Monday, 25 June 2018

Works like a charm now

I had to shorten my North of England Tour, and I returned home a week ago. It's time to resume blogging! There's plenty to tell. But first, a success story from yesterday, when I went down to the Sussex coast at Birling Gap, which is in the care of the National Trust.

It is a very, very popular destination for those wishing to admire the views and use the posh café. Or wanting to stroll off east or west along the high chalk cliffs (perhaps to Belle Tout lighthouse). Or get down onto the beach to sun themselves. There is of course a car park, and you have to pay to park if not a NT Member. If you are a Member, you scan your new-style membership card and get a free ticket to park as long as you like on the day.

Well, that's the theory! At the start of May I wrote a peevish post in which I complained that the QR Code on my own new-style card wouldn't scan. Admittedly it was one of the first ever issued, and I understood at the time (early 2017) that it was a 'temporary version' which would eventually be replaced by a 'proper' card. I was glad to hear that, because the 'temporary' card was a dull grey cheap-looking affair, not worthy of a Life Member of long standing. It also carried an expiry date that implied my early death in 2027. Disturbing!

Anyway, I sent this duff card back to the NT on 18th May, and got a spanking new replacement a couple of days ago. I was rather keen to see whether it looked better, and - more importantly perhaps - would scan.

Here it is.

Huh, it's still dull grey (although NT  staff assure me the colour is 'platinum', reserved for their august and immensely-valued Life Members). The previous no-scan version I sent back looked like this:

The grey looks different, but that's down to different lighting conditions. Really, they are the same colour. But there is some change. The Notice of Death on 31st January 2027 has gone. (Phew. The NT Killing Team won't be chasing me. One less thing to worry about then) And the QR Code looks crisper, more distinct, and in small respects different, if you look closely.

The other side of the old card had a colourful back, showing scenes suggesting the varied delights of NT properties around the country. That hadn't changed. Here it is on the new card.

So - would the new card work? Would it scan?

I studied the ticket machine instructions at Birling Gap. Hmm...the main ones were just the same as those I read when I last attempted to do a scan with the old card.

Ah, but there was a change elsewhere on the machine! In an effort to assist elderly duffers and dodderers, the NT had been placing a sticker in the scanning aperture, to show all senile ditherers and dotards exactly how to position the card for a good scan. That sticker had looked like this when I previously tried to scan:

Now it looked like this:

It's now the other way round! And do you know what? When I held my new card in the aperture with the QR Code on the outward edge of the card, instead of on the inner edge, it scanned in an instant, producing this:

In fact the process was really fast - impressively slick.

I conclude that the NT is guilty of a crass blunder. When first introducing these new ticket machines, that can scan QR Codes, it didn't make it clear to its staff which way round the sticker should go. Or just gave them incorrect instructions on a nationwide basis. So the stickers on all these machines ended up misaligned by 180 degrees, making the scanning process difficult or impossible, even if you had a 'proper' card.

No wonder that droves of NT Members couldn't get their cards scanned!

A perfect example of technological wizardry defeated by human error. What a fiasco. Bad show, chaps.

I should think that, by now, they have quietly ripped off all the misplaced stickers, and replaced them with new ones, correctly aligned. Perhaps it was done secretly, at midnight, in a vast nationwide operation, with staff sworn never to tell.

Any Member who ever suffered a scanning failure was more than frustrated. They were embarrassed. And if they gave up and parked anyway, they felt guilty for Not Doing The Right Thing. I know I did. Some might even have paid the parking charge, just to have an easy conscience. So they would have been out of pocket.

Will the NT publish an apology for this nationwide cock-up? I haven't seen one yet.

Meanwhile, I can at least now go to NT properties knowing that my replacement card will scan, and that I won't look a fool. I'm still dissatisfied however with the el cheapo design of the card, which doesn't make enough of my Distinguished Life Member Status. If they can't offer a more impressive-looking card, then they should at least introduce the kind of benefits that I feel should always have been part of the Life Membership Package, such as free lunches in a special lounge, and champagne. Seems reasonable to me. 

1 comment:

  1. We cough up for annual membership for the Scottish version and every year the design is terrible. For many years there would be a picture of one of their properties so that you could see at a glance which year's card was being shown then they printed almost identical properties on consecutive years! Last year the solved the picture problem by sending a now thick credit card style card just printed cyan. A waste of plastic but will be great for smoothing some filler into cracks later today. This year we have another heavy plastic one with a picture of a headland but no indication which and for good measure right across the most interesting part of the image in huge childish chalk paint letters the word MEMBER!

    Do wonder who makes these decisions...

    Anyway, Lucy, good to see you back.


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Lucy Melford