Thursday, 18 June 2015

They're out to get your money

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

20 comments:

  1. Good for you for sticking up for yourself . I always write the time on the back of my hand as I am also easily distracted.

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  2. On the subject of parking. Our local Aldi supermarket have just three parking spots for disabled people. This week I got a glare and hand gesture from a young mum for parking in a mother and child space. There were 7 empty mother and child spaces at the time. I have problems with a hip and knee and have difficulty getting in and out of the car. This is not an isolated occurrence. Our local co-op similarly provide large spaces under cover and adjacent to the store but not for elderly, infirm or blind people.

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  3. I take a photo of my ticket now so I can remember when I'm in town shopping as the ticket has to be left in the car. Of course aldi & Lidl don't have tickets. So I send myself a message of the time I arrived. Lidl is only 1.5 hours.

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    1. Hi. Good idea about the photo. If I get a ticket from a machine I usually remember the time.

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  4. In San Antonio, there are these "honor" parking lots where you can just slip money into a slot that matches the number on your car. I have no idea how they monitor these, but have never gotten a billing from them. We do put the money in the slot, but it's very weird.

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  5. Very interesting post. I well remember my sister reminding me when I first returned for a visit to keep plenty of change in the car for parking. Like you I was aware of the places you could park for free and walk in.

    Where I live in the Midwest of the United States I have never seen a charge for parking. Due to the town parking meters the small shops where I live could not compete against the shopping centers that were developed with free parking and many closed. People would rather drive a little way and park for free as well as shop under cover. Sad in so many ways.

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  6. Second paragraph sentence is a bit wrong - should read I have never seen a charge for parking at a grocery store or a time limit.

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  7. Aldi employees seem to have had some serious PR / customer care training in recent years - and it shows. Tesco should take a leaf out of their book!
    Glad to hear that you succeeded in getting things sorted and that you've discovered that these charges are merely invoices and not fines.

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  8. my sister also got caught out with this at Aldi. She had done her shopping in Aldi but then remembered something else she had to do.Popped across the road and when she came back,found she'd over run by just 10 mins. Thought nothing of it till she got the demand in the post. She paid the£40.

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    1. Hi Caz. Pity she didn't go and see the manager.

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  9. Oh no Ilona. I'm glad you didn't pay it, it must have been a bit stressful for you. On the other hand, the car park where our Aldi is located is notoriously busy and it can be very difficult to find a space. When our local paper ran a story about people being fined for over staying over 2 hours I felt it was justified because people take advantage and others cannot park. I guess there are 2 sides to every story. Glad it turned out OK for you in the end though. Debbie.

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    1. Hi Debbie. Our Aldi car park is never full. Most of the time it's half empty, there are enough spaces for everyone.

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  10. That is great the store manager cancelled the fine for you. I use a two hour parking lot downtown that is only for store customers, here in California. One time my friend parked there, had dinner at a restaurant there and then decided to go to a movie. Big no no. Her car was towed away! Way worse than getting a fine and she had to pay $300 to get her car back. So I am very careful to not overstay.

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    1. Hi Terra. It wasn't a fine, the company don't have the power to fine anyone. If I had no help from the manager I could have gone down the messy path of appealing, and probably won. He saved me the bother.

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  11. A really good post Ilona, thank you for sharing this information.

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  12. My hubby has successfully fought several of these using mse! My MIL gets tickets every other month but won't believe us when we tell her she doesn't have to pay. She'll stump up every time, I swear they have her number plate on a mugs list and follow her around.
    X

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  13. Hi.Yesterday's post re: art was a chuckle.Wow!Those pirates surely do haul in a lot of money.I watched the videos and I enjoyed how the interviewer handled those two.She's very good.We are fortunate here that (so far) we can park in our grocery store's lot with no time limit..You did a smart thing, challenging it and finding that the store manager was a reasonable guy, good for you.I once saw a man drive his car right through the barriers of a hospital parking lot,smashing them and driving away,refusing to pay.It had no cameras.He just snapped.Oh well,am glad you sorted it out.Bye for now,D.

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  14. At our local Aldi they have a machine where you have to input your car reg number on leaving the store. You then have a limited time in which to leave. If you miss doing this you end up with a fine/bill
    Carolx

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  15. Maybe Aldi is using the parking fine cash for their ambitious expansion plans, they seem to be building new stores everywhere and a large distribution centre.
    Depending on location the stores could end up being a free all day car park with no parking space for genuine customers so i suppose they have to do something.
    You have to buy a parking ticket in some stores which is refunded at the till.
    Dave.

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  16. Thanks for sharing the information, I'm sure lots of people would be intimidated into paying up. Vee x

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