner of Cedar and Post Road at 10:30 today -and saw a typical overcrowded parking lot – and saw an SUV parked across the single handicapped parking space…two cars parked parallel to rear door, clearly marked ‘no parking’ – three or four cars parked along side of Patio.com (I feel for that business owner) even tho it’s clearly marked for Patio.com patrons only – and several cars parked in front of Savoy and Subway across the Post Road – with one lady who did park there dashing across the Post Road with coffee in hand, jaywalking and risking her life since she was too lazy to even walk to the corner to use the crossing button and cross on a red light.
    Dan – I sympathize with your feeling that the store owners or manager may have over-reacted – but c’mon, this outrageous entitlement behavior has to stop!
    Thanks.
    Chris

  20. OK, the fact that the business WAS open does change the situation. And I can attest that parking wise the entire area was a madhouse that day – people parked in fire lanes, handicap parking (sans permits, not that I noticed) etc., etc. Pretty hard to run a business in a situation such as this. I probably wouldn’t have gone the towing route with all those family type vehicles and the heat and so on (maybe asked the Blues organizers to make a public announcement first) but I can see how someone else might get there – especially if this has been a chronic issue.

  21. …as Gilda Radner would have said, “Never mind…”

  22. Marcy Anson Fralick Staples '70

    I’m seeing this incident as a learning opportunity for the event organizers next year, and the business owners. I think Kerry Foley’s idea of shuttles from nearby school or church parking lots is great as it would alleviate the issue of people parking behind Paper Source or other businesses that are open at the time. As for those in fire lanes and handicap spots without a hang tag or license plate, that’s up to the police to monitor, and obviously, they didn’t.

    I also think a lot of advanced warning regarding where to park, maps of event sanctioned parking areas, and times and places of shuttle pick-ups should be disseminated via newspaper, posters/flyers, Dan’s column, and other public information sources well before the event. It should also be made clear in advance, that cars parked illegally, or in private parking lots will be towed at the owner’s expense. This gives people plenty of time to figure out parking, and if they choose to have a “holier than thou” attitude, they have been forewarned that they will have to pay a fine and retrieve their car from the impound lot.

  23. In the end people parked during business hours of a place that has limited parking, that they rightfully own…. People jumped to conclusions that the business was wrong for enforcing the signage and rules…. The end result for all involved….. THEY ARE LEFT SINGING THE BLUES!!! Thank You I’m here all week….

  24. Richard Anzalone

    Chris Swan’s comment is the only one that makes sense. Why do the people of Westport think that the rules do not apply to them and are then outraged when their cars are towed. People around here think No Parking, speed limit & stop signs are just suggestions.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      In all fairness, I don’t think that we can assume that all (or even a majority,) of the attendees were Westport residents. Affluenza impacts much of the state! In any case, it may have been more gracious for the store to have requested an announcement from the festival organizers before calling for the tow trucks. These people do now know that Paper Source and the Downtown Merchants are serious about their parking, but they’ll also remember that the next time they need to make a trip and will likely take their spending elsewhere. It’s all symbiotic, so less traffic = less demand for stores = empty storefronts, etc, etc…

  25. Out of curiosity, as I wasn’t there, were the other parking lots in the area —
    Westport Woman’s Club, Commuter lot behind the WWC, Baldwin, Parker-Harding, even the ones on Wilton Road — full? Parking there would have required a walk, but would have been legal.

    • Bobby. The good news is the event sold out both days. We attended on Saturday and it was fabulous. People from all over came-a friend emailed me from NY that they were there.

      Most lots were at a capacity but you could find a spot if you tried. While some on this post believe the towed cars were all Westporters, my guess they were not. Since we had guests from different towns, it appears they did not follow the parking signs and took the ‘chance’. Glad to see the stores stand up and take control and did what they had to do.

      From what I am told, the store in question left notes on the cars warning them their car could be towed. They waited and then realized the owners were not coming back.

      While some were left to reclaim their cars, the event had to be a huge success. As some have stated, work should be done ahead of time to create a system of parking and busing.

      I cannot wait till next year to attend this fun event. Might even enter the BBQ competition.

  26. OK Folks, let’s take a breath here. Let’s not bash on Paper Source or Westporters……..

    I went in to speak with the manager of PS. A mistake was made, but not one that didn’t come from frustration. The manager was not working on Sunday, but did on Saturday and took no action then under worse circumstances. She knew it was a festival and tolerated the situation.

    A shift supervisor was working the Sunday of Labor day weekend. PS was open and the lot was full, again. She paper noticed a warning on all the cars, but obviously the people were in the concert and never saw it. Police can’t do anything on private land. So she, on her own, made the call to tow. What she should have done was call her manager or go to the festival and ask for an announcement. She didn’t do either. That was the mistake.

    PS execs have been informed of what happened and we will wait to hear what they have to say. The manager understands the community impact to what happened and feels badly, but she is also waiting on her instructions from the top. She did note that she had foot traffic from the festivalgoers.

    There is no doubt a lesson has been learned by all parties, the Town, DMA, PS and the Chamber. We will work to make things better next time and at other events.

    And as for Westporters knowing better, most people at the event were visitors. So ease up on your neighbors. This was a great festival where everyone was friendly and had a great time.

    Matthew Mandell
    Chamber of Commerce

    • Matt – did you just write “take a breath”. I believe you also wrote “totally unacceptable” earlier. Please Matt, you jumped the gun. Move on and realize that no one can be be right all of the time. Perhaps a “my bad” instead of “take a breath”?
      I’m your next customer, Paper Source.

