'Why I've been driven round the bend by cashless parking'

Are you aged over 50? Seeking new challenges and adventures to stretch you?

Cashless parking? Give me a coin-operated machine any day
Cashless parking? Give me a coin-operated machine any day

Then I have just the thing for you. It’s called parking in a British town or city centre.

And I speak from experience. In fact, you never know, they may make town or city centre parking one of those “experiences” you get on a gift card.

The date, Easter Monday. The place, Pipers Row car park in Wolverhampton. I had some business to attend to nearby, so it would be a matter of a few minutes parked up.

Lots of spaces with it being a bank holiday and few people about.

Now, I had heard horror stories about how difficult it is for old fogeys to park these days, and you may call me stupid and unable to cope with new technology, but may I point out that I have a few O levels, including maths, and I use computers all the time.

In any event, there are more and more old fogeys about, so even if I am stupid and technologically incompetent, I am just one soldier in a large and growing army of the stupid and technologically incompetent.

I thought I’d pay in cash, as it would get rid of some of my change. Stated charge: £1.95 but you could get it for just 95p if you “Download The App” (cold shiver down my spine) and pay that way. No thanks, cash please. But where’s the slot on the machine? Couldn’t find one.

In life, if A fails, try B, which in this case is paying by card. Enter registration details. Done. Set time. Done, I think. Scan card. Doesn’t work. Oh well, stick it in the slot and “follow instructions on screen.” Instructions on screen say “remove card.” Oh. Try again. And again. Never get as far as entering pin number.

There being nobody else about is both a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that there is no queue building up behind me to increase stress levels on my dodgy ticker. The bad thing is there is nobody for me to move aside for so I can see if they fare better. I am not so arrogant as to dismiss the idea that it may be user error.

Maybe the machine is faulty. So I move to a different machine, but still can’t get to pay. Could it be that it’s free on Easter Monday? There are no signs saying so.

Stumped, I trudge off resolving to try again on my return a few minutes later, by which time there are some people by the parking machine. I can’t get to pay, I say. Oh we did, they reply. Did it on the app. Went through immediately.

So having tried A, and B, it’s time for C. Download the app from your app store, say the instructions. I don’t knowingly have an app store but after a bit of trial and error get what seems to be a generic parking app, which asks for my code numbered location, which helpfully is on the notice by the parking machine. Trouble is, when I put in the number it comes up “no such location.”

Try the QR code, the notice advises. More faffing with my phone. When it is recognised it gives me “options” of which I plainly pick the wrong one. After yet more faffing I just ignore the “options” option and tap on the displayed internet address and, lo and behold, go through to the correct NCP ParkPass site.

Alas, disappointing news flashes up in red: “This app isn’t available for your device because it was made for an older version of Android.”

Following the failure of A, B, and C, I thought I’d give B another go. By now the parking gods must have had their fun as when I went to scan my card there was a beep, the payment went through, and a ticket popped out.

Two little tickets actually, one of them having NOT A PARKING TICKET printed on it.

So I got there in the end, having spent probably almost as much time working out how to pay as I had intended to stay in the first place.

Next week: How to set up your smart printer in 534 easy steps.

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