Mall revenue down 40% as parking is now reserved for RingGo

A shopping center has lost 40% of its revenue since RingGo-only payments were introduced to its car park by the council, devastated bosses say.

Meanwhile, customers still using De Bradelei Wharf in Dover say they are avoiding the new system by paying with coins or a card in spaces outside the resort.

The system was introduced in the spring by landowners from the Port of Dover and Dover District Council, which manages the car park.

There are no more parking payment machines on site – so the only way to pay for your space is to use the RingGo app or make a phone call.

But De Bradelei Wharf manager Sally-Anne Vokes says many of the center’s customers are older people who don’t have smartphones.

Loyal regulars who have frequented the stores for years now say they won’t be returning.

“RingGo has caused us to lose a lot of customers – we’ve lost 40% of our revenue since it arrived,” Ms Vokes said.

The center’s director, Sally-Anne Vokes, next to a sign indicating the new system. Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

“Many of our customers are rather elderly, many without a smartphone.

“We were told, ‘We’re really sorry but we won’t be coming back because we can’t use this car park.’

“It’s devastating for us. These are clients we’ve had for years. Some people think we’ve done this – but that’s not us.”

Gloria Coultan, co-manager of the Boardwalk Café franchise within the centre, told KentOnline that they had “lost most of our regulars”.

“They are elderly people and they don’t have access to smartphones, so they have no way to pay,” she said.

Gloria Coultan, owner of the cafe:
Gloria Coultan, owner of the cafe: “We have lost most of our regulars.” Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

“They come down here and when they see there is no coin system, they go back.

“We have a lot of complaints from people saying they can’t use the mall anymore because of the parking lot.”

RingGo requires payment through a smartphone, either by using an app or by making a voice phone call.

Payment can be made by drivers giving their credit or debit card details.

De Bradelei Wharf no longer has payment machines, which also eliminates the possibility of using the contactless method with your card.

A sign detailing the new system at De Bradelei Wharf.  Photo: Sam Lennon KMG
A sign detailing the new system at De Bradelei Wharf. Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

Customer Sheila Cope, 84, has a smartphone but does not use it for her financial transactions because, like others, she is not convinced that they are secure enough.

Three weeks ago she went to the center with her daughter who had to intervene to go through the payment process with the new system.

Ms Cope said: “If she hadn’t been there and I had been alone, I would have had to drive off.

“I will not attempt to use this parking lot again.

“At least there are alternatives like the town hall spaces on the seafront.

From Bradelei Wharf, Dover.  Photo: Sam Lennon KMG
From Bradelei Wharf, Dover. Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

“But I think this RingGo system will eventually creep into other parking lots.”

Ms Cope understands that many find RingGo convenient, but thinks people should have a choice of method, including the option to pay cash.

KentOnline met another customer, Roger Gambrill, who was at De Bradelei Wharf after avoiding his car park by leaving his car on the Dover seafront and paying with coins.

He said, “I don’t have the app for RingGo. A lot of older people don’t have a smartphone.”

Another customer, Ronald Denton, was there with his wife Lesley and also used paid parking nearby.

Customers Ronald and Lesley Denton who used alternate parking.  Photo: Sam Lennon KMG
Customers Ronald and Lesley Denton who used alternate parking. Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

He said: “We’ve been coming here for years. We don’t pay by card or phone – we don’t have that kind of technology. We pay in cash and you can’t do that here. I don’t understand with technology.”

Ms Denton said: ‘When we parked two ladies came up to us and they said they wouldn’t use that car park.

RingGo is a growing system with other local authorities adopting it.

Canterbury City Council has rolled it out in a number of its spaces.

Some older people in this neighborhood have also argued that it cuts out people who don’t have a smartphone.

A sign detailing the new system at De Bradelei Wharf.  Photo: Sam Lennon KMG
A sign detailing the new system at De Bradelei Wharf. Photo: Sam Lennon KMG

De Bradelei Wharf is on Port of Dover land, but Dover District Council (DDC) took over management of the center car park and most others in the port area in April.

Council parking spaces elsewhere have RingGo but also still an option to use coins.

A DDC spokesperson said: “We operate De Bradelei Wharf car park on behalf of the Port of Dover and are guided by their decisions on matters such as payment methods available.

“We currently don’t have RingGo systems only in DDC-owned car parks. However, this might be something we might consider in the future.

“We are also seeking to consult on proposals from RingGo only for on-street parking around Coombe Valley Road in Dover if no permit is held.”

A Port of Dover spokesperson said: ‘All car parks at the Port of Dover are managed by Dover District Council who took over the management and enforcement of off-street paid and posted parking in April this year .

“This excludes parking at Eastern Docks Ferry Terminal or cruise parking at Western Docks.

“This provided a uniform approach to providing waterfront parking, with DDC already being responsible for enforcing on-street parking along Marine Parade.

“The decision to switch to the RingGo payment system was made alongside DDC during the handover of parking management.”

So how hard is paying with RingGo? KentOnline reporter Sam Lennon, 58, tried…

I figured the white heat of technology would catch up with me sooner or later, so I decided to learn how to use RingGo.

Could journalist Sam Lennon, 58, figure out the Ringo app?
Could journalist Sam Lennon, 58, figure out the Ringo app?

The system is spreading, with other car parks also only accepting this method of payment. I’m part of the generation that carries handfuls of coins in their pockets ready to pay for parking when needed.

Until recently, I had only heard of Ringo, the Beatles drummer.

But one day I may find myself in a bind with a car park that only accepts this new system.

Happened to me several times in Folkestone and Ashford when the slot machine was temporarily out of service and RingGo was the only way. I tried to pay by phoning the automated system but was confused by what the space age voices were saying. I was so angry and frustrated that I ended up yelling at them.

Regardless, robots don’t take things personally.

Friends told me the app is the best and easy to use once you get the hang of it.

My learning journey started in June when a colleague 33 years younger than me walked me through how to download the app.

“There is no doubt that this system excludes anyone without a smartphone…”

Somehow I was able to get away with always paying for the analog style, with cash, but decided to give it a serious try when I knew I was going to research on this story.

The day before I arrived at De Bradelei Wharf, I read on the internet how RingGo works.

Using my app, I was able to follow the instructions to save my open credit card details so it could accept payment, as well as my mobile number for messages and alerts.

The critical moment came yesterday morning (Tuesday) when I arrived at the center and it took some getting used to not seeing any payment machines.

On this very first attempt, I needed my hand, so I asked the first person I saw, a Port of Dover employee, to guide me.

The first step was to enter the parking space number, which is clearly displayed.

The rest was like filling out a paper form, except this time via smartphone, entering their registration number and saying how long you want to stay.

The job is done and a text has been sent to me confirming parking times and their cost – £2 for an hour.

“The secret is to never be embarrassed to ask someone nearby to help you…”

Payment was taken directly from my credit card, which of course I registered beforehand.

It didn’t seem too difficult and I think it will take a bit more practice until I fully understand this.

There is no doubt that this system excludes anyone without a smartphone and for those who have one it can seem confusing and nerve-wracking to learn about it for the first time.

So, above all, the secret is never to be embarrassed to ask someone nearby to help you.

You never invented this system – so you’re not supposed to know how it works until you’re taught it.

Mall revenue down 40% as parking is now reserved for RingGo

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