Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Tesco's car parking - or a lesson in alienating your customers...

My local Tesco's store put up signs about six months ago, warning customers that if they were to park there for more than 3 hours, they agree to pay a £70 fine.  This is monitored and managed by a CCTV camera network in the car park, and run by a private firm, not Tesco's directly.

Let's get that into context.  The store in question is nowhere near a train station, a major shopping area, a town centre with a lack of parking, or a sports venue that requires extra parking.  Not once, in the eight odd years I've seen it, have I found the car park full with no spaces available, other than the mad rush on a christmas eve, which we all expect.

The store is, however, on the same development as a number of essential public services and other shops, such as the local library, two doctors surgeries, a hairdressers, the local parish council office, an estate agency and a dry cleaners.

This means that a member of the public, parking to access some of these services, have a maximum of 3 hours to complete their visit, else they face the fine.... Or do they?

It's worth noting, there is no private parking firm that has the authority to impose a penalty on a driver - only the local council and/or the police have that power.  They can write to the DVLA and get your details and write to you, they can make demands of you, they can even pass the fine off to a debt collection agency to collect on their behalf, but it is very simple to overcome - just ignore it!  And don't just take my word for it, Martin Lewis of the website, agrees.  As of the date of this post, no-one has ever been taken to court for the non-payment of a private parking fine.  Why?  Because the contract is called an 'adhesion' contract, and is unenforceable.  The parking management companies know this, but they use threatening and intimidating letters and notices to bully people into paying up, while Tesco's takes their cut, and blames the parking company when customers get upset at being 'fined'.  Every little helps, eh?!

What really gets my goat, though, is the threats, the demands, the intimidation - of customers!  Why would I want to spend my hard earned cash in a supermarket that threatens me before I've got through the door?  Why would I want to support an enterprise that decides, arbitrarily, to restrict peoples access to their public services?  Why would I want to shop somewhere that has this level of contempt for their customers?  Answers on a postcard!

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