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Bristol Zoo Car Park Attendant Hoax

Outline
Message claims that a man posing as a car park attendant at Bristol Zoo collected unauthorised parking fees from zoo visitors for 25 years before absconding to Spain to live in luxury on the proceeds of his illegal activities.



Brief Analysis
The information in the message is untrue. The story is a hoax that has been circulating via email, social networking and even some news outlets for several years.

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Detailed analysis and references below example.



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Last updated: 23rd June 2010
First published: 17th July 2009
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer


Example
Subject: Car park attendant ( Why didn't I think of this )

Apparently, a true story...
Outside Bristol Zoo, there is a car park for 150 cars and 8 coaches.

It was manned by a very pleasant attendant with a ticket machine charging cars 1 and coaches 5.

This parking attendant worked there solid for all of 25 years. Then one day, he just didn't turn up for work.

"Oh well", said Bristol Zoo Management "we'd better phone up the City Council and get them to send a new parking attendant..."

"Err no", said the Council, "That car park is your responsibility"...

"Err no", said Bristol Zoo Management, "the attendant was employed by the City Council, wasn't he?"...

"Err NO!"

Sitting in his villa in Spain , is a bloke who had been taking the car park fees, estimated at 400 per day at Bristol Zoo for the last 25 years...

Assuming 7 days week, this amounts to just over 3.6 million...

Fanbloodytastic...




Detailed Analysis
This widely circulated message tells the story of a clever conman who illegally collected money from visitors to Bristol Zoo in the UK by pretending to be a car park attendant. According to the message, the zoo assumed that the car park attendant was employed by the local city council so the conman was able to collect parking fees from visiting cars and coaches over a period of 25 years (23 years in some versions) making around 3.6 million in the process before absconding to Spain to retire in luxury.

©iStockphoto.com/sintendo

Car Parking
Claims that a conman collected money from visitors to Bristol Zoo by posing as a parking attendant are untrue
The message claims that the fraud was only uncovered when the attendant failed to appear one morning and zoo management contacted the council to arrange a replacement.

It is certainly an amusing tale. Stories of canny swindlers tend to generate a lot of public interest, but in this case, there is not a shred of truth to the tale. In fact, the story is a hoax that has been circulating via email, social networking and even a few news and entertainment media outlets for over three years. A June 2009 article in Bristol's Evening Post newspaper notes:
Touted as a genuine news article, the tale of a Bristol Zoo parking attendant who lined his own pockets with customers' cash for 23 years before going missing with the loot has set cyberspace alight.

But the Evening Post can confirm the story, which has been emailed to thousands of people across the globe in recent months, is nothing more than an urban myth and the real attendants say the joke is starting to wear thin.

Our newsroom, as well as the offices of Bristol Zoo, has been inundated with messages asking if the story is true, particularly as some versions say it has recently appeared in the Evening Post.
Management at Bristol Zoo Gardens has denied that there has ever been any confusion about which entity controls car parking attendants. The zoo employs more than one car parking attendant and there are several car parks available. Parking information and pricing for visitors is published on the Bristol Zoo's website:
The North car park on Clifton Down is open daily during Zoo operating days. The West car park on College road is open during peak periods and an overflow car park operates on the Downs during the high season.

Day visitors: 3 per car
Members: 1 per car
Corporate, hospitality and business visitors: 3 per car
Thus, not even the per-car fee supposedly charged by the swindler is correct and, although the main zoo car park does not accommodate coaches, free coach parking is available in nearby streets. . Moreover, it is absurd to suggest that even the most dedicated swindler could have managed to turn up for "work" seven days a week for 25, or even 23, years. Surely over such a time period the bogus attendant would have taken at least a few days off due to illness or even pure boredom.

The Evening Post notes that it published a version of the tale in 2007 as part of an article about urban myths timed to coincide with April Fools' Day.

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References
Urban myth of the Bristol Zoo parking attendant
Bristol Zoo parking attendant hoax
Bristol Zoo Gardens - Find us
Bristol Zoo Gardens - Coach information

Last updated: 23rd June 2010
First published: 17th July 2009
Article written by Brett M. Christensen
About Brett Christensen and Hoax-Slayer