A few years ago, my local hospital/medical office complex installed an "automatic" payment system for their parking, replacing an actual person in a booth. It's the kind you've probably seen in some shopping malls or office buildings, where you pay with a credit card on your way to your car, rather than paying as you exit the garage. So, it's a pretty ordinary concept, and generally, it seems to work.
Nevertheless, they seem to have had consistent problems getting it to do so. At times, the card reader malfunctions; on another occasion, I paid and received a ticket which the exit gate wouldn't recognize, so to get out, I had to pay again.
Well, those are the electronic problems. Most of us have learned to deal with them. But it's especially enervating when it's clear the idiots who manage the system have never given a thought to the medical "customers" who use it - as was the case on my most recent visit this morning:
- I put my ticket in the card reader, then my credit card. Got a message that the card was "invalid." Tried it more than once but got the same message.(Hmm, I use it all the time, but OK,...)
- I used a different card. Same result, "invalid."
- Used the speaker to call "Help." And to their credit, they did answer right away. The man said, "oh, just go ahead and exit." (Hmm...how is that going to work? Is it free because of the snow today? Do they think it's my birthday?)
- But I did as instructed and drove to the exit, when I encountered a woman ahead of me who had got to the gate but was trying to back up. I asked what was up. She said she got into the garage by making a wrong turn, and now "I can't exit because I have no credit card to pay with."
- The quickly forming line behind us drew the attention of not one on-site assistant but two. One went to help the woman in front of me; I explained by experience to the other one, who finally volunteered, "Oh, it would let her out, and it would let you out, because it's free if it's less than a half-hour."
Eureka! It was good to have an explanation, but come on folks, wouldn't it make sense to let people know that by putting up a sign? And couldn't you think of a better message when this happens than "card invalid," which isn't the case? It's one of the small nuisances of modern society, but probably 15-20 people were being delayed by the managers' failure to think about what people need to know about this system.