GAM Payments Blog

Revolutionizing Parking with a Robot Valet

Are human valets about to become a thing of the past? If this project at the international airport in Lyon, France is any indication, the answer may be yes.

It’s the first full-time valet of its kind from Stanley Robotics, a company that began trials for its robotic valet system several years ago. The system combines technologically-advanced hangars with autonomous robots that are basically smart, self-driving forklifts. Once a customer parks their car in the hangar and leaves, sensors inside the hangar use artificial intelligence to detect the make and model.

After it arrives, the autonomous valet robot lifts up the car, then carries it to a parking space where it is placed. Because of the accuracy of the system, Stanley Robots claims that lots using their robot system can park 50% more cars than traditional parking lots.

At Lyon-Saint-Exupéry Airport, the system is working brilliantly. One of the unique features that set it a step above other systems is that it can keep track of additional data, such as flight details. This means the device knows when customers are expected to return to their car. That means that cars blocking one another is no problem – the robot knows it will be able to access each car when it needs to. This allows it to make much more effective use of the total space.

It also increases efficiency, because customers never have to drive around looking for a parking spot. They can all just park in the hangar and leave…no need for waiting in line, or wandering a crowded lot when you’re rushing to your terminal to catch a flight. Also, it means there are no more parking lot fender benders. This is great for customers, of course, but reduces legal hassles for airports as well.

As for the technology itself, the robots use same kind of system used for self-driving cars. The automated valet constantly scans the immediate area so that it can react to unexpected obstacles. So just how efficient are these techno-valets? At the one parking lot at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry where they’ve been deployed, the robotic valet service with four valets can park around 200 vehicles each day. Later, they may deploy the system at more of the airport’s six different lots.

The system sounds great, but if it’s not affordable for customers, it’s bound to be a dead-end. So how does using the robot valet service compare to the cost of parking in traditional lots? Surprisingly, it’s actually more affordable, even compared to a lot that doesn’t use human valets! This is because the efficiency of the system does a better job than humans, without having to pay parking lot attendants or other staff. These savings can be passed on to customers. Families will save on pleasure travel, and business travelers can spend less of their companies’ travel budgets when they fly for meetings, conferences, or sales runs.

Currently, because the system is so new, it does require that an on-site technician keeps the robots secure and monitor them for any glitches. As the technology is refined, however, all monitoring will be done remotely. As the technology becomes more advanced, these robotic valets are likely to become a fixture of airport technology in the not-so-distant future, with even more advanced features than the project at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry.

For example, mobile app integration with smartphones could allow customers to use an app to view ahead of time which lots are already full.

That means a better, more affordable experience for customers at parking sites, and plenty more cost-saving innovation for airports around the world.

Smart City Innovations Will Reinvent How We Power the Cities of Tomorrow

Smart cities are the cities of the future—but in some areas, smart cities are already here. By integrating web-enabled technology into urban infrastructure, modern metropolitan areas are improving economic efficiency, convenience, public safety, and environmental friendliness more than ever before. Going forward, tech industry experts predict this trend will only accelerate, driving economic growth in the tech sector.

Some cities are much farther ahead in these innovations than others, but they do it through web-connected devices that are part of something known as the “Internet of Things,” or IoT, for which the benefits of web connectivity has become attainable even for objects that aren’t computers. As the IoT takes over cities across America, urban environments are being transformed in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

However, this re-imagining of urban life comes with challenges, such as requiring a drastic re-imagining of the power sources that run city infrastructure. Gadgets in the IoT are very efficient and require relatively little power to operate, but smart cities require many thousands of them: think street lamps that can detect gunshots, air quality sensors, and solar-powered traffic lights that can adjust automatically based on traffic volume.

For this reason, the most intelligent city will be the one that is most successful at finding economical and environmentally-sound ways to power all of these Wi-Fi enabled gadgets. Meanwhile, the city leaders and planners who are best at navigating issues like energy consumption and network security are providing a flood of innovation that will create a blueprint; a smart city model that other cities can adopt.

For this post, we’ll look at some of the most advanced of the modern smart cities, and how their innovations are improving sustainability and managing all the environmental impacts and power demands of 21st-century urban development.

San Diego, California

San Diego has done a great job at anticipating the high power need created by an increase in electric vehicles. With the popularity of plug-in cars surging in California, cities are finding that their power grids are strained by the more widespread use of vehicle charging stations. But a project at the San Diego Zoo is finding a solution.

San Diego’s nearly year-round sunny weather makes solar technology a particularly attractive option for powering smart urban technology. And California’s love for EVs (electric vehicles) means there are lots of charging stations, all of which need to use lots of electricity. Government officials from The City of San Diego are working with giants like GE and the University of California to innovate a solution.

