Way back on the first day of the semester, I was in a hurry and parked in an area on campus that I didn't have a pass for, resulting in a parking ticket.
I'm man enough to take the consequences when I've done something wrong, and I didn't see the ticket itself as a problem.
A bad omen did accompany it, though. It was a wet day, and so the parking services people were distributing tickets in little plastic baggies. Unfortunately, the distributor of my ticket was on the slow side, and put the baggie opening facing up, so as to collect all the snow and gunk coming from above, rather than facing down.
Getting the ticket out of the bag and then out of its paper envelope was therefore a messy affair, and not something I'd like to experience again. To repeat, I'm calling this an omen, because it's not as bad as what was to come.
Minutes after discovering the ticket, I found myself in front of a computer, and I paid the fee online. This was January 11, 2005.
Nearly a month later, on February 07, I received an email from the parking services folks stating that my payment had failed. The email war that ensued warrants documentation. Documentation follows, altered only to make it more readable. No words, contexts, or spellings have been changed. I added text coloring to make it easier to keep track of who is saying what. Also, note that the email represented in green text below and the first email in red text were plain-text emails and included the credit card number with which I originally made the payment.
(Jan. 11): Your payment has been processed by
(Feb. 07): Jake
The credit card declined. The payment was not processed. Please resubmit using another card.
(Feb. 07): Ok. How?
(Feb. 07): You can reply to this email or follow the same process that you did last time to pay the citation.
(Feb. 07): You want my credit card number in a plain-text email? That's a good one.
What's the link to the site to pay? Will I need a citation number? Can you provide me with, you know, pertinent information?
(Feb. 07): Mr. Wilcox
You asked the question to which I replied. Your sarcasm is not need.
The web site is located on the bottom of the citation on the front side
You will need to provide the citation
Number which is 09430680.
If you are still concerned about this type of payment transaction please feel free to mail the payment to our office (
(Feb. 07): Ms. Allen-
I'm sorry you didn't like my reply. I wasn't being sarcastic; I was giving you the benefit of the doubt.
Computer security is a big deal in our day, and sending sensitive data over any network (including the internet) in plain text is always a bad idea, no matter what. It is a simple matter for anyone to intercept such messages and use the data in them for whatever purposes they choose. I generously assumed that you were not ignorant to this fact, and treated your suggestion as a joke.
If your management are also not aware of this serious breach of security, I respectfully request that you inform them. You work for an institution of higher education; negligence of this level is simply unacceptable.
Further, it is not unreasonable for those whom you deal to expect all pertinent details with the first message sent. All information needed in order to correct the failed payment should be clearly presented, including a link to the SSL Encrypted site where the original payment was made.
SSL Encryption, unlike plain text, is a reasonably secure method in which to send sensitive data over a network.
Please send a link to the website where I can re-send this payment, as I requested before.
(Feb. 08): The link is www.remit-online.com/801001 as noted in the last email.
Whew! Did you see her try to chew on me? I wasn’t even sure there was a problem until she accused me of sarcasm. But that just wasn’t going to fly.
I’ll be emailing Ms. Martinez to make her aware of this post. She may email me a rebuttal, if she likes, or post it in the comments. If she is courageous enough to do so, I’ll see that it gets moved from email or comments to a permanent update in the post.
Of course, a master stroke would be to realize that she and her department will come up smelling rosy by doing the following: Simply acknowledge that the manner in which this was handled was a mistake and state that corrections are being made. And then, of course, make said corrections.
But I have my doubts. Bureaucracy is a hard habit to break.