Buying ‘Spitter’ Tickets is Easy … Not!
March, 2010Parking Today asked four ticket manufacturers for their input on assisting customers in purchasing tickets. We combined their input into this article. Editor
It’s important to remember the main purpose for having equipment installed at a location: collecting money! The equipment is only as good as the ticket that comes out of it. If the ticket does not issue properly, it creates problems. It’s amazing, when you think about it, what that little piece of paper we call a ticket can represent.
Not all tickets are the same, and your ticket vendor will need specific information in order to produce the correct ticket for your equipment. Parking tickets are produced in a range of shapes (rectangle and die cut), sizes (in metric and U.S. measurements) and configurations (fanfold, rolls and sheeted). There are varying types and thicknesses of “stock” (paper) used in the different equipment, from plain to thermal to polyester.
Probably the most important information you can give your ticket printer would be the brand and model of the equipment you want tickets for. This information will tell the ticket printer the ticket size, the type paper needed, and if it has a barcode or a magnetic stripe. The equipment distributor should be able to supply you with the brand and model of your equipment. (It would be a good idea to mark the brand and model on the inside of the cabinet door for future reference.)
If you are changing ticket printers, it would be a good idea to send them, if possible, a voided ticket that has been processed through the whole system. Sometimes this can aid the ticket printer in determining what equipment you are using, and it also lets the printer know where your system is printing so these areas can be avoided when printing your copy on the ticket.
Please be patient with your ticket printer when ordering a new ticket for the first time. Some ticket dispenser manufacturers have different models that use different size tickets or different stock thicknesses. You could be asked to open the head of the ticket dispenser and let them know if there are green “tabs” inside. This is not done as a joke. They are trying to narrow down what model you are using.
Your ticket printer should always use the materials called for in the equipment specification. Some printers, in an effort to cut costs, will use a cheaper grade of material, which can cause problems from excessive dust buildup (which affects the optics in the machines) to ticket jams. The cheaper tickets may work for awhile, but, eventually, problems will come up and normally at the most inopportune time.
Buying tickets is easy; knowing which tickets you need for your parking system is more challenging. Parking technology is evolving at an ever faster pace, and it is mandatory to make sure the proper ticket has been ordered.
Magnetic stripe widths and oersteds vary; ticket lengths and thicknesses vary by the millimeter; paper is coated, thermal, plain; tolerances are becoming increasingly tighter. These and many other factors greatly affect how the ticket transports through parking equipment and is read.
Hand-issued tickets, though generally simpler, encompass many important variables as well. Barcodes are often present. What type of barcode is it? How many parts? Key holes, ink color, paper color, paper weight – the list goes on.
A good ticket works and a poor ticket does not! In the world of machine parking tickets, that line could not be truer. Beyond that, it comes down to print quality and numbering quality.
Accuracy in numbering is all important with machine tickets and hand-issued tickets alike. Some things that differentiate the good from the poor are the quality and weight of the substrate; does the perforation tear with ease or difficultly? Does it tear too easily? If there is a keyhole, is it reinforced? Is the print quality up to par?
The quality of the tickets makes a difference to revenue control in a couple of areas. Most important, the accuracy of numbering comes into play here. Whether it’s a barcode or a man-readable number, it has to be accurate every time – no overages, no shorts; this is what it’s all about. Accurate tickets help keep people honest, too!
Additionally, the physical quality of the tickets matters. Will they work? Will they jam? Will traffic back up, resulting in angry customers? Poor quality tickets have a trickle-down effect on revenue gain or loss. In a valet system, is the ticket number easily read? This will improve or slow your valet operation. Quality tickets and accurate numbering will improve the bottom line in your parking operation.
When selecting a company to print your tickets, you should first look into sourcing a printer with ticket printing experience. First, the correct material has to be used, and there are hundreds if not thousands of materials used in the ticket world. There are countless shapes of tickets and configurations. Some tickets are numbered once, twice or more on one side, on both sides, or not at all. Yet there needs to be the correct amount of tickets provided, even without the numbers.