Enter a project dubbed Solar-to-EV. This initiative uses advanced solar “canopies” to provide the juice for EV charging stations at the San Diego Zoo. Any unused power the stations generate can then be sent back to the power grid and used by all. The canopies are for more expansive than traditional solar panels, providing enough electricity in full sunlight to power almost 60 small to average-sized homes.

Sometimes flat and sometimes curved, solar canopies are built over parking lots which can then accommodate large number of EVs. The canopies also provide shade to the cars, keeping them cooler and more comfortable – that diminishes the impulse for drivers to blast their A/C right away, making way for additional energy savings.

Toronto, Ontario

In recent years, electricity costs in the Toronto have surged. Costs have gotten so high that utility companies have even declared bankruptcy.

Thankfully, the city has eased the burden by getting smarter. Low-consumption LED streetlights have been installed that double as public Wi-Fi hotspots. The city can monitor these smart streetlights remotely, making it easy to manage them even when weather conditions become extreme.

In Toronto, smart street lights are only the beginning. A Google-affiliated tech start-up called Sidewalk Labs is installing smart sensors in a particular neighborhood of Toronto to effectively turn the area into a testing ground for smart city technology. The sensors will collect data about air quality, noise levels, and even how many people are coming in and out of local buildings. This data collection process allows the sensors to communicate with smart technology built into city infrastructure, such as heated roads.

When sensors see that a blizzard has arrived, it might warm up the roads to melt the snow instead of spending on teams of fossil fuel-guzzling snowplow trucks and de-icers. By maximizing solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy technology, the need for fossil fuels to run cities will continue to diminish.

Over time, the data that smart cities like Toronto collect can be used to design greener, more efficient spaces and create more environmentally friendly approaches to city planning. It can also be used in the design of city-connected artificial intelligence that can help automate all of the smart city’s components.

One thing is certain: the cities of the future will be planned from their inception with the assumption that, with the IoT, everything will be connected!

Highland Park, Michigan

For Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit, misfortune was turned into innovation. Changes in demographics and population led the city’s sewage and water utility systems to be forced to be integrated with Detroit’s, leading to massive increases in bills for city residents. The cost was simply too much for the city to handle without major cuts, so all the streetlights in town were taken off line and removed.

Rather than stay in the dark, the people of Highland Park came together to fund resident-owned street lamps equipped with LED lighting technology. These new street lamps run completely independent of the city grid, removing them from the power consumption equation entirely.

They stay lit because of advances in solar technology and the low power need for LED lights, which use up to half as much power as the city’s previous grid-powered streetlights. They also stay on even when the grid goes down, keeping the city lit with energy-efficient battery packs that will keep powering the lights through utility outages.

Final Thoughts

As cities become smarter and power needs increase, innovation arrives to meet the demand. Entrepreneurs and their tech companies recognize this need, and are heeding the call with solutions that improve quality of life for people with smart buildings, smart public transportation, smart lighting, and other smart tech we haven’t even dreamed up yet.

Wherever the smart city movement takes us, urban planning—and life in the modern metropolis—will never be the same.

 

 

Cash Discounting for Parking

In today’s primarily digital world, you will not find many folks carrying cash in their wallets or purses. With the ease and simplicity of credit and debit cards, keeping cash can seem inconvenient. However, there are many unrecognized benefits to paying with cash. For example, keeping cash on hand can be a life-saver in a multitude of emergencies, such as driving on an empty gas tank or keeping hungry children from eating their crayons. But better yet, carrying cash can potentially save you money when making purchases.

Surcharge Fees

Despite common knowledge, merchants may offer a lower cost for purchases made with cash. Often, a supplemental fee is added to electronic transactions. This additional charge is called a surcharge fee or convenience fee. Customers incur a surcharge fee when a credit card, debit card, or personal check is used to make a purchase. This fee is part of a surcharge program that covers the cost charged to the merchant for payment processing services. It is typically unnoticed as it is automated in most transactions.

Why Cash Discounting is Worth It

 On average, surcharge fees are an additional three to four percent of your total purchase. For example, a $100 purchase is increased to $104. On paper, this does not sound like enough to break the bank. Nevertheless, what may seem to be a reasonable four percent surcharge can quickly add up. A consumer will potentially save hundreds of dollars per month by paying cash for day-to-day purchases and services.

