PT the Auditor
You Paid a Lot for That System – Why Not Use it?
I know a garage that has a pretty complete Parking Access and Revenue Control System (PARCS), and I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at it one day. I found a very interesting thing: The system was keeping track of – at least printing out and/or storing – a ton of “exceptions.” Sometimes more than 200 a day.
These are items such as under-rings, manual ticket transactions, gate-up alarms, low-ticket alarms, attendant card usages to let folks out of the garage, canceled transactions, lost tickets, malfunctioning card readers and gates, change shortages at POF machines, and any adjustments made to the system’s cash reports. The PARC system also reports when the bank deposit differs from what the computer thinks was collected that day.
Notice anything about these exceptions? They all relate to the possible loss of money. They are all diligently reported by the system, and they are all ignored by the folks that are hired to collect the money, and by the owners who hire them.
How do I know they are ignored? Simple, they don’t go away. Virtually all the issues listed above and others like them are management problems that could be dealt with and made sure they don’t happen again.
Let’s take lost tickets, for example. If there are 50 lost tickets a day out of, say, 500 tickets issued, that would be a 10% lost-ticket ratio.
But let’s consider this for a moment. Of all the times you have parked in a garage after pulling a ticket, how often have you lost your ticket? If you park five times a month and pay for parking, it would mean that you would lose your ticket every other month. Can you even remember when you last lost a ticket?
So how do you stop lost tickets? I think it’s a process. You make the garage management go through extended hoops to deal with lost tickets. You have them collect a lot of data from each driver who loses a ticket (name, address, license number, etc., etc., etc.). You then have someone else confirm that the data are correct and that, in fact, the person did lose the ticket (call them up and ask).
Who wants to go through all that trouble? Certainly not the manager, the cashier, or the parker. Wouldn’t the manager do everything possible to prevent a lost ticket from occurring if rather than simply listing a number on a report, they had to fill out copious paperwork?
Remember, a lost ticket is potentially the loss of a full daily-rate cash collection.
What about the use of an attendant card to open a gate? It would seem to me to be the same issue. We need those cards to keep the garage running smoothly. But if it is running smoothly, why should the cards be needed? If a reasonable explanation had to be given whenever an attendant card was used, I wonder if the frequency might go down.
I tried an experiment. In this garage, they were averaging more than 200 of these exceptions a day. I told the manager that before he could close out a given day, he had to explain to my satisfaction, in writing, every exception printed on the PARC system printer. Boy, did they scream!
Three things had to happen: The manager had to be on top of his garage and know what was happening, and he had to actually look at the report. Then I had to actually look at the report and read the explanations.
By the end of the first week, the exceptions were down to less than five a day. Revenues were up, and the garage was running smoothly. The equipment was in the best shape it had been in years (the manager reported malfunctions and got someone out there to fix them). Spitters didn’t run out of tickets. Lost tickets went to almost zero.
The equipment was doing its job. It provided information that could be used to determine how the garage was running, and it also provided a tool to ensure that the managers were doing their jobs.
Let’s face it. The owner paid a lot of money for all those alarms, exceptions and the like.
Did you know that when a ticket dispenser or cashier terminal goes off-line, there is a printout of a line item exception that shows which terminal it was and when it happened? During the time that dispenser is down or the terminal is off-line, you might as well be running the operation with a cigar box.
Forcing the issue with your manager ensures a smooth running system, and a smooth running system means a better garage and happier customers.
Did you know that in most supermarkets, if the cashier terminal goes down or off-line, they close the lane, and if the central computer shuts down, they close the store? They can’t imagine running with the system off-line.
The question you need to ask is: “Is my system running online or off-line?” You can’t tell if your manager doesn’t look at the reports to see if those little “malfunction” or “off-line” messages appear.
If you aren’t going to use the reports and the management tools the PARC system provides, why pay all that money for it? Frankly, a cigar box would work just as well.
We live in the information age. But it’s not the availability of the information but what we do with it that makes a difference.
Article Abstract from January, 2011