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road sage

After returning to your parked vehicle, you spot a smear on the door. You wet your thumb and wipe the dirt away, only to find the smear is not a smear, it’s a scruffy dent.

You’ve been “door dinged.” The culprit is nowhere to be found.

I recently was on the receiving end of this scenario. A splotch I thought was dirt turned out to be a slight dent between the two passenger-side doors. How? Where? When had it happened? No idea. Like most door dings, it had simply appeared, like a rainbow or unwanted email.

In retrospect, it was predictable. I’d followed the normal path to getting door-dinged. When I first purchased my Mini Cooper, I parked it far away from other automobiles. This is the only sure way to avoid door-dings. I’d leave my car in a far corner with seven or eight spots between it and any other vehicle. You know, where workmen eat their lunches and people pull over for long conversations.

Time and expediency changed my habit. I began to park closer to the entrance and soon enough I was stuck in the herd. I would ensure that I had enough space on either side, or as much as reasonably possible. Once this stage was reached, it was only a matter of time. Someway, somehow, someone was going to open their door and smack into mine. Then, this person would look at the damage (if they even noticed it at all) and think, “It’s not so bad.”

After that, they’d get on with their day.

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Are door-dings like penalties in sports? Do door-dings even out over time? Sometimes you “ding.” Sometimes you get “dinged.” That’s not for us mere mortals to discern.

It is easier to debate whether or not a door-ding is worthy of an apologetic note that includes all your contact information.

For instance, I don’t blame whoever left the ding on my car. It was so small I had to investigate. My car is under warranty, and I can get the ding removed without incurring any costs. If I didn’t have a warranty, I would not likely have it fixed. Still, the person who left it must have heard the “smack” when they made contact. They didn’t know I had a warranty. If they noticed it at all, they probably thought, “Life happens.”

Anything obvious is worthy of a note.

If you leave an easily identifiable ding after absent-mindedly flinging open your door and colliding with a neighbouring car, you must leave a note owning your culpability. This is the bedrock of car culture. Do not ding-and-dash. It tears at the very fabric of what keeps the traffic flowing. Sadly, when it comes to parking lot door dings, notes are few and far between.

Anonymous dings are a blight, but they are not the only parking lot peril. Those who drive dented vehicles can also fall prey to dent scam artists.

It’s a simple con. You’ve just parked at a mall or parking lot, and a man approaches you and points out the awful dents on your vehicle. He’s charming and he has his pattern down. Lucky for you, he works at a body shop and has a mobile repair business. He’s happy to fix those dents for you right there on the spot. You can go in and do your shopping and when you come back, they’ll be done. The best part? It’s a lot cheaper than taking it in for repair. Just pay him cash and it’s done.

Relieved, you agree, and when you return from your errands you find the work is done. He tells you to let it set for the next 24 hours. You pay him off and he’s on his way. Later that day, or maybe the next, you discover he just smeared some putty on the dent and spray-painted it. Your car’s exterior is ruined.

You’ve been conned and there is nothing you can do. It’s not against the law to lie and be bad at something.

The Better Business Bureau offers this advice for avoiding the parking lot dent scam:

  • Be wary of unsolicited offers.
  • Don’t fall for high pressure sales tactics.
  • Research repairman and repair shops before you do business.

I’d add the following:

  1. Don’t do business with strangers in parking lots.
  2. Don’t do business with strangers in parking lots.
  3. Don’t do business with strangers in parking lots.
  4. Don’t do business with strangers in parking lots.
  5. Don’t do business with strangers in parking lots.
  6. Don’t ever stop learning and growing as a person.

Door dings are an inevitable irritant. At times they can be quite costly. If you are determined to be free of them, park as far away from the madding crowd as you can. If you don’t want to leave them, always open your door carefully. Don’t fling it open. If you do leave a dent, leave a note. It’s the right thing to do. Ding unto others as you would have them ding unto you.

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