Hello. This is a post about how to save money on parking charges. By sharing my experience with you, it may help you not to make the same mistake as I did. I'll start by saying that I hate paying for parking. There maybe times when it is necessary to cough up, such as the need to be close to where you are visiting, you have a timed appointment, you have elderly or young people with you, or you have heavy bags to carry.
If I am on a day out by myself I will park on the outskirts of a town in a residential street with no restrictions, taking care not block anyone's entrance. Then I will either walk in or get a bus. I hate driving in town centre's and getting lost in a one way system. The few times that I have paid in a car park was when I took Rocky in his buggy, when we had days out at the seaside and I want to be close to the sea front.
When I go to town here I generally drive. I could get the bus, but if I have bags to carry the car is more convenient, and why shouldn't I use it, I paid for it and I enjoy driving it. We have two hours free parking in our town, which is convenient because I can park at the back of the market, get a ticket for my car, and all the shops I need are close by in the High Street. My routine is to go there first, visit the bank, the library, discount stores, and charity shops. When I have finished there, I drive out and go into the Aldi car park, which is close by, and easier to walk from store to car with my food shopping. Then I go home.
On one occasion recently I changed my routine, I went into the Aldi car park first. I wanted a bigger shop, stock up on non perishables, and as I don't make a list I thought I would do that first while it was all fresh in my mind. I am of the opinion that if I forget something then I manage without it, so I don't do lists. I spent £33 that day, usually it's less than a tenner.
With shopping loaded in the car, I decided to walk the short distance to the market and the High Street, and pick up a few other bits and bobs. On my way back to the car, I bumped into someone I hadn't seen for a while so stopped to have a natter. Then I remembered that there was a 2 hour limit for parking at Aldi, and I couldn't remember what time I had pulled into the park. Something told me to keep my store receipt, just in case I had gone over the time.
Shopping centre and store car parks are generally monitored by independent companies, they have a contract with the land owner to police car parking, for which they pay a fee. This helps the store to free up space for their genuine shoppers, and deters people from dumping their car there while they go to work elsewhere. In the case of our local Aldi, that's what used to happen before they brought in a company to monitor movement within the car park. Now every car is photographed on entry and exit.
Two weeks later I got a letter from Parking Eye. I had been clocked going in and out, and had overstayed by 12 minutes. The fine, a hefty £70, reduced to £40 if paid within a week. Now this seems grossly unfair being as I am a customer of Aldi. OK, I shouldn't have gone to town and left my car there, because the park is only supposed to be used for the actual time you are in the store. There are signs, but they are high up on posts so you have to squint to read them.
First thing the following morning I got myself down to Aldi, and found the manager doing his stock check in the first aisle. I explained what had happened, showed him the letter and till receipt, and admitted my mistake. He took the letter from me and told me not to worry, he would get it cancelled. He said I will get some more letters because it takes time for it to go through the system. I thought, what a reasonable chap he is, in fact I was impressed by his excellent customer relations.
I will at this point just mention that the letters appear very threatening when they arrive. The £70 charge is in bold letters, and they demand that you pay. People often think this is a car parking fine, it isn't, the company cannot fine you, it is an invoice. They threaten to take you to court if you ignore it. All very intimidating. A lot of people cave in at the first hurdle and pay up. That's what they want to happen.
I got three letters in total, then they stopped. I didn't open the second and third letters, I refuse to be bullied. At the end of the day, the land belongs to Aldi, the manager can liaise with head office and override the parking company if he or she so wishes. Luckily the manager here is a decent sort. My friend got caught at the same car park, he felt intimidated by the letter and paid. Afterwards he went to Aldi and complained. Head office sent him a voucher for the full amount to be spent in the store.
If you have been stung with these sort of parking charges, go to Money Saving Expert and read up about it. These are not real parking tickets. Read this thread first. It will explain the procedure for challenging the parking company. Then read this thread how people are fighting their unfair charges.
Watchdog on BBC television have also done a report on these car parking companies. They sent an undercover reporter to work in an office, with a hidden camera. What they found was a room full of people all intent on squeezing as much money out of the public as possible, by whatever means.
A lot of people are fighting these charges on the grounds that the signs are not clear, that they didn't see them because they appear to be hidden. Others are challenging the legality of the actual wording in the letters, and the biggest bug bear is that the charges are disproportionate to the perceived crime. If your appeal is rejected, you can then go to POPLA, an ombudsman. A high percentage of people are getting their charges cancelled at some stage, it all depends on how long you are prepared to hang on in there.
Here are a couple of vids from yooootooob to watch. There are many more.
Anyway, what have I learnt from this? Always note what time I entered a car park. I may have to write it down because I get distracted and forget easily. Always read the signs. Always remove my car before the time expires. If I do that I shouldn't get any more demands for money.
Thanks for reading. Toodle pip
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