Parking with Cash Discounts

 Parking in large cities, downtowns, or shopping plazas usually requires an hourly payment. Unbelievably, when parking in public places, paying with cash can conserve several dollars. Most parking garages and parking lots accept payment via automated machines. However, while it is rare to find a parking attendant accepting payment, it is not obsolete. Either way, paying with cash is the way to go. When paying at an automated process station, two options are provided- pay with cash or card. Selecting to pay with a card will automatically incur a surcharge fee at a three to four percent rate. However, choosing a cash payment option will eliminate the convenience fee and automatically charge a cash price. When directly paying the parking attendant, do not doubt the opportunity for a cash price. Simply ask the attendant if they have a cash price available. Chances are, they will gladly accept a cash payment at a discounted rate.

Benefits of Cash Discounts

The most obvious benefit of cash payment is the financial savings from not paying convenience fees, but that is not all. Paying with cash reduces the risk of data breach. Unfortunately, paying with a debit card or credit card increases the risk that the card information will be stolen, especially in popular, public places, such as gas stations or parking garages. Using cash for day-to-day expenses, will also increase cash flow, which provides a variety of benefits itself. Benefits of increased cash flow include prevention of overspending, increased chances of remaining debt free, preparation for emergencies, and more.

In a world that heavily depends on digital payment, it is wise to reduce the risk of data breach, increase cash flow, and save money by simply choosing payment with cash. After all, this is a very easy way to save a few bucks every day.

Chargebacks and Challenges They Present for Merchants

In an age when e-commerce accounts and digital payments are king, merchants can encounter many difficulties in completing a simple sale. One such challenge is dealing with chargebacks. Simply, a chargeback is a reversal of a credit card charge enacted by the card-issuing bank at the request of the cardholder.

Chargebacks began in the era before e-commerce when a card was used physically in exchange for a good in a store. Meant to encourage the use of credit cards, the Truth in Lending Act of the 1960s was drafted to protect customers from merchants who might rack up fraudulent charges on a customer’s card. But the laws haven’t evolved with the times, leaving merchants exposed to a different kind of fraud—“friendly fraud.”

The term friendly fraud is used to describe what happens when a customer makes a purchase, decides against it, and chooses to request money back by contacting the bank instead of the merchant. By established law, when a chargeback is initiated, the cardholder is no longer responsible for payment.  As a result of the chargeback dispute, merchants lose twice—on the initial payment, and on the goods that the customer is allowed to keep—and often they incur other, more stiff penalties.

Many customers don’t realize that requesting a return is faster (and often easier), and that merchants are unfairly charged. Unless identity theft or fraud is suspected (or unless a mediation with the merchant was unsuccessful), seeking a chargeback as a first course of action is chargeback fraud.

Inaccurate Reasons for Initiating a Chargeback

More than 9.5% of all retail sales are online, according to a 2018 Forbes article by Corey Baggett. With no-contact sales on the rise, all interactions with a customer—including the marketing, communication regarding inventory and ship time, the payment process, and subsequent encounters—it’s easy for customers and merchants to miscommunicate. These gaps in communication lead to customers who:

  • become frustrated because an item hasn’t arrived (only to have the item show up a few days later)
  • believe the item was inaccurately represented in marketing material
  • believe that they are outside the refund window or that obtaining a refund would take longer than requesting a chargeback

Speak to the Merchant as a First Action

In all these cases, customers may request a chargeback without ever reaching out to the business first. But in reality, many merchants would prefer to settle the dispute directly with the customer because of a few reasons:

  • Chargebacks are difficult to and costly to dispute with a low win rate
  • Returns are faster for both parties than chargebacks with less red tape
  • Dollars are lost in time, shipping, and product (consumers keep the goods in a chargeback scenario)

Merchants face a variety of chargeback challenges, including wasted time, lost shipping charges, difficulty in understanding and following chargeback guidelines, and difficulties with their own bank and credit card processor. In addition to these hurdles, merchants have difficulty identifying which chargeback disputes to pursue since there’s a historically low win rate.

Wasted Time

Chargebacks are costly for merchants in labor hours, and often a merchant won’t pursue a chargeback dispute because they lack the staff or resources to combat it effectively.

Although an issuer may provide a reason code for why the cardholder has raised a dispute, the chargeback reason codes aren’t standardized and vary from issuer to issuer. The reason codes are often vague or difficult to understand. In order for a merchant to understand how to begin to dispute the chargeback, she has to sort through the codes and communicate with the issuer to determine the reason the chargeback was requested in the first place.

The dispute process also varies significantly based on the process of the credit card company and the reason codes themselves. With each dispute, the merchant has set time limits to provide information to the bank for review. Although customers usually have anywhere from 45-180 days to request a chargeback, merchants usually only have 30 days to respond with appropriate data.

