Stuck in a carpark (or why I hate monopolies)

First, thanks to everyone for the good wishes and I’m pleased to say the quarantine is over and we once again have free access to God’s great wide world.

So it’s ironic that soon after the quarantine was lifted, I found myself stuck once again. [WARNING: this post has nothing to do with parenting, and everything to do with Pilgrim Mom the irritated customer. Please skip if you have better things to do with your time….]

I had gone to Bukit Merah Central to run some errands and parked at the multi-storey carpark, a Cashcard-only facility. After my errands I was about to leave when I realised I had left my Cashcard at home (we had sent our vehicle for servicing and had taken it out of the IU).

So I walked back to Bukit Merah Central to try to buy one. Over the next half-hour, I went to the following places:
1. 7-Eleven
2. POSBank
3. Bukit Merah Library
4. Singapore Post
5. A neighbourhood bookstore

They either didn’t sell them or had run out of Cashcards. I was enormously frustrated to say the least. I eventually went back to the multistorey carpark, pressed on the intercom at the exit point, explained my situation, and asked to be let through without payment. The kind gentleman on the other end agreed and that was how I finally got out,

The Cashcard is an e-payment system owned and operated by NETS. For several transactions, the Cashcard is a monopoly provider. In other words, Singapore residents have NO alternative. This includes paying for ERP charges and entry and exit to many carparks. Now granted, most people don’t need more than one or two Cashcards, so I’m not expecting distributors to carry huge inventories of new Cashcards (incidentally, the list of distributors may be found here).

BUT…

Surely information might have been more readily available – a phone number on those signs reminding you to top up your cashcard, to tell you where you can buy them; or giving all distributors a list of alternate vendors in the vicinity. Anything is better than having to rely on the goodwill of the carpark operator on the other end of the line.

I’ve written to NETS and to their credit, they gave me a very prompt (though not very reassuring) reply, along the lines of passing on my feedback to the appropriate department. In the meantime, I was glad to read that the monopoly is gradually being dismantled now that drivers will soon be able to pay for their ERP charges via their credit cards.

OK rant over.

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One response to “Stuck in a carpark (or why I hate monopolies)

  1. Over here in Toronto, we pay through credit cards – quick and easy. No coupons to purchase beforehand which in themselves is another form of money-gorging to say the least. Why should the frazzled motorist in Singapore which is already subject to the most expensive car ownership in the world, have to prepay for parking. Singapore drivers are so hapless.

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