When to Say When - Do You Need That APP?
As the parking world joins the 21st Century, some parking managers have joined in a headlong, but wholly undisciplined race to provide every technological feature and application available to a public that isn’t really clamoring for 11 different ways to pay for an hour’s stay in the parking garage, or to download another program that interfaces with the garage’s parking equipment, just as the last five software downloads did.
This is not intended to be a full retreat to the pre-technological parking past or a repudiation
of the many advances made
in our industry.
In my younger days, I was excited to have found a watch that not only offered the time of day, but also the month and date. Then I found a watch that did all of that, but also delivered the day of the week. Soon after, a friend was sporting a watch that demonstrated the phases of the moon. Then there was one that incorporated a compass. After that, I saw some guy wearing a watch that had alarms so that he would remember to take his pills at various times throughout the day, which was not the intention of Abraham-Louis Breguet, followed by another guy whose watch included a calculator, replete with 19 tiny buttons with which to perform mathematic magic (I’m not entirely sure of this, but I remain convinced that wearing a calculator watch hybrid is a sure way to eternally persist in being single).
In my entire time on this planet, I have never once glanced at a watch to know what day of the week it was or even to confirm the date. And I’m already aware of the month, even in the middle of the night when I can’t even see my watch’s face. A watch that tells time is exactly why you wear a watch.
We just need what we need. Most people, the overwhelming majority, in all reality, can and expect to, pay for their parking with a debit or credit card. Sure, other options can be interesting, but they’re not really necessary and having multiple other options is just plain silly. At the end of the day, it’s kinda nice to tally up the parking revenue from the cashiers’ reports and the automated pay stations, and determine how much was collected in cash and how much in credit card payments.
And voila, you’re done. Wait, what’s that you say? You’ve still got about half a dozen apps that you now have to run reports for, and hang on until they reconcile what they collected with what you believe that they collected, and you hope it matches and that you’ll soon be getting that revenue, or your portion of it.
This is not intended to be a full retreat to the pre-technological parking past or a repudiation of the many advances made in our industry. Instead, it’s more of a caution that sometimes, too much is . . . well, just too much. Or, simply unnecessary.
In 1974, as gas prices in Los Angeles skyrocketed from about 35¢ a gallon to 57¢ or higher, someone approached my dad, in those pre-calculator, pre-desktop pc, pre-iPad days, with an idea to help him and offered a program that involved a columnar pad, a #2 pencil and some weekend long division.
My dad was to record his odometer each morning, as he started his day, and each evening, as he parked in the driveway, track how many gallons of gas he put in to his tank each week, how much that set him back. At the end of the week he would add and divide it all up, follow the specific steps of this program and figure out his miles per gallon and his fuel cost per mile and per week.
This wasn’t a true app as we know them, but it was definitely a precursor. At the end of each month, he was to photocopy the pages he had completed in the columnar pad and mail them, along with a check for $3.00, to this guy. My dad raised an eyebrow and asked why he would do that. The answer was “So you’ll know.” “Know what?” was my dad’s slightly agitated response. “Know how long your gas will last and how much you’re spending each year.”
My dad was quiet, but only for a moment, and then he stated “I have a fuel gauge. When it hits the red, I know that I need gas. I am not in charge of gas prices, so it’s useless for me to figure out how much I’m spending. It is what it is.” The other guy, the eternal optimist, countered my dad with, “They’re as high as they’ll ever be. This can help you budget for it.”
In the end, my dad said, “I pay about $20 to $25 a month for gas. That is far too much and I already know that and don’t need your pad and pencil to figure that out.” The exercise was completely unneeded, and designed to add nothing useful to my dad’s day, but instead, play into nebulous fears about the gas crisis of 1974. The vague, ill-defined explanation of “this can help you,” is often put forward, by others, to convince us that doing something is the right thing to do, but even more to the point, that not doing it will cause some unclear, indistinct grief.
Again, I’m not saying that parking apps are a waste of time, or detrimental. As with most things in life, make sure you fully understand what you’re getting into. Just because it’s easy to add to your existing system doesn’t always mean it’s appropriate.
Ask yourself – why are you adding, or offering, each application?
• Is it for efficiency?
• Have your patrons or users requested it?
• Does it fill a real need?
• Is your competition employing it?
• Is there an ease of use?
What are the costs?
• Who is paying for this?
How were you able to get by without this app for so long? The earliest known parking garage was built in 1918 for the Hotel La Salle in downtown Chicago, Illinois. That’s easily several million cars, over the last hundred years, entering, parking and leaving, all without the need of any apps.
What will the app accomplish and can/will it replace another?
How secure is the app?
What rights does the app developer retain?
• Data mining?
The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end. Find out what you need and use just what you need.
My watch tells time, just fine, with windows for dates, days of the week, months, moon phases, and the tides.
Maybe just the day of the week and the date are all I could need. Your garage will be fine, today, without the assemblage of aggregator apps you foist upon it. Maybe one or two apps are all that you need.
Years after his brief foray into landscaping and renewable sources of children’s entertainment, Richard Raskin is a financial analyst and director of internal audit for Parking Concepts, Inc., in Southern California. He can be reached at email@example.com.