Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Replace the Receipt" - Another Phrase for "YOU'RE SCREWED!"

I'm not sure when "pre-owned cars" replaced "used cars" as a commodity, but certainly, "pre-owned" was a fabulous way to rebrand something that had long been associated with getting ripped off.

In Chicago, we have unleashed a new euphemism for getting fleeced - "replace the receipt." Here's the story from one of my Chicago spies who was in the city yesterday, trying to find some street parking at one of the highly controversial new parking meters....

The new meters not only have cost the city nearly a billion in future income (according to Chicago's Inspector General), they don't work. My spy dutifully inserted his credit card into the new meter (they've recently installed credit-card loving meters - replacing the need to lug around a small bank filled with quarters - the private company was asking for 28 quarters for two hours of parking - it's a mess, I tell you, a mess!) The meter noted that payment had been received, but then no receipt was issued.

The receipt, in this new Chicago version of street parking, is your proof that you've paid. So if the machine doesn't spit out the receipt, and the machine doesn't show you've paid, you get a ticket. You can contest the ticket, certainly, but that requires going to traffic court and leaving it in the hands of the judge.

Without a receipt, you have no proof. And in Chicago traffic court, it is not a given that the judge will listen to the consumer (though they're having such a tough time with the meters, that they're leaning toward helping out the general public these days in matters of the meters.)

Since my spy didn't get his receipt, he calls the number on the meter for help. He's informed that he can "replace the receipt" by going over to another box and paying again.

(You know that the operator on the phone did not come up with this phrase herself - I'm sure there was an entire marketing team dedicated specifically to the task of coming up with innocuous phrases to lob at consumers in an attempt to cool their passions.)

My friend isn't sure he's heard this correctly - so he asks if the person on the phone will void the payment he just made so he can "replace the receipt" at another box.

No, no, no. The meter people aren't able to void payment at broken meters. But my friend can certainly "replace the receipt," if he so chooses.

In other words, he can "replace the receipt" by paying twice. And that's if he's lucky enough to pay the second time at a working meter. In Chicago, these days, that's not a given.

So to get proper proof you've paid to park at a meter in Chicago, you may need to pay the extraordinarily high fees (some of the highest meter fees in the country!) multiple times in an effort to "replace the receipt."

Makes you yearn for the days of the horse and buggy - when the only sh*t you'd find on the streets was of an organic nature....

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