The QR Code Debacle


The QR Code Debacle

Well, It seems that enterprising individuals are jumping on the bandwagon and replacing QR codes in certain parking operations in Texas with their own codes. If you use the new codes, it appears you are paying for parking, but instead you have been directed to a different web site and the money goes elsewhere. Also, the city, in this case, doesn’t know you have paid and can issue you a ticket. (I also understand that QR codes have been changed elsewhere and the user is directed to a porn site. Great for kids.)

I’m told this happened only in a few cases and is not pandemic in the industry. Fair enough. But if its so easy to fake QR codes, why are we using them anyway. There is an article in the upcoming March issue of PT that gives the industry side of this story. What got my attention were the reasons were to remember as to why we use this technology:

  1. QR codes create quick and robust engagements with consumers without downloading apps or any “heavy” pre-work needed to reach the engaged relationship with the customer.

  2. Data – data – data! No longer are consumers anonymous. Now we have a real knowledge of who/what/where/when/why a customer made a purchase with us plus now we have a medium to follow up with them and build loyalty upon when they opt to share their contact info with us.

  3. QR code payment flows are super easy and cost effective to set up. You can fully digitize your business for the cost of a sign and avoid or delay expensive equipment upgrades.

  4. Removing cash from the equation has been a goal of parking and transportation companies and QR-code-enabled payment flows do that very simply. QR code fraud will always be eclipsed by cash and credit card transactional fraud.

With the possible exception of item one above, all these reasons to use QR codes are for the benefit of the parking operation, not the customer. When I asked a QR equipment supplier about this, I was told that it made the customer’s life easier. I responded if we wanted to make life easier, why didn’t we just put a bucket next to the meter and let them toss coins in the bucket. That would be easier.

I understand that we want to make life easier for the customer. That’s as it should be. However is it reasonable to do so at the expense of security or the customer’s cash. Do we as an industry, or frankly do tech suppliers actually create and infuse technology into the eco system to make it easier for the consumer, or is it there to make it easier for the supplier.

Let’s face it, it is easier to pay a cashier on exit than find a POF, and pay before going to your car. However it is cheaper and easier for the parking supplier to install a POF. It is also more secure for the supplier. Granted, it is faster for me to use a POF than pay on exit. So that might be a wash.

Is it easier for me to use a QR code than download an app? Yes. But what if I didn’t want to use my phone at all. Isn’t the meter where I pay with cash or credit card easier than the QR code? I frankly don’t know but I’m sure the case could be made either way.

I don’t’ really have a dog in this fight. I just wish tech suppliers would justify their technology based on the consumer’s ease of use and not on how much data, money, or time its going to save the parking supplier.

Just sayin.


Oh, now that the cat is out of the bag, how many techno savvy hackers are going to line up and get on the QR code bandwagon? Keep alert out there.

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John Van Horn

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