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Out of order?

(Parking ticket dispenser) We were late for the recital. We quickly parked the car in the college parking lot, and then saw a sign saying we had to buy a parking permit. Dashing over to the parking permit machine, I took a dollar from my wallet and tried to insert it into the bill reader (See white arrow). It would not go into the bill reader! I turned the dollar one way and then the other way, trying to get the bill reader to respond, but it would not respond at all. It was getting late. "It's out of order!", I told my friend, "Let's just skip the parking permit and go to the recital!"

As we started walking to the recital hall, we saw a man walk up to the same parking permit machine. I told him, "It doesn't work!", but he just walked up anyway and proceeded to buy a permit! He was a student at the college. Seeing that the machine was not out of order, we returned, and after reading the instructions, bought our permit.

What was the problem? As it turned out, to buy a permit, you first have to push a button (any button) on the parking permit machine. This activates the bill reader. It clearly says this on the machine in large print. Why didn't I initially read it? I believe there were two reasons: First, I was in a hurry. Second, vending machines usually don't work this way. Typically, you first insert money and then you make a choice. If you try to insert money and the machine doesn't respond to it, the most likely reason is that the machine is out of order.

I told another friend at the recital about this problem, and she said she couldn't figure out how to use it either.

Design suggestion

The parking permit machine should be designed to accept bills prior to making a ticket selection. People expect vending machines to work that way. Printed instructions, even obvious ones, aren't going to be read by some people, especially people in a hurry. People skip reading operating instructions for devices they believe they already know how to use. After all, what's the point? They already know how to use the device.

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