Thursday, 25 November 2010

Car Park Chaos

The Welwyn & Hatfield Council runs the Howard Shopping Centre in Welwyn Garden City. It caters for yer average Marks & Spencer/John Lewis customer. The older, middle class demographic rather than yer younger chavvie Primark customer who spends half their life texting or on Facebook. So it was a bit of a mistake to install new-fangled payment machines in the multi-storey car park. Instead of the system where you take a ticket on entry and pay on exit, the new system relies entirely on digital cameras and the customer's ability to work a touch screen. When you drive in and park your car, The All-Seeing Eye of Welwyn & Hatfield takes a photo of your car and number plate. When you want to leave you have to go to The Machine and enter the last three characters of your registration number and The Machine will check its records for photos of cars bearing those characters. You then have to scroll through the photos to identify which is your car, touch the photo and The Machine works out how much you owe. Sounds like a bright idea as it does away with the need to produce tickets via a mechanical system - it's all digital. I expect The All Seeing Eye also takes a photo of your car leaving and can then match that up with its payment records. Presumably defaulters will get a letter in the post demanding money, or maybe there is a Death Ray mounted by the exit which blasts you and your car into nothingness.
But yesterday morning it was causing so much confusion amongst the shoppers that t'Council had to deploy humans to come and work The Machine for the doddery old customers. And even then, it wasn't always coming up with the right photos. So there were three queues of puzzled people, ten or twelve deep, around The Machines and the human operatives were having to just fix it so that everyone paid the minimum charge of £1. And I bet they got really fed up with having to explain things over and over again.

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