Help me be polite in this situation
September 10, 2017 5:03 AM   Subscribe

I have a legal right to something; I know. But in this situation involving my apartment building manager I also don't want to be an ass. How do I proceed?

We're a one-car family and have 2 parking spaces included in our rent. We live next door to the building managers, who have 2 spaces also, and more than 2 cars. Upon moving in, the manager asked very gently and sweetly if, if it's not a big deal, they park in one of our spaces, ostensibly the space closer to their home.

This was a no-brainer. We only use one space. She (the lead bldg mgr-- her husband handles small maintenance requests and she's the main point of contact) also made sure to say she'll move their car if we ever want the space, get a 2nd car, etc.

It's 3 years later and the subject has never come up again and everything's been swell. The management team has been responsive to our infrequent needs, and we all have a good relationship, though waving and saying hello is typically the extent of it.

They can still use our 2nd space, but now I just want to switch spaces with them, because to exit my space now requires a 3-point turn and never did before. It's a mild inconvenience.

It happens that rent is increasing in the near future. I don't think I need to tie this in, but rent has increased over 20% in 3 years. Having to pay more AND do a 3-point turn to back out everyday (it's due to the landscaping that has always worked to my disadvantage, parking-wise, and now the spaces on both sides of my car are occupied where there used to be more room on one side)-- it just makes me feel a little ripped-off(?).

I'm preparing to claim what's rightfully mine-- the better parking space. But I can't imagine how to not look cold and uncaring in doing so.

Extra info: We're all hard-working people (that is, economically disadvantaged/poorish, suburbanish) in this scenario, but my partner and I have a fun, child-free life and these folks have more kids than I can count. Some are driving age, and I'm noticing some less than highly-skilled driving abilities in their family. I actually want to help my lovely neighbors/the managers live a happy life.

I've tried to be OK with the backing out sitch for the past month or so, but, like I said, I'm feeling a little used or something at this point.

Thank you for your thoughts/advice!
posted by little_dog_laughing to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So you're paying for both spaces but only using one? If I were you, I'd send them a polite email informing them that you'd like to switch spaces from now on. I don't think you have to give a reason why. I would not phrase it as a request, but just as something that is going to happen.
posted by blackzinfandel at 5:40 AM on September 10, 2017 [22 favorites]

Yeah, this is an unnecessary level of guilt. You lent them a spot instead of renting it to them. They know this and are grateful. They won't say no if you tell them you need to swap.

Child free or child full shouldn't factor in. Rent increase shouldn't factor in. You haven't been used, you are just feeling inconvenienced and that can be remedied.

Just email them or leave a note. No fuss, no discussion.
posted by charlielxxv at 5:47 AM on September 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

Agree with above, just make it a simple request without a reason, via email or in person. If asked why, you can blame poor parking skills (you don't actually have to HAVE poor parking skills; just fib) and say that with the change to your current space, you sometimes have a bit of trouble getting into/out of it.
posted by whitelily at 5:49 AM on September 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

As someone who often finds social situations awkward, I actually don't think this is as awkward as you're making it seem. The next time you run into one of them in the hallway or wherever, just say "hey, how would you feel about switching parking spots?" You don't actually have to even give a reason why. Just ask and see what they say. Maybe they'll ask you why. Maybe they won't want to switch at all. But none of that matters right now. Their potential response won't ever happen until you ask the question. Cross that bridge when you come to it.

And leave the other things that don't matter out of your request. The rent increases have nothing to do with this. Their kids have nothing to do with this. If you bring those things in, all it's going to do is make them less likely to swap spots with you.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:58 AM on September 10, 2017

"hey, how would you feel about switching parking spots?"