If at any time the merchant misses a deadline, the case is decided in favor of the cardholder. Merchants have to set aside time to deal with chargeback disputes on a regular basis—time that they could be spending growing their business.

One of the merchant’s only safeguards against fraudulent chargebacks is meticulous record-keeping. By keeping track of every customer communication, detailed records of charges, and proof of delivery statements, merchants are able to provide information in a timelier manner to the investigating bank—but detailed record-keeping adds to the hours that a merchant has to spend completing tasks other than making a sale.

Fees

Because the chargeback laws were initially created to protect customers, as soon as the chargeback is initiated, the payment is temporarily reversed in favor of the cardholder and the merchant is charged a fee which varies based on their merchant account and processor, but is usually in the neighborhood of $15 to $25 per chargeback. Most times merchants are stuck with this fee even if the dispute is dropped.

Revenue, Loss of Goods, Shipping Charges

Although some chargeback fees don’t seem exorbitant, they sting when you consider that the merchant has already lost revenue twice—once on the original payment which was reversed, and again in loss of goods, which the customer is allowed to keep. It was estimated in 2016 that for every $1 of fraud cost a merchant lost $2.40 (as reported by chargebacks911.com).

Consider the financial implication of loss of goods in the case of a customer who decides to make a purchase through an online seller. He places an order, but grows impatient with waiting for the item to be delivered (or doesn’t understand the logistics of delivery). He decides to buy from another seller, but instead of contacting customer service to cancel the order and request a refund, he initiates a chargeback with his bank. Two days later, the order arrives. He keeps the item and gets his money back. In this case, the merchant is required to pay a chargeback fee in addition to the loss of payment and loss of goods that he could have otherwise sold.

When a chargeback occurs, merchants also lose the shipping cost incurred in order to deliver the item to the customer. In the case of larger household goods or ones that require special handling, the sums can be significant.

Higher Account Fees, Termination of Account

Additionally, merchants who have frequent chargebacks may be required to pay higher fees by credit card processors because the transactions are considered high-risk.

If a merchant has enough chargebacks, their account may be terminated, leaving them with no method of credit card processing. In extreme cases, a processor may add a merchant to the MATCH (Member Alert to Control High Risk Merchants) list, effectively blacklisting them from being able to secure a contract with other processors for five years.

Prevention & Mitigation

Even when merchants attempt to prevent chargebacks, there’s an inherent cost in lost sales. In most cases, chargebacks are the result of a miscommunication or are because a customer who actually purchased the goods doesn’t realize a refund would be more effective. In some cases, customers actually engage in fraudulent chargebacks on purpose in order to obtain goods illegally. In order to decipher which purchases are fraudulent, merchants often use red flags on their payment process. For instance, if a billing address doesn’t match a shipping address, a merchant’s processor may flag the transaction. Although this situation is sometimes fraudulent, other times the purchase is legitimate. In order to protect themselves, e-commerce merchants decline millions of legitimate transactions each year to mitigate chargeback risk. Some sources estimate that one in 13 transactions are declined because of suspected fraudulent activity.

All of these costs are before merchants even consider fighting the chargeback. Often, because of the vague chargeback rules and exorbitant hours required to dispute, merchants seek assistance from third-parties who specialize in mitigation at an additional cost in hopes of saving money long-term.

Historically Chargeback Decisions Favor the Customer

Although merchants may choose to engage a third-party organization for mitigation services, there’s still no guarantee that the case will be decided in favor of the merchant. Without detailed record-keeping and a true understanding of why the customer initiated the chargeback in the first place, merchants may still lose.

Chargebacks can be initiated for so many reasons, and merchants often have to pick and choose which chargebacks to dispute. In cases where a customer initiated a chargeback because they felt it would be easier than a return, the merchant might be able to settle easily. Alternately, a chargeback initiated by a fraudster who just wanted to keep the merchandise and get money back may have exactly the same reason code. With so little information, it’s difficult for merchants to decide which disputes may be winnable.

In a Wall Street Journal article published January 2018, the author noted that hundreds of millions of dollars in charges are reversed each year in favor of the customer. Each year, chargebacks spike just after the holidays totaling as much as $980 million.

Most sources estimate that even merchants who utilize third-party services don’t win even half of the chargeback disputes. In the case where a merchant does win the dispute by providing adequate information, the acquiring bank re-presents the transaction that was removed and charged back to the cardholders account, a term called “representment.”

Fraud Prevention Tactics and Trouble Disputing

Because win rates are historically low for merchants, most choose to try and eliminate fraudulent activity before a chargeback occurs. One of the ways merchants do this is by looking for suspicious activity in the payment process.

