Customer UNfriendly parking meters costs city tons in revenue

City installs new parking systems to stop fraud

It all started about two months ago when the city of Middelburg (Netherlands) installed new parking meters. The city decided to install parking meters where you have to enter your license plate in order to buy a ticket, because of the amount of fraud with parking tickets.

People used to try to avoid a parking fine by exchanging tickets: Simply don’t pay for a ticket and when you get fined you show them another person’s ticket. “Look, here’s my ticket as proof I did pay for parking! This fine is uncalled for”. Exchanging tickets, an easy way to avoid a fine…

The city noticed this and therefor implemented a system that makes this kind of fraud impossible. By entering your license plate number, it is no longer possible to exchange tickets. Good for the city, but not for the parkers. The system proved to be unfriendly to its customers and they started to complain.

Facebook campaign against new parking meters

Because not all people know their license plate number by heart, there was a lot of walking back- and forward between the car and the meter, causing queues at the parking meters. The unfriendly system didn’t only affect the parkers, but also the store owners. Two business owners knew exactly how to get the city’s attention in this day and age: Start a Facebook campaign!

They spread a picture around the social network of a long queue in front of the new parking meters and called on everyone to share it (Picture in the left upper corner of this article). They added the following text:

Middelburg is a beautiful city with many monuments and a great range of shops. But, like everywhere else, shop owners in the downtown area are struggling. What do you as a city council do in this situation? You’d think the city would support the local shops. But no, in the city of Middelburg some official came up with the idea of new parking meters. Complicated machines where you have to enter your licence plate number which causes queues in front of the meters. How customer unfriendly can you get? In the old days, these kind of officials were tar and feathered and thrown out of town! Please, honour this tradition once more. Share if you agree.”*
* translated from Dutch

This picture and text got shared a couple of hundred times and also reached the media, that gave the story even more public attention. Result: We could all enjoy the soap opera about the Middelburg parking meters.

City loses tons of revenue

I should mention that these new parking meters were still in trial period and after all the complaints, the trial was proven unsuccessful. People in Middelburg don’t have to expect to see this system ever again. Last Monday alderman Chris Simon announced that the parking meters will soon be adjusted so you don’t have to enter your license plate number anymore. But doesn't this mean people can commit fraud again by exchanging tickets? I'm curious what the city is going to do against the fraud.

Thursday evening the City announced an even bigger problem: In the past two months the city lost 200.000 Euro in revenue because of the problems with the new parking meters. It seems that the meters were not just customer unfriendly; there were also problems with paying by card. A number of times people reported that the pay-by-card system didn’t work. If people are unable to pay for parking, enforcement officers can’t fine them either. The city is now negotiating with the supplier in order to somehow get the money back.

Photo: Rijk-Jan Koppejan

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