Parkingtag.ie launched a few weeks ago to allow you to pay for your kerbside parking in Dublin City. Basically, what happens is that you have a barcode (the ‘parking tag’) on your windscreen, which contains an account number. When you park, you ring a phone number to tell the system that you want to park for a certain amount of time. Then you’re done. When the warden comes around and checks your car, he’ll scan the barcode and get an immediate confirmation that you are fully paid up.
So that’s the idea. It’s basically a good system. It removes the need for the driver to keep a pile of coins on-hand and to find a working meter to buy a paper ticket from. Equally, it saves the City Council the bother of maintaining all the parking meters and collecting the money out of them. If the system gets popular enough, DCC will be able to get rid of the meters altogether. It is also fast and easy to check that cars are properly paid up.
Parkingtag.ie is run by payzone, who sell phone credit and other ‘virtual’ vouchers through most grocers, supermarkets and convenience stores in the country.
So far so good. The product is good. The benefits are good. There is a wide network. So what are the problems?
First, the communications. There is no clear explanation of how the system works on the parkingtag.ie website.Â There is an explanation of what it does, but not of how it works. There are no specific instructions on how to operate the service either. The FAQ section is poorly written, with misspellings and missing text. There is no indication of where to buy a parking tag. A video or animation wouldn’t cost too much and would greatly clarify things.
There are some instructions on the dublincity.ie website but that’s not where you would expect them to be.
Next thing is the pricing. The pricing is bizarre. For no good reason, Payzone and Dublin City Council charge more for using the tag than for paying by cash. This is despite the real, substantial savings that DCC will make if it can get even 10 or 20 percent of its customers to switch over to parkingtag.ie, as a result of reduced requirement for machine servicing and cash collection.
More bizarrely, you get charged 50c per month whether you use the service or not. This is sure to scare off infrequent users. It is hard to understand why parkingtag.ie would do this.
The situation is even sillier for customers who opt to use the ‘cash’ or prepay option (calling it a ‘cash’ account is a bad idea). For prepay, you have to pay a few euros up-front for a parking tag.Â This is unreasonable and makes no commercial sense. The ‘tag’ is only a printed barcode. It costs very little to produce. It is well worth sending out for free, if it gets people to join the system.
According to the Irish Times, Payzone is having a tough time at board level and on the financial markets. Hopefully this will not cause any problems for the scheme.