Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Poor Useability As A Covert Way to Fleece Customers?

While on the subject of the EZ-Pass economy...we went to the taste of Minnesota a week ago, and found an unmanned pay lot in which to park. It had a kiosk which read credit cards and issued passes, which you put in your windshield.

Anyway, it was drizzling as we parked, so the family and I were huddled under umbrellas as I essayed my transaction. I swiped my credit card, the display blinked briefly, but nothing else happened. No selection menu, no confirmation screen, no ticket spitting out of a slot in front of me. Thinking it had been a mis-read, I swiped it again. Still nothing other than a transitory flash of the display. So then I tried a different card, same result. Finally, I closely read the instructions. They said something about "open the door and remove your pass from the drawer at bottom". So I slid open the door, and of course I found three passes. So I had effectively triple-charged myself for (3) $10 parking fees (adding insult to injury, about the same time, my kids spotted another lot, slightly closer to the event, charging $5!).

I will cop to a bit of "dumb user" error, but only a bit. Every other self-service machine I have ever used has some kind of intervening event between swiping your card, and completing the transaction. At a minimum, there is an "Are you sure? Press YES, and your card will be instantly debited for $10". Or they push out a ticket--in front of you, not behind a window, where you can't possibly miss it. For extra points, they don't permit a new transaction till the ticket has been removed.

(Postscript, not relevant to the main useability lesson: Anyway, I scoured the website if IM-Park, and utterly failed to find a number for reaching a human, so I resorted to calling their corporate switchboard, and two calls later, was able to leave a message, which actually was returned fairly promptly, with another message to me, instructing me to fax in the copies of the tickets; so I am guardedly optimistic that I will get a refund without further ado.)

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