G & C meter beaters spread holiday cheer
By MELODY KARPINSKI / Santa Rosa Correspondent
If you shopped downtown this holiday season, you might be wondering who the group of Santa hat-clad children (and the occasional adult) are looking so searchingly into car windows. Before you get up in arms about snooping passerby, take a little closer look.
The kids are actually the G & C Auto Body Meter Beaters, a dedicated group of individuals who scour the streets looking for expired parking vouchers. When one is found, the Meter Beaters pay for a fresh voucher, saving the driver from an unsightly parking ticket.
It’s a project that began over 20 years ago, when G & C owner Gene Crozat rushed back to his car during last-minute Christmas shopping to be greeted by an unyielding meter maid. Frustrated, Crozat took his children to the bank, bought a roll of quarters and told them to fill up expired meters. The Meter Beaters were born.
Though Crozat’s children have grown up, the auto body recruits employee’s children, church kids, college students and whoever else is wiling to spread a little holiday cheer downtown. A note is left on the hood of each car with a poem, informing drivers of their rescue from the dreaded ticket.
“We’ll get mail clear into February from people thanking us for paying for their parking,” said Alayne Saturday, a bookkeeper at G & C. “People are constantly saying ‘thank you.”
Crozat’s idea wasn’t always popular with the powers that be. The city complained, but by then the endeavor was so popular that the city eventually backed off.
“Gene feels strongly that the city should back off on giving parking tickets during the holidays,” said Saturday. “He thinks that if people were able to spend more time shopping at local merchants than running around trying to pay the meter, the city would overall benefit more from the revenue generated.”
Meter maids have told the Meter Beaters that their ticket-writing goes down to about five percent during the 10-day endeavor. But it’s the smiles of the people who’ve just ducked a ticket that make the Meter Beaters feel like every quarter given is worth it.