You Must Exit Within 10 Minutes

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t there more important things to do? Well, this is important. I was at a parking garage on Michigan Ave in Chicago yesterday. You know, those concrete structures requiring you to circle endlessly, pass dozens of huge, obnoxious vehicles taking up two spots, and finally you reach level 10 and park. One time when I was circling I had left my sunglasses on the dashboard and they slide right off and out the window where they were immediately run over by the car behind me.

Nearly all of these garages have spent a lot of time trying to eliminate employees. First they came up with themes to help you remember what floor you parked on so they didn’t have to have someone available to drive you from level to level. I’ve seen sports teams, colors, authors, plays, Presidents, just about anything is fair game. The other thing they have converted to is the pay on foot model. You take your ticket with you, conduct your business, museum visit, or shopping, and when returning to the garage you pay before entering the elevator to retrieve your car. It does speed up the exit but it can lead to other issues. Lines at the machine, broken software and in this case some mixed signals. So there I am putting my ticket in the machine and paying the $22 for a couple of hours (ouch) and I notice two signs. One at the top of the machine that reads, “Once you pay, you must exit within 10 minutes.” But at the bottom of the same machine is a sign that says, “Once you pay, you must exit within 15 minutes.”

Seems like it would have been an easy thing to catch when installing the equipment. After all, I saw it and wasn’t even looking. I wondered what would happen if I had waited past the 15 minutes. Would the arm not open? Would I have been directed back to the machine to pay again. Would I be sent to parking jail? Eliminating people from the process sometimes is a fine idea, but make sure the customer experience is thought all the way through. Directions and signs must be created assuming no one knows what to do.

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