One of the difficult things about being an ex-management consultant (there are a few … – another one is having to admit you’re an ex-management consultant) is that you have a tendency to analyse how processes are managed, and to get annoyed if they’re done inefficiently. Of course, lots and lots of people can do this: analyse and get annoyed. But if you’re an ex-thingummy whatsit, you think back to all the late nights working and all the charts and presentations you did showing people how to cut out the bad bits and it hurts just that little bit more.

But sometimes, somebody gets something unexpectedly right, and you imagine all their late nights working, and the meetings they had where they suggested a really good solution and somebody else said ‘prove it’ – and they did – and it makes you just that little bit happier.

I had to park the car yesterday. Not something I do very often, because I’m a walk-across-the-park and take-the-bus girl, but anyway, I was in a rush and I had to park the car and I didn’t have time to faff around with parking meters. And I didn’t have to. Somebody in Wandsworth has invented a system for paying by phone as close to perfect as you can get.

You park.

You call a number you’ve already stored in your phone, the day the nice lady helped you register your car. (Took 5 minutes.)

A nice, automated voice talks you through what to do next, which isn’t much.

You type in the 5-digit number of the parking meter. You are now ‘parked.’

When you’re done, you call the number again. And that’s it. No more typing. They know from the mere fact you called (why else would you be calling) that you’ve finished parking. You can just hang up. Or if something weird has happened, you can stay on the line and chat about it, but otherwise that’s it. You’ve parked. You’ve paid.

There were so many points in that process where they could have made it more complicated. Could have made you call different numbers, listen to more options, type in more stuff, confirm your details or otherwise spend your time telling them stuff that they already knew or didn’t need to know.

There’s one catch. If you forget to call the second time, they will charge you (understandably) for the maximum stay in the parking bay. But for me, that’s a small price to pay for the utter seamlessness of the process.

I love you, automated Wandsworth parking! I never, never thought I would ever say that, but you are a little piece of my life that could be tricky, and isn’t. You are an elegant solution. You are Wandsworth’s answer to the ATM, almost everything about a Mac, and the Oyster card.

Oh, and what I was trying to do was buy a birthday present for my younger stepdaughter. Cath Kidston. Ten minutes. Spoiled for choice. Bingo. Cheap parking, and worth every minute.


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