a shot from 2/22/2010 - An example of an average day of paranoia that my credit card machine won't work, or worse, that not even the meter will work:
Here below is a shot of one of last year's cabs on the fritz again. I was afraid the computer that reads people's cards (most of the time) and feeds them with advertisements and fear-mongering -oops I mean news, wasn't communicating properly with the meter. It was an occurrence unfortunately that happened way too often. So I decided to turn the meter on and pretend I was a passenger to see if everything was working correctly.
more words below the picture:
It seemed to be fine, so with some reluctance I continued my work day. Sadly I lost a key 20 minutes in the busiest time of day, but it could've been a lot worse. I could've gotten a parking ticket, or the machine could've been completely busted. So I lost that 50 cents you see on the right side of the meter (the zeros don't appear in the photograph) to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund their busses and subways, plus probably 15 bucks for the time I lost. All in all it wasn't a big deal at all, But somedays can be really bad, sometimes the meter just refuses to work because it can't grab a signal from the computer, and this is because either something inside the computer isn't working, or because an entire network of these things is off the grid for hours on end. Sadly these machines sometimes decide to take the day off, while we still end up paying the lease and getting stuck with a car that can't really do it's job. Sometimes I wish Hal wasn't a part of our business despite the fact that in theory accepting credit cards makes all the sense in the world. I feel it increase our income by umm.. I dunno.. 30%? But isn't that all the more reason to get all the kinks out of it?!!
Fortunately my old garage that used to carry this system got fed-up with all the headaches and switched to the other company, and many other garages did as well. Those computers while providing a lot more information to the driver, and also having a much more efficient staff ready to fix their problems aren't without fault either, but they are better than the system shown above.
But please, please, if anybody in an authority position is reading this, please simplify the systems in our cabs further. The touch screens fail as they get overused, the credit card swipers often don't work and are always installed in a different location, and facing a different angle in each cab. The reading devices seem to be more finicky than a metrocard reader in terms of being speed sensitive. Often when the card reader can't communicate with the network, it takes so long to tell the driver, that by the time the driver's informed, the passenger has left the cab. sometimes everything works fine, but it takes a few more seconds for it to go through than it does for the passenger to leave the car.
Most often though the card swiper is swiping improperly wrong, and we have to examine the process of which way they are swiping, is it too fast, too slow, right side up, right side down, is the swipe machine on the plexiglass dysfunctional? It could be one or all of these things, and so you have to play the role of swipe doctor. At wee-late hours of the night, that are so late they are early sometimes my clients failed to have gone through all of the steps on the touch screen. Here's a thought, make the machines work more like an ATM, have on screen directions, with actual functioning buttons next to them, have an led light that lights up this whole payment area just like an ATM machine. the simpler the better. It seems somebody has failed to realize that as many as 60 people a day use the machine, and further more they are quick, quicker apparently than these computers are. If we now have a computer that can beat the smartest man on Jeopardy, than can't we get this right?