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G & C meter beaters spread holiday cheer

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Posted by

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.

  • whine country romance

    Wow. A quarter. Maybe Gene Crozat is not such a crook after all. This surely makes me forget the three times that his company towed my pickup from my own driveway for overlapping the sidewalk by 2″. Or for the three failed attempts his body shop made when trying to match the color on my car when they ‘repaired’ it.

    These poor kids should be enjoying their time off from school. Not wasting it trying to bolster the reputation of one of the most dishonest businessmen in the area.

  • chris cherney

    Just to say your are doing a great job for people who have to shop this time of year. I haveed lived in Sonoma county all my life up into 4yrs ago and then moved to Oregon. Thank you for what your Meter beaters are doing. Thank you . Chris Cherny

  • hannon sutro

    Silly you, you think the city give a crap about merchants? If they did , they wouldn’t have the policies they keep foisting on them….
    All the city wants is income to pay for employees that deserve hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits.

  • GK

    I wish G&C would have shown such kindness before towing my car last week from downtown – then charging me $355.00 to claim it.

  • curtis lambert

    It’s nice that Gene pays up someones meters, and I agree that the Citys parking policies are not very friendly.
    But it should be noted that G and C runs a towing service that patrols privately owned parking lots
    and tows and impounds cars. In most cases where the car has been towed the charge to the vehicle
    owner is usually several hundred dollars. Gene can feed a lot of meters with that money. I wonder if G and C towing has a moritorium on towing cars from shopping centers and apartment coplexes duriing the Holidays?

  • Sue Hayes

    We first met Gene when SRPD wasn’t responding to burglar alarms at his old shop for over 20 minutes/call, and then claimed they were false alarms. Have used his services ever since (bad teen driving has existed since the horse and buggy days) and appreciate the G&C culture.
    Went a minute over our meter this week while at the library and were pleasantly surprised to see he’s still serving the community.
    Thank you, Gene!

  • Mikey

    Thank you “secret Santa’s” Meter readers – get a real job.

  • Cindy DeMoore

    My friends and I were having coffee at Holy Roasters, a downtown coffee shop, when we all suddenly remembered that we had not fed the meter for over an hour. Sure enough the meter maid was out there looking to give someone a ticket. All four of us were delighted to see that our meters had been fed by a G & C Meter Beater. I love Christmas Spirit! Thank you so much G & C, your act of kindness made my day.

  • Tim

    One of Gene’s elves paid for my parking last week. THANKS GENE ! ! !

  • Rich in Sebastopol

    I was getting a haircut in Railroad Square last week, thought I had a parking ticket on my window. Read a bit more closely. Looked at my parking stub inside and beat that by 3 minutes, so I was about to look into another car since the G&C parking stub was still of use. Saw the Meter Beater working another ticket machine and gave it back to him, thanking him and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

  • Caller

    I’m a fan of law and order, so I think if people don’t pay their time then they should be cited. G&C is essentially taking money that would otherwise go into the city’s general fund, which help the city’s services — when in turn help the community as a whole.

    To those who whine about G&C towing their cars, you should know it is your fault for parking in private lots that have huge signs telling you not to park there. On the other hand, it’s funny that G&C beats meters for the positive press, but they charge people $355 for towing, even during the holidays.

    Seem like G&C wants all of the publicity and money.

  • michael

    this guy makes his drivers log 500 miles every weekend looking for cars to tow from apartment complex’s (illegal) and is arguably the most dishonest auto body shop in the county and you make him out to be a prince. your a tool and you should know your subject a little better

  • michael

    probably one of the worst guys in our community for any good deed he does a hundred bad you should do a little more research on your subjects

  • deb

    To see the happy meter elves feeding meters with such good cheer when it’s pouring rain is a true holiday gift to shoppers downtown.
    On behalf of my clients who benefit from this, thank you, you little happy elves!!!!

  • deb


  • Cynthia Conners

    Up until the last couple of months i was the general mgr. of another body shop in the county for a number of years before i resigned…the auto body industry in this county is so competitive its beyond belief however i want to give kudos to Mr. Crozat and his family. People can be naysayers during this holiday season and complain as much as they like about their cars being towed, etc. but the bottom line at the end of the day is that if you weren’t doing anything wrong your vehicle would not have been towed…its not like they are trolling for business they i am sure are called to the sites because people have disregarded signs that are posted. I for one am in total support of what they do year after year in a world that so little is done for others for the masses especially with all of the heartache that we read about in the media. Bringing smiles to faces when you see the meter feeders in their red shirts and santa hats is well worth the heat this family make take with complaints..i for one was one who had their meter fed when i ran into Macys last week by a young man and who saved me getting a ticket because the cities meter person was about to give me a ticket being 6 minutes late. I personally think its wonderful that the Crozat Family is doing this each person needs to ask themselves when was the last time you stepped outside of your world and did a random act of kindness for people outside of your family and circle for another person. Keep up the good work and for those naysayers out there remember Mr. Crozat and his family don’t have to do this and i believe are doing it for nothing other than to make our holidays a little bit more special. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving me from a 30.00 ticket….and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  • Ron

    In Salem Oregon, they removed the meters in the downtown core and have a 2 hour free parking limit. For Christmas, the extend that to 4 hours free parking so people can shop for the holidays.

  • Dee Seat

    A good deed once a year does not erase a lifetime of deceit.

  • 3rdKing

    I got a parking ticket at 5:30 because I went to a dinner that cost almost $200. I will never go to downtown Santa Rosa again if I can help it, ever….The streets were EMPTY and i get a ticket at 5:30 because i forgot.

    Screw You Santa Rosa!

  • Steve

    I was one of the recipients of meter beaters in Santa Rosa this year. As I made my way to the pay station a young man wearing a Santa hat approached me with a card and a quarter. He told me that he had noticed that my meter was ready to expire and the next few minutes would be compliments of G&C.
    It was a very nice gesture and one that will make me think of G&C should I ever need that type of service.

  • Ken Briggs

    meter beaters are good for xmas tow trucks cost money . but what does that ticket cost .

  • truth

    Don’t fall into the trap. He screws everyone out of money all year like the scoundrel he is then at Xmas drops a few coins in a meter and people think he’s the next Jesus
    How about this Gene? Try being a decent human all year

  • Skeptical

    How about all of you (thankful patrons) that were saved from the dreaded ticket send G&C at least have the ticket amount, he can then continue this program. Hey here is another idea, send the amount to a charity, salvation army etc.

  • Nancy

    This is great that they are going around during the day to feed the meters for shoppers but, at night G & C is towing cars right and left. If it’s after hours and no one is using the vacant lots and no charge on the streets why are you towing peoples cars at $356.00 a pop. And at Christmas when you are helping all the people during the day as you say but, at night your reaping the rewards of the people who most of the time do not know that it’s not okay to park in a vacant lot. Seems to me maybe that’s how you are paying for all the quarters going into the meters. A lot of times G & C has a contract with the owner of the lots and split the $356.00. So at Christmas next year G & C why don’t you give the people out for dinner with their friends and family and not tow, then I would say that you are doing a good deed! I’m really unclear on your concept of helping people at Christimas until then!

  • Ken Briggs

    hope the meter beaters are out today and for therest of the year , with people out to do extra shopping and to return stuff , hope they bsave some one some bucks .

  • Alan Tavoyer

    Yep see there is always a “catch” so the G&C guy is a wealthy scumbag who derives much of his income on the unfortunate parking of others.. Figures.

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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