Yesterday, I got a parking ticket. Anyone who drives in London picks up a few each year thanks to ruthless parking enforcement and complex rules that change from borough to borough. However, this ticket is an example of how technology can take something simple and make it insanely complicated.
Here is how you pay for parking with a parking meter:
- Insert coins into the meter until the display shows the length of stay you want
- Don’t be late getting back to the car
Here is how you pay in the City of Westminster now:
- Don’t forget your mobile phone
- Find the four digit code for the bay you parked in
- Send a text with the four digit number, the number of minutes parking you want and the last four digits of your credit card
- Wait five minutes. If you don’t get a response, call another number to register.
- Wade through a multi-layer voicemail menu to enter your credit card number, start and end date, car registration number, security code etc.
- If that doesn’t work (it won’t if you’re using a Samsung I600 because you can’t enter the registration number), try to speak to an operator
- When they hang up on you for no reason, call back, wade through a different menu and get a customer support number
- Write down the customer support number then call it
- Wade through another menu until you speak to an operator
- When they hang up on you a second time, call back and repeat
- When you finally reach an operator who doesn’t hang up on you, give them all your details and try to pay
- By this time 30 minutes have elapsed and you’ve already got a ticket and you can’t back-date your payment
- In any case, her computer will crash and she can’t take your money
- Hang up. Give up. Throw up.
- Take parking ticket and write stern letter to the council
- Write sarcastic blog entry
How did they ever come up with such an impossible-to-use system? What about people who can’t use a mobile phone? Or don’t own one? Or people who don’t speak English?
There are some serious usability issues here. There are also some human rights and discrimination issues.
A cynic might think the council has deliberately made it difficult in order to increase revenue from parking fines.