I'm in favor of a slightly more direct approach "Hey I'm going to need to switch back and use the other parking spot." (just in case their response is "We feel like we wouldn't want that" and then you'd be stuck) and otherwise totally agree with kevinbelt. Don't bring feelings about rent increases, family/kids, landscaping or anything else into this. Just "Hey this has been working out just great but I'm going to need my space back. Thanks so much." and bring cookies or something if you feel weird about it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:04 AM on September 10, 2017 [27 favorites]

I agree with everyone else that this isn't a huge ask, but if you want a template, you could use the DBT "Dear Man" approach. For example:

Describe the situation: "You've been using our parking space close to your house for three years, and that's been fine."
Express your feelings: "Because of the landscaping, though, I'm having a really hard time pulling out of the other space now."
Assert your wishes: "I would really like to switch spaces with you."
Reinforce/Reward them: "That would allow you to keep using one of our spaces while making me a happier tenant."

(The "MAN" part is to stay Mindful of your objective (e.g., don't get sidetracked into a discussion about the rent increases), Act confident, and be willing to Negotiate, though you probably shouldn't negotiate much on this.)
posted by lazuli at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

"I'm in favor of a slightly more direct approach"

I'm good with that edit. Still informal (which is the key), but you get your point across. You're not going to come across as an ass if you're conversational. It's when you start sounding like "to whom it may concern, as per our agreement dated..." that you sound like an ass. The way jessamyn put it, you're just a neighbor chatting.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey I'm going to need to switch back and use the other parking spot."

Right, you don't ask if they want to buy copier toner, you ask how many caseS they want to order, unless you don't really care if they buy toner.


You: hey, how would you feel about switching parking spots?
Them: I'm good, thanks!

Now what? If you really want the spot you're going to have to tell them, and you should think about what you will domifnthey decline.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:11 AM on September 10, 2017

Thanks all!

Yes, I wasn't planning to load 'em up with details exactly. I have a bit of a fear of being a brat, is all, especially in these times where I'd like to see more communal thinking among neighbors; i.e. just because I have rights to the space and am feeling mildly inconvenienced doesn't mean I ought to just take the space. You know?

But, your advice is wonderful. I'll just confidently and conversationally float the request. They're still getting a fair deal and I won't build up feelings of resentment. Cheers.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi, Manager, I plan to start using parking space B. You're welcome to use space A. Really, they've got a sweet deal, far more than a fair deal. What's the value of the 2nd space?
posted by theora55 at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

Yes, you don't ask permission to have the use of your own space, you tell them. Just do it nicely. Hey, just to let you know I'll be needing that parking space B, but I'm totally ok if you still keep using our other one. We'll just be swapping. What are they going to say, no?
posted by Jubey at 1:55 PM on September 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh man, you have nothing to feel guilty about. They are *extremely* lucky that you aren't charging them for the space. Where I live, people rent their parking spaces out for a *lot( of money. There are actually fewer parking spaces in my building than apartments, and I pay a now-carless lady upstairs $200 per month for her space. You can absolutely put the burden of the three-point-turn on them!
posted by radioamy at 2:57 PM on September 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

I agree that you have zero to feel guilty about here!

I don't feel like the rent and the landscaping really factor in, because these are the building managers, not the owners. They aren't getting rich off of your rent (the building owner may or may not be paying them more in relation to rent increases), and likely are not the ones making final decisions about what landscaping goes in.

I also don't think the kids factor in at all -- this isn't a competition for who has the "harder" life...the spot is yours, you're paying for it, and it's kind that you're letting your neighbors use it at all. If stuff happened that you needed to purchase a second car for whatever reason, clearly you'd have the rights to the spot.

I think it's perfectly fine to just say "Hey, just a heads up that I'd like to switch spots! You're welcome to keep using the second spot, though." If they ask why, you can certainly mention the landscaping/three point turn, but I sort of doubt they will. And anyone who thinks you are "cold and uncaring" after you have let them use a spot you pay for, rent free, for multiple years, and then you are going to continue doing so but just let them use a different spot rent free, is... well, kind of a dick. And it doesn't sound like your apartment manager is a dick! So I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:52 PM on September 11, 2017

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