BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — You can now pay for parking in Buffalo with cash, a credit card or even an app. But James Stafford and his family found once they used a credit card, the meter just seemed to keep charging them over and over hundreds of times.
The Buffalo waterfront has become a destination for tourists and former Buffalonians, amazed with the extreme makeover it has gone through in just the last few years. James Stafford and his family drove the 2,600 miles from Seattle with their Airstream camper and then the fun just seemed to evaporate at a parking meter.
“I swiped the card and put $5.00 into the Parkeon and we just enjoyed walking around and seeing the Navy ships or whatever,” said Stafford.
Then Stafford went online to check his account.
“And the next day I noticed that I had multiple pending charges from the City of Buffalo Treasury which kind of confused me.”
That $5.00 charge kept hitting Stafford’s account, over and over and over again — hundreds of times, amounting to more than $3,000 in charges.
The Stafford family was in a tough spot, thousands of miles from home and the city was constantly dinging their credit card with $5.00 charges. But on a holiday weekend, there was no one at City Hall to answer the phone. After contacting his credit card issuer, James Stafford decided to freeze his account, but by then the meter charges were well over $3,000.
The charges did not stop.
“The credit card company after I had locked the card said there was continuing trying to charge my locked card, even after I had locked it,” Stafford added.
The Staffords could not use the credit card, then after the holiday passed, the city’s Parking Enforcement told them others were getting dinged, too. A city official News 4 it was not the meters, it was the credit card processing company.
“Simple system bug that they can get resolved and people don’t have to go through this. It was kind of annoying being out of town and having a locked card that you can’t use,” Stafford said.
Whenever there is a contested charge, the consumer files a dispute, the credit card company investigates, and it could take months to get a refund. In this case, the merchant processor is supposed to be giving the Staffords an instant refund, but the family tells us, so far, it has not shown up in the account, and it is now up to $4,400.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.