Recently I learned that one of my oldest and most important friends ever, from Memphis, has been reading my blog, and I was so pleased! She said she especially likes my posts about work, so here is another one from work for you, Karen!
It’s a little hard to explain. You know how people in different lines of work all have a sort of special language? Acronyms and shortcuts that are instantly recognizable to people in the same line of work, but mysterious to outsiders? Well, while it’s a little less complicated than, say, being a nurse (which Karen is) or a computer expert (like Fakesister is, although she may dispute that), or a government employee (like reader pt was and reader spencercourt is), parking is really no different. If I were talking to a fellow parking person, I would simply describe my problem as “The ticket spitter has the wrong time on it”, and they would instantly understand the problem and its implications.
So to begin our Parking 101 lesson, here is the scenario. In order to enter the parking garage, unless you have a monthly parking access card, you have to pull a ticket from the ticket dispenser, which we call a “spitter”. Even the manufacturer calls it a spitter, which, when you think about it, is very descriptive of what it does.
Each spitter has three mechanisms by which it “tells time”. In this case, the tickets are barcoded and the time it’s dispensed is encoded in the bar code. At the exit, the ticket is scanned (it’s just like the grocery store!) The “cash register”, which we refer to as the “fee computer” does exactly that. It calculates the time spent in the garage from entry to exit, and displays the appropriate fee due. That time is controlled by a central computer, which operates all the devices: the ticket spitters, the fee computers, the gates, and the card readers. Every morning at about 3:00 A.M., the computer performs an automatic function which sends the time to all the devices. This is just about foolproof–unless the time on the central computer is wrong 🙂 There’s the first thing that can go wrong…but it very rarely happens.
The other two time-telling components are completely independent of the bar code and each other. One is a clock face on the front of the spitter, which serves no other purpose than to tell the customer what time it is when they enter, so they can mentally calculate how long they are there. You may think, Who notices that? But people do. I can’t tell you how many arguments I’ve had with customers who say the clock time is different from their watch time. Hello? For all I know, your watch is set to GMT. Now if you tell me the time is different from your cell phone, then I’ll get excited.
The other is a mechanical stamp, which stamps the date and time it’s dispensed on the front of the ticket. In terms of how much you have to pay, this is far more critical than the clock face. Because….
If the ticket won’t scan for some reason at the exit, then the cashier must enter the time manually into the fee computer in order to process it. This can happen for a variety of reasons (the computer is down, or the bar code is garbled). Imagine that. A computer system malfunctioning. Who knew?
Then it can be absolutely disastrous if the wrong time is stamped on the ticket, especially around 6:00 P.M. every day, when the rate changes from the “regular” rate, which can be as much as $6.00 per day, to a flat rate of $1.00 per entry. So if the “real” time is 6:01 when the customer enters, and the cashier has to manually enter the time, and the ticket stamp says 5:59…you see the problem. The times must match exactly.
So, the date is Thursday, September 29th. For the entire week, my evening (3-11 P.M.) cashier informs me that the times are wrong on three of the four ticket spitters, and he’s been leaving notes in vain for the the Assistant Manager, the bookkeeper,and the maintenace person. I was like, Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Oh, never mind, don’t answer that. We are big on chain of command around here. Everyone would like to resolve problems before they get to me.
Friday, September 3oth: I say to the Assistant Manager and the bookkeeper, Go fix this! Now!
Monday, October 3rd. The cashier informs me that the times are still wrong, and now the date is too. This is because the time stamp mechanism automatically advances to the next day, but it does not advance to the next month. And it “thinks” that all months have 31 days. Therefore, on Saturday, October 1st, it thought it was September 31st. So on Monday, October 3rd, the tickets said September 2nd. So I sent the bookkeeper and the Assistant Manager out again. That evening,the cashier said, okay the date is right, but the time is still wrong…it’s 12 hours ahead. I was just disgusted! But, I thought, no amount of my being disgusted and rolling my eyes is working. I have to come up with some way to get this across.
After a good night’s sleep, I said to them, the date was wrong because you weren’t looking at it. You were only looking at the time. So I showed them this video. I even told them, something strange happens in the middle…and neither one of them saw it. Oh, the joys of being a manager!