From: Annabel Blake
I read the item on page 6 of the Herald from March 30 with great interest, as I have had exactly the same problem with the car park, and I am very angry about it.
In early December my partner and I were going up to London for the day; we arrived in good time to park in the shoppers’ car park, where a sign says quite clearly that “Spaces 1-26” at the rear of the car park are for long stay use.
We drove to the rear of the park, and there were several spaces free, so we parked in one of them. I then phoned the number shown on the information board which sets out how to pay for parking, and got a very confusing message which said something about all the spaces in the commuters’ car park being booked already.
We weren’t in the commuters’ car park, which is the one right next to the station; there were several spaces free (and no sign that they were not available, no cones/signs/tape to show they couldn’t be used); and the information board doesn’t show any way of pre-booking spaces in this car park. At this point, we decided the recorded message must have been put on the phone system by mistake.
By then, we needed to go and catch our train, so I took a photo to show the empty spaces, and tried again to pay for my parking from the train. Again, I got this confusing message, and there was no offer to transfer me to a customer service centre so I could explain the situation and pay for my parking. So I then sent an email to the car park company (which I have never had a reply to).
A few days later I received a Parking Charge Notice, with a demand for a hefty charge, through the post, and this really upset me. I decided to use the appeal process, but despite all the points I made they turned down my appeal – having acknowledged that I did try twice to phone and pay for my parking – and renewed their demand for the parking charge.
I then sent them a cheque by post for £19: £4 to cover the parking fee plus £15 for their out-of-pocket expenses, which I thought was a completely reasonable thing to do. They have now returned my cheque, saying that as I have appealed they are “ ... unable to deal with any further correspondence ...” and I now have to pay £100 - how small-minded is that?
In my appeal I told the parking company that, the day after my problem, I was down at Polegate station to buy a ticket, and there were two ladies ahead of me at the ticket office, sounding very upset and frustrated, and it turned out they had had the same problem. I wonder how many other people have been taken in by this completely unreasonable issue? The message is clearly misleading as there is no way to pre-book these particular parking spaces, and there is no way to speak to a ‘real person’ through the company’s phone system. An easy earner for the parking company, I suspect.