A Guide to Parking Lot Etiquette


You know what they say. Our true character is what we do when we think no one is looking … in the parking lot. Well, we’ve got news for you. We have been looking! Yeah, I’m talking you Mr. Speedy McSpeedy who tries to zoom past me when I’m backing out of a parking space.

Related: Drivers Confess to Bad Behavior, Regrets

I polled my urban and suburban co-workers to compile a list of the most appalling parking lot behaviors (they were not shy with sharing their opinions, by the way) for our Guide to Parking Lot Etiquette:

Don’t be a space invader: Some drivers take up more than one space intentionally to protect their precious vehicle, others are just bad parkers. If you’re from the first camp and worried about dings, move on back. Park in the hinterlands of the lot, protect your car, get some exercise and let the rest of us park up front. We’ll use only one spot, we promise.

Winner, winner chicken dinner: Rushing to beat other drivers to that prime empty space in a crowded parking lot? Yeah, it’s downright dangerous … and rude.

Hey! That’s my booty: If someone is reversing out of a parking space, they can’t see you, and you clearly can see them (and their backup lights). Just stop, wait and smell the roses. And please, don’t slam on your brakes and glare when someone’s backing out. They’re not trying to tick you off. They’re just trying to back out in a busy parking lot. Exercise a little kindness and patience.

Reverse, Reverse: If the parking lot is super busy, or even just a little bit busy, or quite frankly if there’s even one other person around, don’t back your car into a spot, making others wait for you.  As one of our editors said, “I can’t for the life of me understand the logic that by wasting your (and my) time now that it somehow saves you time later (while mine is still lost forever no matter what).”

The great fake out: To add to the backing-out etiquette section (apparently this is a passionate topic for all), don’t be one of those people who puts their car in Reverse but then sits there and checks email or Facebook or takes a call. We’re waiting for your spot. Don’t make us pass you in order to let the line of waiters through, only for the next guy in line to get your spot, while we still have to circle looking for a new one.

No stalking: It’s just creepy. One of our editors commented, “When I’m walking in the lot, it’s the stalkers. They drive behind me waiting to see where I’ve parked so they can take my spot. (I park a long way away from the store because I’m able-bodied and I don’t need a close-in space … so they follow me for a loooooooong time.)” Just drive around and find a space that’s actually available. 

Drive within the lines: Some of us despise when people drive through the parking lot wherever and however they choose. One of my colleagues said, “It catches me off guard and irritates me because it creates chaos in what should be an orderly environment.” I’m hoping she’ll come organize my kitchen pantry soon.

Drive-throughs are for food: Don’t pull through the empty spot in front of you. One of our writers complained that it’s just asking for trouble “If you’re driving around and see a spot that looks open and then all of a sudden some car comes darting out of it. Or if you’re walking into a store and a car comes darting out through what looks like an empty parking space.” Danger, danger, danger!

Return your cart, fool!: Folks who don’t return shopping carts are not cool. One editor has “seen carts roll and coast across lots and crash into car bumpers and scratch paint because they weren’t put away properly. It’s not that hard people! Stop the madness!”

Next time you’re thinking about behaving badly in the parking lot, take a moment and think about this list. You have the opportunity to make or break someone’s day based upon your parking lot etiquette. And while you’re at it, maybe give someone a compliment today as you walk through a parking lot. By the way, I love that shirt you’re wearing.

Photo of Kristin Varela
Former Senior Family Editor Kristin Varela blends work and family life by driving her three tween-teen girls every which way in test cars. Email Kristin Varela

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