In these days when practically all goods and services can be acquired with the right credit card, the few that still force me to carry cash are increasingly frustrating.  When they require exact change, and don't accept banknotes, well, that's just plain ludicrous.

Now that we have moved out of York city centre, trips back into town invariably require us to park the car, which invariably involves feeding a Pay & Display machine with anything up to £9.50.  But what are the chances of having that much change to hand, unless you've planned ahead of time?

So, I was intrigued to see that the city council have teamed up with Verrus to provide cashless Pay By Phone parking, and decided to give it a go on a recent trip to a city-centre restaurant.

The process works something like this:

  • You register your mobile phone, credit card and vehicle details with Verrus.
  • On arrival at a car park, you phone the number shown and are asked to enter your phone number, PIN, a four-digit location corresponding to the car park you're in, and the number of hours for which you want to park.
  • Parking attendants carry mobile devices showing that your vehicle is legitimately parked
  • Your credit card is charged the appropriate sum.

Sounds good, yes?  But here are some of the drawbacks I encountered that will lead to me probably not using this service for a second time:

Firstly, the phone number you have to call is a national rate (0870) number, which costs about 12p per minute from the average mobile.  The call only took 72 seconds, but even so, that's inflated my cost to park.

Secondly, for the privilege of paying in this manner, I was charged a surcharge of 20p.  No fair.

Thirdly, the system failed to figure out the parking cost correctly.  I arrived at 1651, wanting to park for two hours at a cost of four pounds.  The robot voice told me that "parking for two hours is equivalent to parking until 4am at a cost of six pounds" - huh? WTF?  In the end I chose to park for just an hour, ate quickly, and slightly overstayed my welcome.

Would it be so difficult to provide pay and display machines with a credit card slot?  Or machines that accept banknotes?