By Logan Dubel
All Parking Remains Free Until Tuesday at 5 p.m.
As if there is not enough happening in the Town of Ocean City this week, there is another issue adding fuel to the fire. According to Town of Ocean City sources, those who used Park Mobile machines to park in the resort town were charged anywhere from 50-90 times, taking thousands of dollars out of tourists’ bank accounts. Hundreds of people have reached out to the Ocean City Police Department’s Record Section with complaints and pleas for help as their accounts have been entirely wiped. Unfortunately for the town, 90% of transactions are via credit and debit cards. The glitch impacted parking machines across all municipal lots and paid parking spots.
The problem reportedly began sometime on Thursday or Friday and continued throughout Independence Day weekend as a result of an external software upgrade. The software, Montera, should have increased functionality but instead caused machines to issue multiple charges to the same patrons. Those with debit cards have faced the most difficulties due to the massive number of charges draining their accounts, while those with credit cards may not yet be aware of the issue. Anyone that parked using the Park Mobile machines in Ocean City since July 1 should check to make sure they are not affected.
Issue Not Confined to Ocean City
“On July 1, 2021, the Town’s credit card processing company performed a software upgrade,” said Communications and Marketing Director Jessica Waters. “This upgrade, in turn, caused an issue over the weekend with our parking meters where certain credit card customers have been charged multiple times for the same transaction. The problem is NOT limited to Ocean City, it is system-wide for Flowbird.” Flowbird is the IT vendor contracted by the Town of Ocean City. Officials say that they typically work with this vendor when experiencing difficulties with the kiosks.
While the system appears to be stable as of Tuesday morning, officials suspended parking fees late Monday night and will not resume parking payments until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. The town records section says that they were made aware of the problem early Saturday morning. The City Engineer has confirmed that the issue is resolved and that refunds are forthcoming. The exact number of patrons impacted remains unclear.
A town records section source says that the situation is heartbreaking for people who live paycheck to paycheck, and higher-level staff at Flowbird are working around the clock to issue refunds. The city has made clear that refunds will come from Flowbird, not the Town of Ocean City. Phones continue to ring off the hook at the town’s record section, and officials are working nonstop, but the source says that the town is just the “middleman” as of now. While many of the duplicate transactions were eliminated, some transactions did unfortunately process. Flowbird cannot make any promises, but they hope to issue most refunds within the next 2-3 days.
What You Can Do If This Problem Affects You
In the meantime, people are encouraged to call their banks, notify them of the issue, and hopefully stop the continuous charges.
People were initially encouraged to reach out to the Police Department’s Records Section, but now the mishap is in Flowbird’s hands. The town received calls from about 35 people, who provided their license plates, time of arrival and departure, and credit card information. This helped to isolate the incident and allow the refund process to begin.
*This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.*