Tickets need to be able to withstand all kinds of environmental challenges, from a wallet to a dashboard, on a hot day to extreme cold climates. A pay-and-display ticket offers challenges of sitting on a dash in 100 degree weather and not fading or turning black. A pay-on-foot ticket has to withstand being placed in a wallet or purse and not have other magnetic cards in that wallet or purse affect the encoding on the magnetic stripe.
The material used to print tickets is the base of the ticket, and incorrect material will significantly reduce the performance of the ticket, which in turn will affect the performance of the equipment. Ticket printing companies spend hours sourcing the correct materials as specified by the OEMs.
Equipment manufacturers expect very exact specifications to be adhered to by the printer; in some cases, the manufacturers insist on the printer becoming certified in order to provide tickets for their equipment. Using inferior materials or incorrect specifications can have catastrophic results on the equipment, which in turn can ruin the reputation of the OEM or dealer.
Ask the ticket printing company for proof of experience with printing the product you seek. If they are a certified partner of the OEM, ask for copies of the certificates. Ask for references of a similar scale to the project you are working on, and if necessary, request tickets for testing. Any reputable ticket printing company will stand behind their product, so ask for assurances.
For machine-readable tickets that spit from parking ticket issuing dispensers, the correct ticket perforation and burst performance for the right machine, and the appropriate ticket fanfold or roll will provide the perfect machine fit. Each machine manufacturer provides the specs that should be followed for paper, ink, trim and perfs to guarantee the effectiveness you need. Clean, crisp dies and punches on spitters, printed on an appropriate rugged stock, with a lack of paper dust and dirt will give you a dependable ticket spit.
For secure and easy reading, proper alignment of the encoding on the magnetic stripe on a ticket and excellent magnetic characteristics and data formats are important. The magnetic stripe has always been considered insecure. This is true with a conventional magnetic stripe, but now there are more technology options that have a solution to data security. Talk with your ticket manufacturer to make sure the system they offer suits your needs.
To reduce the chances of counterfeiting, security papers custom-printed with a unique, unreproducible design pattern, hidden words such as “void” in repeat patterns, or invisible fluorescent fibers that can viewed under an ultraviolet light source and are not be visible in a counterfeit document if scanned or copied, are just some of safety possibilities.
Detailed holographic images, foils, over-laminates and film that are custom designed will not only let you personalize and differentiate your tickets, but also make them easy to authenticate and almost impossible to alter.
For good revenue control, printing consecutive numbers and barcodes that are sharp and easy to read is a must. Custom options should include international languages, custom graphics as needed, and a large variety of stock colors and finishes. Make sure they can use recycled papers and soy inks.
Obviously, using a manufacturer who not only understands all of the ticket specs, but also has successfully produced them time and time again is going to be your best bet. Find one who is well-known and respected in the industry. Find one that keeps up with the newest product offerings and technology, and updates his equipment and services for his customer needs as well as the most up-to-date trends.
Check to see if they have a strong working knowledge on specialty products and stocks such as thermal papers and their needed activation temperature. And how warm can it get inside a vehicle before the paper turns black? Do they offer non-tear stocks such as Tyvek for outside exposure?
See if they offer human-readable numbers in various sizes, fonts and color options to customize at your discretion.
Take a tour of the printing facility. And ask questions, plenty of questions. About custom tickets. About stock tickets. About their in-house design department. About their delivery schedule. About their guarantee. Request samples and referral lists to check out happy customers who return again and again to the same manufacturer.
Why should you use a qualified ticket printer? The main reasons are to avoid problems and to avoid getting into finger-pointing with your equipment supplier. You spent a lot of money to install that new system with all the bells and whistles, and then you put a ticket that was not made to specifications to cut costs and your equipment jams.
The parking industry has changed radically over the last several years with the advent of sophisticated ticket dispensers and pay-on-foot machines. These ticket dispensers require tickets that must meet exacting tolerances to work correctly and efficiently. In your search for a reliable ticket printer, you should make sure they are a qualified producer of the ticket you need. Not all ticket printers are the same!
Providing input for this article were Brian Nores, Digital Printing Systems, www.dpstickets.com; Dave Partington, Nagels North America, www.nagels-na.com; Leonard Simek, Southland Printing Co., www.southlandprinting.com; and Tom Carter, Toledo Ticket Co., www.toledoticket.com.