It probably happened just like this: "Thanks for Those Stinking Tickets, Giuseppe!"
Experience is what you get when you don't get what you expected. Revenue control is the people, procedures and equipment needed to manage tickets, cash and cashiers. Without revenue control the parking industry gets experience.
In the early days, Giuseppe Toscanini Allright didn't have parking tickets. The cars came in and the cars went out and everybody paid Giuseppe. Giuseppe was working hard and making money. Then two things happened. First Denise, Giuseppe's wife, suggested that Giuseppe take some time off and not work so hard. Second, some customers complained that they were paying the same amount to park whether they were there for just a few minutes or all day.
These two developments resulted in the invention of revenue control. First Giuseppe invented the parking ticket so he could charge people on the basis of how long they stayed. Then he hired Habib to collect the cash for him. Then he realized he needed someone to check on Habib. So he hired Denise to audit the tickets to see if everybody was charged correctly, that all the tickets issued were collected, and that all of the cash was deposited in the bank. Now Giuseppe could go fishing four days a week, play golf two days a week and rest on the seventh.
But to put all this in a different perspective, let's look at just how advanced Giuseppe's solution really is. The parking ticket obsoleted "nothing." That's right, there was nothing before the parking ticket, so the parking ticket is one step better than nothing. Getting Habib and Denise to work for him is one step better than doing all the work himself. And getting paid in cash is one step better than the barter system.
When I talk with my customers, I find that the some of the biggest headaches associated with managing the parking business model involve tickets, cashiers and cash. Thanks for those stinking tickets, Giuseppe. Does anybody out there really want to audit tickets? Does anybody out there want to count them, or store them, or pay for them, or have an outside agency audit them?
And thanks for those cashiers and auditors, Giuseppe. They are great people, and it's true that having them do the work is better than doing it yourself. But you have to pay these people, you have to make sure that they don't become your partner and you have to find someone to fill in when they or someone in their family is sick.
And then there is the cash. It's better than barter. I'd rather have cash than a herd of Peruvian vicuna. But with cash you have to count it, bundle it, protect it, pay to have it transported to the bank where another cashier will have to count it, bundle it and record it.
So if the headaches of tickets, cashiers and cash are hurting your business model how do you solve the problem? Actually, it's easy. Just get rid of tickets, cashiers and cash.
All of which gets me back to revenue control. Since the issue of revenue control is the issue of how to control tickets, cashiers and cash, the way to put the issue of revenue control forever in our past is to get rid of tickets, cashiers and cash.
"Credit Card In, Credit Card Out" gets rid of tickets, cashiers and cash. Nobody takes a ticket on the way in, or surrenders one on the way out. So there are no tickets to count, store or pay for. There is no cashier at exit to interact with your customer. So there is no cashier to pay, become your silent partner, or get sick. There is no cash. The value of the parking transaction is in your bank account the next morning. There is nothing to count, bundle, protect, transport, or record. It's all done.
The credit card replaces the ticket as the means of defining the entry and exit time, a machine replaces the cashier, there are no tickets to audit so the auditor is history, and the value of the parking transaction, electronically stored in your bank account, replaces the cash. Take that, Giuseppe.
It sounds perfect on paper, but the parking community does have some objections. After talking about this with customers and prospects for over five years, the three biggest objections are: Not everybody has a credit card, the general public will have to be trained to use their credit card, and we won't be able to put those little sticky discount coupons on tickets that give customers a break on their parking.
These are valid objections. But as I treat each of them, remember to ask yourself the following questions. Ten years from now (or a year from now) do I still want to be running a business that depends on tickets, cashiers and cash? Do I still want to be getting experience?
* "Not everybody has a credit card today." True, but so what? They have a car and they want to park it downtown or at an airport. If they know they will need a credit card to park, they will get a credit card. Besides, once they have parked with a credit card and gotten out of your facility in four seconds without having to deal with cash or your cashier, they will be glad they parked with you.
* "The general public will have to be trained." True, but so what? Remember where you want to be 10 years (or one year) from now. If you have to do some signage or hire an attendant to help people use their credit card at entrance and exit for a while, do it.
* "I won't be able to put those little sticky discount coupons on tickets anymore". Not true, but so what. Equipment makers can make it so that a customer can, for example, stick in a magnetically encoded coupon first, which is "swallowed" by the exit station and then the customer uses his credit card. But all this costs more money. Why spend more money on equipment so you can give away money at exit? Ten years from now do you still want to be giving away money and accounting for all those stinky discount coupons?
But I've saved the real, unspoken objection from customers and prospects for last. "If I spend the money on this equipment and make my investment in consumer education will the rest of the parking industry follow so that 10 years from now we will all be free from the burden of Giuseppe's Revenge?"
My answer to this question is yes and leaders lead.
Jeff Fitzwilliams is the President of Standard Parking Systems in Cincinnati, OH. SPS has been providing revenue control hardware and software to the parking industry since 1982 and Credit Card In/Out systems since 1997. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org