Software Glitch Results In Free Parking For Many In OC

Software Glitch Results In Free Parking For Many In OC
The Inlet parking lot is pictured June 28. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — Not only did Ocean City lose its annual Fourth of July fireworks shows, the town also lost a considerable amount of revenue when paid parking throughout the resort was shut down for a day due to a software glitch from a third-party provider.

An external software upgrade on the town’s parking kiosks started resulting in many residents and visitors being charged multiple times, sometimes dozens of times, for the same transaction. The software glitch came through the company that provides the town with payment support for the parking meters.

As a result, with the number of cases of overcharging mounting and the complaints rolling in, town officials shut down paid parking throughout the resort on Monday and much of Tuesday, according to City Manager Doug Miller.

“Once we were made aware of the multiple billing issue, we suspended paid parking throughout the town,” he said. “That software problem is now fixed, and we will resume paid parking as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Anyone who overpaid will get that overpayment refunded.”

It’s important to note the software glitch came from a third-party vendor that provides support services for the town’s paid parking system. In some cases, visitors affected by the glitch saw funds withdrawn from their accounts dozens of times for the same transaction.

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A company called Flowbird runs the kiosk system and interfaces with credit card companies. Credit card information from the kiosks flows through Flowbird, which places the actual charges against the credit or debit card. Miller said Flowbird is reversing those incorrect payments, so many who were charged multiple times to park for the same transaction might not even notice the glitch unless they were closely monitoring their financial accounts when the glitch was ongoing and before paid parking got shut down.

City Engineer Terry McGean said the town was uncertain the extent of the glitch.

“We don’t know how many people were affected,” he said. “It varied by credit card. Apparently, a Flowbird software update caused a problem with some credit card company’s processing software.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.