Temperamental parking meters test the patience of even diehard DIFC fans

I love the DIFC, I really do. It’s my home from home in Dubai, a great place to work and play, with the closest I’ve found in the Middle East to the communal buzz and esprit de corps of global financial markets like London and New York.

I’m a convinced fan, so what follows should not be regarded as a whinge, more as an exhortation to maintain the global standard that DIFC rightly holds as its benchmark. And in no other field is the more important than in car parks.

Overall, parking at DIFC is plentiful and efficient. You might have to queue a bit at busy times, but I’ve never, in eight years, been turned away by a sign saying “full”.

It isn’t cheap, at about Dh120 if you’re there all day, but that’s the price you pay in Dubai for parking in a prime location. If you don’t want to pay for that convenience, take the metro.

But the physical experience of actually paying has become increasingly frustrating and aggravating, and I think it’s time the DIFC did something about it.

If you’re a member of the paying parking public (rather than somebody who has a parking space through their firm) you have to line up at four aged machines. Insert the ticket you got on entry, see the amount due and pay up.

It’s here that the frustration begins. The machines take cash, no credit cards; exact amount only, no change given. So you have to arm yourself with notes in various denominations before you leave.

But – and this is when your blood really starts to boil – the machines are extremely capricious about which notes they will accept.

Sometimes a Dh100 note is fine – if it’s new and with no creases. Other times not. Sometimes a crumpled Dh10 note will sail through, other times it gets rejected. You invariably end up cancelling the transaction, pressing the intercom button and waiting for an operative to attend.

This chap has seen it all before. He arrives with a wad of notes as thick as a blockbuster novel, and proceeds to feed them in.

Some are accepted at first try. Others are randomly declined by the machine, by now behaving like a truculent two-year old spitting out his cabbage. It’s a comic performance involving man, machine and banknote, but one you could do without at the end of a long day.

After my most recent – failed – attempt to force feed the machines, I decided on a bit of consumer activism, and headed off to the offices of the firm that handles parking for the DIFC. In the caverns beneath the Gate building, in a floodlit world the sun never touches, you will find the premises of “SecureP – Professional Parking Solutions.”

One of my rules is to never have anything to do with a firm that has the word “solutions” in its title, but I persisted, and explained my problem to the young lady in an abaya who was gracious enough to listen.

“Yes, we’ve had lots of problems with those machines. People are always complaining about them. They are too old, but they don’t belong to us. We just handle the service for the DIFC, they own them.”

Please, DIFC, replace them. With modern ones that give cash and take credit cards. Otherwise, you’ll be in danger of losing your position as the pre-eminent financial market in the region.

I know for a fact that the underground parking at Al Maryah Island, home of the Abu Dhabi Global Market, accepts credit cards.


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