BOGUE BANKS — A software “glitch” in two of five payment kiosks at Emerald Isle’s two major beach access parking lots over Memorial Day weekend caused 209 beachgoers to be overcharged.
Dwight Holmes, who lives off Highway 24 near Croatan High School, said Thursday he took his daughter to the Western Ocean Regional Access Monday, and the kiosk at the parking lot, operated by private company NCParking, charged him $6 an hour, for a total of $12, instead of $4 per hour.
The $4-per-hour rate is the maximum the system is supposed to charge there and at the Eastern Ocean Regional Access, applicable on holiday and event weekends every day during the peak summer tourism months. At other times, hourly rates are $2 and $3.
Mr. Holmes complained to the town and the parking company in phone calls and emails and filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office.
“When something isn’t right, I don’t give up. I keep going,” he told the News-Times Thursday. “I and all the others should be reimbursed for this.”
By Friday, however, Mr. Holmes had been fully reimbursed his $12, and full refunds were also underway for more than 700 others who parked in the lots those two days.
The town said it had been on top of the issue.
“The Town was aware of the issue (prior to your call and email). NCParking was working on the resolve as early as Monday May 31, 2021, town manager Matt Zapp wrote in a Tuesday email to Mr. Holmes.
In another email to Mr. Holmes, Mr. Zapp blamed the problem on “a glitch with our subcontractor’s software. NCParking will do their very best to resolve this matter to your satisfaction.”
In an email Thursday afternoon to The News-Times, Mr. Zapp said he agreed there were overcharges and regretted it.
“The Town of Emerald Isle and its subcontractor take this issue very seriously,” he said. “Two …kiosk machines were programmed to charge $6.00 per hour.
“Once aware of the programming issue, Emerald Isle officials and its subcontractor took immediate action to rectify the issue,” Mr. Zapp continued. “Each … impacted customer has been electronically refunded. Depending upon the type of credit or debit card used, a refund may take 1-12 days to appear on the respective customer’s transaction history.”
Beyond those impacted by the mischarge, all customers who parked at either site Saturday or Sunday have been refunded, according to the town.
He added that “NCParking takes full responsibility for this operational error and has put additional controls and processes in place to ensure that this type of event never happens again.”
Khaled Eltabaa, executive vice president of Unified Parking Partners, which owns NCParking, did not respond Thursday to a News-Times inquiry seeking comment and other information on the incident.
Mr. Holmes said Thursday he believed Emerald Isle should have placed a message about the overage on its website so all those who were affected would know and take steps to get refunds. By Friday, that had been done.
Mr. Holmes emailed Mr. Zapp and Mr. Eltabaa Friday morning.
“I have been reimbursed for the full amount of $12, it wasn't necessary, but thank you,” he wrote. “Thank you for your efforts and the way you handled the situation.
Mr. Zapp said the town responded to the complaint to the attorney general, as well.
In an email to Katie Cozort of the state office’s consumer protection division, he said a total of 209 customers were affected by the unauthorized rate.
“In order to assure that no one was incorrectly charged, every paid parking transaction made … on May 30-31, 2021 is being refunded at 100 percent. Thus, a total of 751 customers will receive a full refund for parking at the WORA or EORA on May 30 or May 31, 2021,” he wrote, in part, in his response.
The hourly paid parking system went into effect April 1 and replaced the town’s flat fee of $10 per day. That system was in effect from Friday through Sunday and on holidays during the tourism season.
Under the contract with NCParking, which is in its first year, fees must be paid from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a credit or debit card at the lots or with a smartphone app.
Emerald Isle residents can get free passes for the lots.
Under the contract, NCParking guarantees the town $120,000 in revenue from the system. The company is to receive 50% of the revenue collected beyond the town’s guaranteed revenue.
Neither Mr. Zapp nor Mr. Eltabaa responded immediately Friday to emails requesting the total dollar amount refunded.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.