Two of the tools that merchants use in the payment process are AVS (Address Verification System) and CVV (the three-digit code on the back of a credit or debit card). Merchants can set up rules in the payment process for declining a payment. Although the customer may enter a card number and their bank may authorize the payment, if one or more of the rules are broken, a merchant may choose to decline the transaction, leaving a customer with a “declined card” message on the payment page.

Although AVS and CVV rules, among others, are intended to safeguard the merchant against chargebacks, sometimes fraudsters still pass through the system—either because of a stolen credit card or because the person placing the order had all the correct information. In cases like these, it’s difficult for merchants to dispute a chargeback because none of the rules were broken.

Confusing Guidelines from Card Issuers

Even when merchants are prepared to fight chargebacks by providing information in a dispute, the guidelines provided by card issuers for fighting chargebacks are often confusing.

In order to be able to navigate a dispute, merchants need to at least have basic knowledge of the process, paying special attention to timing and required steps.

Each credit card company often has its own set of guidelines for engaging in a dispute, and those guidelines can change over time. Although some companies like Visa are working to create more merchant-friendly guidelines, some guideline manuals are more than 400 pages long.

Summary

Although chargebacks were originally a balance point for the merchant-customer relationship, they now pose many significant issues for merchants, especially in e-commerce sales. Until equitable laws are enacted to protect merchants, many will continue to struggle under fraudulent and unfair chargebacks.

With so many challenges—from wasted time and resources, assumed cost, unclear guidelines, and a historically low win rate—many merchants will choose to focus on fraud prevention techniques to reduce chargebacks or the likelihood that they will occur.

As e-commerce continues to become more popular, chargebacks will continue to be a losing system for banks and merchants, and will eventually raise cost for consumers.

Data Breach and It’s Impact on Reputation

Almost daily, news broadcasts are reporting breaking stories about yet another data breach. In 2018, data breaches affected many of the United States’ largest companies, including Marriott Hotels, MyFitnessPal, Quora, Google Plus, Orbitz, T-Mobile, and even Facebook. Unfortunately, the mile-long list doesn’t end there. With increasing frequency and rising risk in today’s digital world, data breaches loom behind every corner. And, whether big or small, the companies affected are not left unscathed.

What is the impact?

The impact of a data breach is minimally horrific, if not detrimental, to any company involved.  Once confidential information is breached, companies are under a regulatory burden to notify anyone who’s information was compromised. However, when a breach becomes public knowledge, the consequences to a company are almost unavoidable. In one crushing blow, the reputation of a company is at stake.

In today’s world of social media, it is no secret that news spreads like wildfire. Through news reports, Facebook shares, Instagram stories, and more, word travels fast. In a matter of seconds, the whole world is “in the know.” Thus, the consequences of a data breach run far and wide. From credit card numbers to identify theft, the opportunity for cyber attacks are vast.

Among a long list of imminent ramifications, the most impactful one is the loss of customer trust. Undoubtedly, losing the trust of beloved customers can decrease a company’s value immensely and very quickly. Once a customer no longer trusts your company to protect their valuable and confidential information, you can bet you’ve lost their business. With the loss of customers, the company’s reputation will most likely take a hit, leading to a decline in brand value. This downward spiral is difficult to quell.

These are just a handful of the consequences that no company can afford. For all these reasons and more, it’s essential to protect yourself and your business.

What measures can you take today?

Undeniably, the risk of data breach is high and it is vital to have a response plan in place. Being proactive can save you from a data breach catastrophe. A response plan will work to reduce the risk of data breach, protect the information of your priceless customers, and reduce the amount of harm when a breach is attempted.

First, ensure you have the protection of cyber security. Cyber security companies like Norton, provide your business with data protection from cyber attackers and hackers. Investing in the appropriate security measures may save you endless strife, time, and money.

Once an attack has been confirmed, it is important to implement a data breach response plan.  Quickly identify the objective of the attackers and the severity of the breach. Alert the security response team of the attack immediately.

After a successful breach has been made, notifying all compromised parties and customers is non-negotiable. In order to prevent further harm, it is important for the affected individuals to become aware of the situation and take further action on their behalf, if necessary. Work closely with your security team to restore a secure network as soon as possible. Complying with the Human Resources team to handle any negative publicity of a data breach incident is advised.

It is no surprise that the risk of data breach in today’s digital world is costly.  However, there are steps you can take to provide your company and customers with the highest level of protection from data breaches and cyber attacks. Don’t wait until it is too late! It is important to be proactive in maintaining the integrity and reputation of your company.