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How to find a parking space at the mall

Jenna Hamilton stands in the parking lot of the Carousel Mall in Syracuse, N.Y., Dec. 15. Hamilton considers herself to be in the 'search and destroy' classification when it comes to finding a parking spot.Kevin Rivoli / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

John Hrynyk emerged from his car at the Carousel Center mall after nabbing a parking space 100 feet from an entrance.

The 55-year-old scrap yard owner admits he’s the type to slowly prowl the mall parking lot until he finds a spot close to the building. “I always look for the closest spot to the door, and 90 percent of the time I find one,” he said.

A classic “search and destroyer.”

Connecticut-based Response Insurance surveyed its drivers and identified what it says are the four main species of mall parkers: “search and destroyers,” “lay and wait,” “stalkers” and “see it and take it.”

But in the asphalt jungle, it turns out, it’s the least aggressive who are getting the last laugh.

Search and destroyers roam the aisles, cruising endlessly for the perfect spot. Lay and wait parkers position themselves at the end of an aisle and wait for a space to open up in what they start to believe is their territory. Stalkers, the most predatory, slowly follow shoppers leaving the store back to their parking spot.

The three methods risk situations that can lead to stress or conflict. In Hrynyk’s case, he was lucky he didn’t run into another search and destroyer waiting for the same spot, said Ray Palermo, a spokesman for Response Insurance.

“It’s not like road-rage, but it can cause a lot of stress, nevertheless,” he said.

The favored method is to see it and take it, where shoppers don’t care how far they have to walk. The company said it’s less stressful and helps drivers save the most time.

Even the AAA likes this option. On its list of tips for surviving holiday driving, the automobile association advises people to “play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision.”

The advice comes at a time when parking lots may be crammed with last-minute shoppers. The National Retail Federation estimated that up to 20 percent of holiday sales would occur the week before Christmas.

Jena Hamilton, 24, gets irritated by the lay and waiters and the stalkers.

“You’re trying to put your bags in the car,” Hamilton said. “You want to get your car warmed up, everything adjusted. Then you see this car in the rearview mirror with its blinker on, and a line of cars waiting behind them. It can be nerve-racking, as if holiday shopping weren’t stressful enough.”

Greg Adessa, 18, a culinary school student, said he parks as far away as he can.

“I have a new car but even when I had my old beat-up Caddy, I park away from people so I don’t have to deal with this,” said Adessa, pointing to the chaos around him.