Sunday, May 20, 2007

A more convenient Bureau de Change

From the "I swear this is true" file.

Last week I needed to stop of at a suburban shopping centre, where virtually all parking is metered. Even though I was only going to be a couple of minutes, when I noticed that the meter said "10 cents for 10 minutes, 60 cents for 1 hour" I thought that 10 cents was a small price to pay for insurance against a ticket. Now before Sydneysiders scoff about only paying 60 cents for an hour of parking, let me remind you that this was a small suburban shopping centre, not the CBD!

Remembering I had recently received a New Zealand 10 cent piece in change, I wondered whether I could get away with using it in the meter. To my delight it took it without complaint. But wait, what's this? "Time remaining - 8 minutes". 8 minutes?

Now that's what I call a smart parking meter. Not only does it work out what denomination coin you put in, but it also works out what currency and does the conversion for you. Mind you, it takes a hefty commission for the service. The going rate at the moment would make 10 NZ cents worth a smidge under 9 Australian cents (8.9 as of today), so the machine took a 10% commission. But hey, it's certainly convenient!

And no, I'm not going to check it by inserting an Australian 10 cent coin. I'm much happier believing that the meter converted the currency for me, rather than accepting that it has been so badly programmed that it can't handle the complex calculation of 1 minute per cent paid.