Cell Phone Fail
We didn’t go far from home this summer. We were scared off by the germs, as well as stories about delayed and cancelled flights, lost bags and the scarcity of rental cars. Lots of people we know headed out to exciting vacation destinations and enjoyed their travel. Most of them departed and arrived on time, and found their luggage at baggage claim where it belonged; and many came home with Covid, but they’re fine.
A favorite destination for our family is the mountains just a couple of hours from our home. A few clicks on the computer get us an Airbnb, and after an easy drive, we’re in a beautiful setting with not much to do besides eat, read, swim, and relax. Perfect.
We coordinated our trip with some friends and tried out a tourist venue we’ve never been to before. It is a popular outdoor attraction. Parking was plentiful and clearly labeled with signs explaining payment prices and methods.
It was a strange experience, to say the least. And I’m not talking about the venue. I couldn’t pay for my parking. I wanted to, but found it pretty close to impossible.
We parked and began to unload. I made note of the parking lot number and the parking space we were in and scanned the bar code to make payment.
I’ll tell you my cell provider, it’s T-Mobile, but not the parking provider. The parking provider did everything it could to make parking payment happen. Unfortunately, my cell coverage did not.
After scanning the code, I got as far as the company’s “create an account” page. I tried to create an account, but never got further than the spinning dots. I waited a long time. Nothing loaded.
In the meantime, we collected our belongings and found a spot to spread out. Cell coverage was no better outside the parking area.
I tried to circumvent the QR code and went straight to the company’s website and got the same result – my phone’s impotence preventing any progress.
As a last resort, I tried the phone number on the website. It was a Sunday, but I don’t think there’s usually anyone at the end of that phone number. The automated menu and directions never did lead me to a payment option.
About 30 minutes into the process, I decided I’d rather not have my car towed from the lot, so I went back to it and tried all of the above a second time, just in case. QR code, website, phone line.
I didn’t want a ticket or fine; there was no nearby street parking; I didn’t want to leave the venue or my friends and family. I felt stuck.
Another 30 minutes later, when I was about to give up, I asked a cashier in the tiny ticket booth at the venue if she had another way for me to pay, or any suggestions. The ticket booth was only for the venue – not parking.
She generously offered me the use of her personal hotspot and took the opportunity to tease me about my old iPhone. I got signed in and paid for parking. We left the venue about an hour later and I had spent half of the visit trying to pay for parking.
I wasn’t angry – just frustrated. Not having any responsibility that day other than paying for parking and making some s’mores had me in a peaceful mood. I couldn’t control my cell service or the parking provider’s payment set up, so I was resigned to the inconvenience. These things happen – I only talk about them later for the purpose of sharing experience.
I’m not sure what I would have done without that cashier’s help. Most likely, I would have skipped paying for parking and hoped to get away with it. It seemed odd that I was trying so hard to pay and couldn’t make it happen.
It must be difficult designing a system for parking payments that is dependent on cell service. I sorely missed the meter or Pay-and-Display option that day. My phone is old, but it works; my cell provider is generally reliable, but no match for those mountains. I can’t be the only person dealing with scenarios like this one – when I don’t have the right technology for the type of parking payment provided.
Putting the burden of providing adequate online access on me seems a good way to lose money. Not me, exactly, but the consumer. The techies out there who do fancy things like update their phones’ operating system and regularly upload their photos get all my respect. I’m just barely managing my technology, still firmly planted in the non-digital world.
All is well – I paid for my parking and have a new incentive to increase my digital awareness. In the meantime, if you see me wandering around a parking lot holding my phone up toward the sky, you’ll know why.