GUEST EDITORIAL: Our corner of Florida is friendlier toward visitors
EDITOR’S NOTE: Carl E. Anderson is a resident of Fort Walton Beach.
In Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg, they do the Florida Yankee version of Southern hospitality. You can get that version in any major city on the East Coast and in South Florida. They smile at you with their hand in your pocket.
Here’s the Madeira Beach version. You turn into a downtown shopping area with no barriers or parking attendants, and find a parking spot. There is no parking meter, and no sign at the parking spot. There is a kiosk in the parking lot, but it’s inconspicuous unless you’re looking for it. It’s unattended and there are no barriers. When you return to your car, you find a parking ticket for $25.
When you return to the parking lot entrance, you find there is a 12-inch-by-16-inch sign to the right side of the entrance that indicates the area you are entering charges dearly ($2 an hour) for the pleasure of shopping there. You don’t realize how dearly, until you go to the website that indicates, for the pleasure of paying a $25 parking ticket, there is a $3.50 service charge. So there are two scams running here. The first is to make you believe you aren’t being charged to park and the second is to charge you a fine plus a service fee because you are unaware of the first.
I guess this is how Madeira Beach says welcome to Florida. If you want tourists to depart with a bad taste in their mouths, with no intention to return, this is the way to do it. The Madeira Beach attitude is that there’s a sucker born every minute, and that the suckers we lose this year, will be replaced by other suckers next year.
The smart tourists will abandon South Florida for the pristine sugar white beaches of Florida’s Panhandle. In the part of Florida affectionately called LA, for lower Alabama, they’re glad to take your money, but not steal it.
On second thought, $28.50 is a small price to pay if it helps you discover a vacation destination that doesn’t feel like you brought the worst parts of the big city on vacation with you.