When a website welcomes its visitors, I consider it courteous. Not sure how I should consider a parking ticket payment site that welcomes me; patronizing perhaps?
So I got this parking ticket at the town of New Rochelle, NY today. It's the dreaded stub tucked under the car's windshield wiper waiting to greet you as you return to your car. No point for me contesting this ticket. The meter was expired and I admit guilt. But as if paying the ticket isn't punishment enough, there's a labyrinth of procedures attached that makes one just want to rip up the ticket and forget about it.
As I was getting ready to write a check, I decided to turn the ticket over to see the address I was supposed to mail it to. That's when I saw a long fine print scribble detailing the process. It started:
For violations of meter, time limit, ticket time, and overtime parking only; a payment of one half of the fine will be accepted in full satisfaction if paid in person at the city court by 4:30 PM on or before the next day of business.
Very smooth, so if I grabbed the ticket and walked into the court and waited in a long line, I could get off by paying $10, only to come back to my car and see another ticket. Then there was a stern warning about how a non-payment would double the charge and trigger an arrest warrant for me. Arrest warrant for a mere parking ticket? Why stop at that? Why not the death penalty by slow torture?
Then there was a bunch nonsense about the appeal process, basically discouraging the ticket holder from entering a not-guilty plea. Okay, I can see that the town doesn't want its court system overwhelmed by parking ticket cases. I got that message pretty clear.
And then I found out that personal checks or cash can not be used for making payments. That means dealing with the long lines at the bank or the post office to get a certified check or a money order to send along.
Finally, there was a glimmer of hope when I noticed the part about paying via the Internet or a toll free call. As I surfed over to the website, I was greeted by the message: "Welcome to the Parking Ticket Payment System for the City of New Rochelle, New York." I don’t understand the meaning of this statement. This is not a travel and leisure site welcoming me to their home page. It's not like I have a choice to go to a competing site. I'm there because I am guilty of a "potentially arrestable" violation and I have to pay a fine, so please, dispense with the phony courtesy. Obviously this is an outsourced service for the city to collect the fines more efficiently, and they wanted to charge an additional $3.50 convenience fee (an 18% markup) to pay the ticket online. Whose convenience would that be?
Yes, I knew the rule and I violated it and I shouldn’t be ranting here. But wouldn’t it be more "convenient" for the town to make the payment process a little smoother and less taxing? That way they can get their chunk of revenues faster and avoid having their jails filled with those dangerous parking ticket criminals.