The lost art of communication - Sarah Nicholson

I’ve got my grumpy head on this month as I lament the lost art of communicating. Or rather the fact that with so many different methods of communication available it is so often impossible to speak to a real person and resolve a simple issue.

great image from an article about bad communication!  

Let’s rewind, my story started last week when I made an offer to drive a friend to a seaside town, over an hour away so she could visit her son.

The car park we found uses an app to make payments, no coins or simple tap of a card here, that would be far too easy. I downloaded the app successfully but we figured out we would take a proper look on our way out when we knew how long in hours and minutes we had actually stayed.

After all there was no indication when the transaction had to happen. In fact, the signage was extremely vague with no step by step guide.

Before we left I entered all the details of our stay and tried to link the car park app to my banking app to process and complete the payment and this is the point where everything failed.

We spoke to another man on the scene, who told us we should have paid on entry but he added that many people struggled with this system.

I tried four or five times without success.

“There must be another way to pay.” My friend said as she rang the phone number listed on the board.

It told her to download the app! NOT VERY HELPFUL!

After half an hour we left without paying but it still weighs heavily on my mind, probably because my son got a parking fine last week which has escalated due to him NOT receiving the original letters.

Remember the good old days when post arrived on time and a 1st class letter was guaranteed delivery next day? Now that kind of service seems obsolete, unless you have ordered a parcel from a well-known internet merchant and then anything is possible.

The following day I reviewed all other methods of communication open to me as I looked up the relevant council details online.

I tried the main switchboard “Please keep this line clear for those with no internet access.” I hung on anyway, you often get to speak to a REAL person if you do but as a non-resident the options were not applicable, it was more to do with council tax and rubbish collections. If you made no choice, you were unceremoniously cut off! HOW RUDE!

I searched online, there was a comprehensive A-Z list of topics. I found parking and although it mostly dealt with parking permits for residents and abandoned cars there was an email option.

Excellent, as a writer I have a way with words I could easily bash out a missive, offering to pay and asking how this could be facilitated.

Sadly, the email bounced back undelivered. I removed the attachment I’d added, a photo of the defunct ticket machine with app details and location code, perhaps it wouldn’t accept attachments. The email still failed.

With phones lines unanswered, a website offering no solution and a letter box closed to electronic mail, what other method of communication were open to me as a non-resident, day-tripper?

Should I send a carrier pigeon? Smoke signals perhaps? My thoughts were getting more and more absurd. Of course, if I lived nearer in the first place I could turn up at the council building and perform an interpretive dance to express my woes as I hand over the £6 parking charge.

I worry the figure will end up doubled with a zero added.

Instead I turned to Facebook – after all no one likes a bad review online!

I found the council and saw the messenger button.

Once more I detailed my dilemma and hit send.

After about an hour there was a response from “Sam”, very apologetic, he gave me the number for the parking department. I tried it, realised I’d tried that number before and there were no helpful options, no real person to speak to. I sent “Sam” another message, he has not replied – I suspect he is a BOT not a real BOY!

It did offer me an address to write to. I intend to print out my original email, perhaps add in this blog post for good measure.

Only my printer is out of ink, everything is sent to try me it seems, but, if I order more ink now it will be here tomorrow, when I print out the letter it may take a couple of days to arrive, maybe a week to reach the relevant person in the right department.

When can I expect this matter to be resolved? Who knows.

A day out at the seaside never used to be so complicated, but at least I’ve vented my frustration now and it gave me something to write about this month!

oh I wish!


Carparks that won't accept cash are a total nightmare! The station carpark has caused me much stress since it stopped taking cash (apparently due to vandalism, but that's just an excuse), and I have missed trains because of having to drive home, pay online, then drive back to park.

Worse still, there are public toilets here that don't take cash... you need a smartphone to scan a QR code! And they wonder why people are using the gap between the beach huts... (yes, this is a seaside town too - wonder if that's significant?)

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