    • Paper Source can’t be blamed for managing their own parking when they have a business that is open and both customers and employees that need access to the property.

      Any attempt to deflect blame to Paper Source with “yes, but” criticism misses the point that festival goers ignored the signs and event organizers apparently did not do a good enough job of informing attendees of where to park given the shortage of spaces.

      Hopefully a lesson has been learned by festival goers and attendees.

  27. Matthew Mandell – I think you miss the point completely. There was no mistake and there was no obligation on the part of anyone at Paper Source to do anything other than what they did. Bravo to supervisor or the manager or whomever made the call. You had no right to inquire about this at Paper Source – since when is it up to you as either a rep of the Chamber of Commerce or a member of the RTM to ask for an explanation. Why are you owed an explanation? The facts are quite simple. No parking except for patrons. Are you saying that the rules apply only sometimes? Funny how town representatives can decide when rules should apply. You don’t see anyone from the town up in arms when a car gets ticketed for parking illegally at one of the schools when attending a kid’s concert or sporting event (and there are no more legal spots). That kind of ticket is ok? I say, the rules are there for a reason. Either live with them under all circumstances or change the rules. But, please, it is not your job to second guess a store employee for simply asking for the rules to be enforced. You are not owed that explanation.

  28. Jay,

    Please excuse my enthusiasm for a seeking to understand why there was a disturbance in the force on Sunday. My job is exactly to find out what happened. The police actually contacted me at the festival to tell me this had happened. This way we all can analyze the issue, so it does not happen again, both the illegal parking and the towing. But there were alternatives to towing and they were not sought out. IMHO they should have been. With a bit more effort all around none of this would have happened.

    This is not the last festival in this town. So we learn from this situation so we can make the next one better. The Manager was actually thankful that someone came in to discuss the issue rationally and work with them moving forward.

    MM

  29. What’s the debate? The business was OPEN. Customers need a place to park in order to buy goods. If you were heading to the festival and parked where you shouldn’t have, then you got what you deserved. Let’s stop being so sanctimonious those who are outraged! at a business trying to maintain parking for customers at the expense of people who parked where they shouldn’t have. Where’s the outrage at the people who parked there knowing that they weren’t going to be customers?

  30. Sharon Paulsen

    Funny, as I read through all the comments, I found myself agreeing with certain bits from both sides of the coin.

    Definitely needs to be addressed next year, huh? Were there similar issues last year?

    I think about big events like the Big E in Massachusetts. Most of the residents and businesses, near the park grounds, open up there property for “fair parking”. And charge anywhere from $5 bucks to $20 bucks or more per car, depending on how close to any given entrance.

    Maybe that could be something that some businesses in Westport could do too? Just a thought. Not sure how that works logistically.

  31. So mean spirited of them!!!

  32. Westporter Rob Haroun who runs SIR construction (most of those awful new construction homes being built in town) owns and manages this building. I highly doubt it was Paper Source who pulled the trigger…..has this been verified Dan?

  33. cham·ber of com·merce
    noun
    a local association to promote and protect the interests of the business community in a particular place.

  34. Dear Paper Source Manager,

    Please set your calendar for August 1, 2016. You need to remind yourself to order signs to place right next to the “Parking for Paper Source Customers Only – Violators Will Be Towed” signs on both sides of the entrance to your parking lot. “NO BLUES VIEWS & BBQs FESTIVAL PARKING – IF YOU DO, YOU’LL BE SINGING THE BLUES TO THE TOWING COMPANY” will hopefully do the trick since the existing signs, which cannot be missed, apparently had little meaning to some of the BBQ Festival attendees.

  35. We are all “legally” entitled to have cars towed that park an inch onto our lawn as overflow from a neighbor’s party. But that doesn’t make such an action the best moral choice. What Paper Source lost in customers dedicated solely to braving traffic to patronize their store, they likely gained in the vastly increased foot traffic, many of whom were likely out-of-towners who might have wandered in out of curiosity. I applaud Matthew taking the time to get the facts. The ball is in Paper Source’s court whether to take the legally entitled “tough cookies” route or the good neighbor “oops” route. If I were them, given the absence of a warning announcement at the festival (you hear these all the time at such events), I’d take the latter.

  36. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Why why why does life in Westport Connecticut sound so terribly difficult these days?
    Surely, it can’t be so bad. A future visitor (me) would be put off.

    “A man hears what he wants to hear,
    and disregards the rest”? Hopefully, not. Life is too short for pettiness.

  37. don l bergmann

    This comment is probably too late to be read by many. Our recently “accepted” DOWNTOWN Westport Master Plan lists as “short” term objective PK3 at page vi and elsewhere “Combine and Co-Manage Public & Private Parking Lots (Gillespie Ctr. w/Old Town Hall”).
    Don Bergmann

    • Don. Accepted? Really? How much money is the town spending for the accepted downtown plan? What plan did they accept?

      Did we also accept the Compo plan? Staples? Library? Senior housing?

      Maybe all we need to do is to have the wonderful BBQ and blues festival coordinate parking a bit better and all this goes away. Was a great weekend.

  38. On Sunday we parked in the commuter lot in the afternoon and it was less than half full. It’s actually a shorter walk to the Levitt over the bridge than from the Paper Source parking lot.

    • A suggestion for next year — have signs stating “Festival Parking” (or whatever they decide would be appropriate) where parking would be allowed, and signs stating “No Festival Parking” where it would not be allowed.