The Operator Responds — Lost Tickets in Florida


The Operator Responds — Lost Tickets in Florida

A few weeks ago I commented on a audit and lost ticket problem at Florida Southwest Airport in Fort Meyers.  I got all my information from the local paper who was quoting the auditor and local bureaucrats.  You can read the blog entry here.

I received a call from the VP for airports for the operator who said "wait a minute, there’s another side to the story."  He says that the problem was two malfunctioning ticket dispensers and that although they put the entry time and date on the tickets, the ticket number and other information wasn’t written on the mag stripe. So the tickets had to be entered into exit cashier terminals manually. They showed up physically, but not in reports. The 12,000 tickets weren’t missing, just not listed on the reports. When they discovered the problem, they audited every ticket and although there were a minimal number missing, certainly not the number noted in the audit.  This is an operator taking responsibility, finding a problem and fixing it. He wrote:

We did not know there was a
malfunction of the ticket dispensers until cars started to return and could not
be read by the validator. As you can
imagine the majority began showing up several days after the malfunction (the
nature of the parking duration) and thus the reason for the large

As it relates to the auditors,
the tickets that were issued were identified in software but unreadable because
they were improperly encoded. The nature
of the software is as such that those tickets can not be physically removed by
the operator from the software count. The problem is that the only way to remove the ticket from software is
for the ticket to read the mag stripe. Therefore because the tickets were not readable and had to be manually
entered, they were not removed from software.  As such those tickets remain in the software
and look as though they are unaccounted for. The real issue is that there needs to be procedures to clear tickets
that are issued by the system but are unreadable by the system.
The real story here is that the
software had no way of knowing that the manual ticket had a corresponding
ticket number in software because the mag stripe could not be read. The system is designed so that there can be
no manipulation of ticket data and that is a good thing. Unfortunately the system does not account for
how to deal with ticket numbers stored in software that can not be removed when
a mag stripe fails. The airport’s
on-site auditors know this but it is a stretch to blame the county auditors for
not knowing this. I think they were
doing there jobs effectively. I don’t
know if there is a blame issue here. There needs to be a way to remove tickets from software that can not be
read and of course the operator should not have this capability. As technology gets more sophisticated we
continue to learn and adapt.

I will repeat what I said in the first entry, the auditors from the county or whoever, had no clue as to how to audit a parking facility. Any competent parking auditor would have looked at the reports, and then looked at the corresponding tickets. They would have immediately found the discrepancy and  perhaps given the operator a slight gig for not finding the  problem with the TD’s immediately, but would have noted that the operation did carry on in a manual mode and that in fact virtually all tickets and monies were accounted for.

I rail against operators constantly in this blog.  But lets be fair. When they are "caught" by an audit, the audit should at least tell the entire story. I held forth on the possibility of monies lost. But of course I was operating from a false premise, that is, that 12,000 tickets were actually missing. It turns out they weren’t.


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John Van Horn

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