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Monday, November 20, 2006

Parking Meters: Piggybacking and Minimum Charges

Bruce Mohl writes in today's Globe, New meters raising revenues and hackles.

From the article:parkeon meter
After paying, parkers get a receipt showing when their time expires. The meters recommend posting the receipt inside the vehicle's curbside window using the removable sticky backside as tape.
Umm, recommend? Sounds like a requirement to me.

Two things he writes about make me mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

Piggybacking and Minimum Charges.

First Piggybacking.
The article states:
The city had projected about a 20 percent increase overall because drivers no longer could piggyback on others' time.
I'll have to go down to Newbury Street and research the issue, but doesn't is sound like the driver leaving the space that has time on it could hand over his/her receipt to the new driver taking the space so that they could use the remaining time?

I'd do that. Boston is a friendly city, right?

Second, Minimum Charges.
The meter requires a two hour minimum purchase with a credit card. Based on my research it looks like the minimum charge requirement is prohibited by credit card companies.

In the article, Daniel Hofmann , deputy director of Boston's Transportation Department says:
...the city decided to require a two-hour purchase with credit cards because of the convenience offered and the fees involved in processing payments.
The problem for the city is that credit card companies do not allow minimum charge requirements.

I found this information about minimum charge requirements.
Visa's and MasterCard's regulations prohibit minimum charge amounts. American Express's regulations do not explicitly prohibit minimum charges, but its policy is to discourage any merchant practices that create a "barrier to acceptance."


From the official Visa USA site:Visa Card
"Minimum Purchase

Visa merchants are not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts, even on sale items. They also are not permitted to charge you a fee when you want to use your Visa card.

If you run into a problem like this with a merchant, please notify the financial institution that issued you your Visa card. These institutions have access to the appropriate Visa rules and regulations and can help you document and file your complaint. You'll find their address and/or telephone number on your Visa statement. Their telephone number may also appear on the back of the card itself."
Sounds like we have some work to do.

Please help me out and make some calls about the minimum purchase amount.

If you are down on Newbury Street and use a meter, see if you can give your receipt to the next car entering your spot. Observe how the system works. Is there an easy way to leave your recipt with unused time for the new person?

Please post your thoughts and observations in the comments here.

Update:
Boston.com has a forum where people are discussing this story.

6 comments:

  1. couldn't you just leave the ticket stuck to the meter machine using the sticky back side?

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  2. sounds like a good idea.

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  3. Raise some hell, Steve! Stick it to the man/metermaid!

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  4. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Wow, so you are the source of this story! It was all over the local television news last night. It would have been nice had you been credited with launching the investigation. Good job!

    I was surprised to learn on the news last night of these meters in the first place. It seems so cumbersome.

    Do the minimum charge prohibitions mean that ALL THOSE STORES that post signs stating that credit cards may not be used for purchases below a certain amount are breaking the regulations? That blows my mind; I never thought to question it.

    Then again, it is the credit companies' rules, not state or federal law, right? What does the law say, if anything, about this?

    Some people may want to keep their tickets as a receipt. With cash one knows how much has been inserted, but with credit cards one is billed later and may need a receipt in the case of a dispute.

    Then again someone smart enough to keep a receipt is probably also smart enough to carry quarters in the first place.

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  5. I asked Bruce Mohl if an email I wrote to him prompted him to write the follow up story.

    He told me that it was mine and others.

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  6. Anonymous1:09 PM

    Steve:

    Good job on sending the email to Bruce - I'm probably one of the others he failed to credit in the follow-on article. Anyway, not sure if you saw it, but Manchester, NH is maintaining a $1.00 minimum on credit card purchases at their soon to be installed parking meters:

    http://tinyurl.com/yca6xr

    "She suspects a consortium of cities using the machines will negotiate a solution with credit-card companies whose rules prohibit merchants from requiring minimum charges. The Manchester machines will accept Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards."

    - BadChile (who posted at 8:00am on the Boston Globe forum that the city was violating the merchant agreement)

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