Beware, Tesco's are watching you!

  LastChip 18:48 20 Aug 2006

At the beginning of this week, I received a letter containing a threat from Tesco's.

In essence, it said I had parked my car in their car park and overstayed the time limit. Although it was couched in polite terms, it was a firm slap on the wrist and the threat was: "Therefore the next time you do not observe the time restrictions a parking charge notice will be issued".

To anyone reading that, it may seem reasonable, except, my wife had been shopping with her elderly mother and they had been in the car park less than an hour! (the time limit is three hours).

Given the circumstances, one could say I was furious and after calming down, sent a strong letter back to the address from which it came, advising them of the facts.

Later in the week, I received a letter back, the important part of which says: "Unfortunately, due to a technical issue with the car park management system during the first week of August, a letter stating that you had overstayed the time limit of the car park was sent to you by mistake". It included an apology.

However, this has raised a number of issues.

First, how did they get my name and address from the car's number plate? Clearly, that data is available to anyone who wishes to pay for it.

Second, how reliable is the technology? Clearly at least this time, it's not!

Third, the treat of a "parking charge notice". Is that any way to treat your customers and do they have a legal right to do so?

Finally, although I have an apology, the damage is done. It has left a very bad taste that will take a long time to flush out!

As I reminded them, Sainsburys and ASDA are also around. They are not the only game in town.

  johndere 18:53 20 Aug 2006

This is not new, any supermarkets car parking is covered under law, the small print in any of their car parks state a time limit, but also if you park on their car park you are giving them the right to get your details from DVLA.

DVLA as BBC Watchdog showed will sell your details to nearly anyone for a price!

  oresome 18:57 20 Aug 2006

Many supermarket car parks have time limits.

It's common practise for business drivers to meet up at one of these car parks and leave one or more vehicles behind and then travel on to their destination in one car.

Agree that the technology needs to be fool proof, but the car parks need to be preserved for shoppers.

  Forum Editor 19:02 20 Aug 2006

will now automatically obtain details of car ownershp from DVLA if you park in the car park without using the store, or if you park for longer than the tme limit.

There's no breach of the data prtection legislation if you have breached the conditions applying to a private car park.

Tesco may not be the "only game in town" but they are Britain's largest food retailers (in fact they're probably the biggest in Europe) and where they lead others will follow. I predict that similar restrictions will soon apply in all other supermarket carparks. They know that people abuse the car-park rules, and it's getting worse - they intend to stop it for the convenience of genuine customers.

You're the victim of a error, and they've apologised - no harm has been done.

  beeuuem 19:03 20 Aug 2006

Blame this government who would sell you, your soul and all that you possess if they thought that they could make a penny out of it.

  sunny staines 19:13 20 Aug 2006

my local tesco ashford middx, films all cars going in and out of its car parks an attached pc somewhere registers all cars over 2 hours then its a £70 fine in the post. So beware if after the weeks shopping you spend too long in the tesco cafe eating a big boys breakfast you could end paying a £70 tip.

  Forum Editor 19:17 20 Aug 2006

Don't be so silly. What on earth does a Tesco car parking restriction have to do with the government?

Absolutely nothing.

  LastChip 19:19 20 Aug 2006

I beg to differ.

The harm that has most certainly been done, is my (and my wife's) perception of Tesco's.

How many other unfortunates got similar letters that week?

It's too easy to brush off what is effectively an insult! It's also too easy to blame it on a technical issue. Either the equipment malfunctioned, in which case it should have automatically turned off and any correspondence relating to the system should have been disregarded, or, the programming of the system is buggy and therefore hasn't been tested properly prior to roll out.

Either way, if you're going to threaten your customers, you'd better make sure your facts are straight.

  anskyber 19:34 20 Aug 2006

Well, there is no harm in the sense of the real meaning of the definition. I think you are reacting a little OTT. There was a mistake and you got your apology.

I welcome the move by supermarkets to regulate their private car parks in the broader interests of their customers. (particularly the widespread abuse of the disabled and parent/child spaces) Some will I am sure go elsewhere its their choice but the overall gain I suspect will be an improved experience for those who try to shop in supermarkets but find it difficult to do so because there are some who think that the free spaces are there to be used as they wish.

If you do not shop at that supermarket and choose another that is for you, I imagine you do so currently because you regard the store as the best around. Going elsewhere, if that is the case does appear a little short sighted.

  spuds 19:42 20 Aug 2006

Virtually all the major supermarkets have 'car park management' systems in progress. These schemes are not actually 'managed' by the supermarkets, but by a third party sub contract company. You will usually find that there are warning posters very visible, with all the terms and conditions clearly displayed, plus the name of the company responsible the administration of the scheme.

Regarding the DVLA issue, you will find that the DVLA disclose car details for a fee to third parties. In the case of 'car park management' companies, they will purchase information in block form.

Your letter of complaint would have gone to the 'car park management' company and not to Tesco's. I would suggest that you send another letter to Tesco's head office, stating the facts of your case, and see what Tesco's actual response is. Recently, there was a media report of an over enthusiastic 'car park management' team, who was getting rather confused, and had been issuing incorrect fines to people. Not 100% sure who the supermarket was, but I believe the event took place in the North of England.

Would mention that wheel clamping is becoming more common on supermarket car parks, for people who park in disabled bays and kiddy+parent bays. Tesco's have a registration scheme for kiddy+parents, and a window sticker is provided. Council issued blue badges normally cover usage on the disabled bays.

  skeletal 20:28 20 Aug 2006

A couple of points here. Firstly the DVLA. A few years ago I nearly got caught out buying a dodgy car from someone who was part of a gang running a complex car fraud. They were eventually caught and went to prison. However, at the time, I contacted DVLA requesting information that could have proved the fraud; they refused citing the Data Protection Act. It took me a lot of effort to work out the fraud without their help (I eventually sent details to Trading Standards, hence the eventual prosecution).

Some years later my son was hit by what turned out to be an uninsured driver who gave a false name and address. Again, we contacted the DVLA who refused to help. Again a lot of detective work found the driver whose details we passed to the Police; in this case though, they did not bother to prosecute (so as usual, we the innocent party ended up footing the bill).

I would suggest my two examples are somewhat more serious than overstaying one’s welcome at a supermarket, yet the DVLA seems happy to provide information about those drivers, but not those involved in real criminal activity.

Second point about business drivers meeting up and using one car. Everyone and their dog complains about the world being destroyed by the car and how you should car share etc etc. Anything that can cut down unnecessary travel surely helps. Thus, taking one car is a step in the right direction and out of town supermarkets are an ideal meeting place. Now, if potential customers genuinely cannot park because of all the business drivers, I accept there is a problem. A solution may be a small charge for more than, say, two hours parking. I have actually approached management at some places and asked if it was OK to park for several hours as we wished to car share. Permission was granted at no cost.


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