No budging on car park ticket


SOUNDING OFFAnna Lester from Dublin contacted us to relate "the worst shopping experience" of her life which happened in Tesco in the Bloomfield Centre, Dún Laoghaire earlier this month. She decided to use the self-service checkout in the store because few of the manned registers were open and long queues had formed at those that were open.

"I diligently obeyed all the prompts on the checkout screen. I scanned all the items, got authorisation for four separate items on four separate occasions, cleared the conveyer belt when requested and rescanned 'unauthorised items'." After jumping through all the hoops, she paid the €180 bill with a credit card and packed her shopping. It was at this point she remembered her parking ticket and asked an assistant to validate it. "He said he couldn't because it had to be done before payment. I then asked to speak to someone who could do so. He informed me that it could not be done by anyone at this stage." Our reader insisted on speaking to someone more senior and eventually an assistant manager came forward who told her the same thing: the computer system could not be bypassed and apparently it was all the fault of the car park in the first place.

"I explained that I was a customer of Tesco and the free car parking was only conditional on me spending at least €30. She told me that there were notices on all the self-service checkouts, and there were - they were small and difficult to read while checking out a trolley-full of groceries. She told me that the self-service checkouts were for my convenience, although I cannot see how this is the case as I am doing all the work!"

When Lester realised she was getting nowhere, she told the assistant manager that if Tesco did not honour its contract for free parking then she wanted to return the shopping and get her money back. She was told that would be fine "but that they would have to check each packed item back into stock. It is obvious that most people would baulk at this. Having spent over an hour shopping, plus all the time these conversations were taking, most customers would relent and pay the shopping charge themselves."

Our reader was made of sterner stuff and, on principle and because "service generally is abysmal and customers are treated with contempt", she decided "not to cave in". She waited while an assistant unloaded her shopping and checked each item back into a trolley. "I waited while another assistant did the whole thing a second time. At this stage it was 5.45pm on a Thursday and I had wasted a large part of the afternoon."

Eventually her credit card was refunded and she paid her own parking charge - €2 - and went to Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt where she redid her shopping. "I will never, ever shop in Tesco again. If none of their staff, including an assistant manager to whom I spoke, have the authority to rectify an error on the part of a customer and honour a €2 parking ticket then there is something seriously wrong with that organisation. Rather than give me what they had contracted to do they took back a sale worth over €180. The staff were polite at all times but none of them knew how to deal with a customer. They all took a bureaucratic, corporate stance. Evidently it works; if it didn't then they would not be encouraged."

We're impressed this reader stood her ground, and completely baffled that Tesco would be prepared to lose a sale of €180, not to mention losing a customer for life, for the sake of €2.

We contacted the store to find out why no one could override the computer system or why no one had considered giving the customer €2 from petty cash to cover the parking, thereby honouring the contract they had with her.

A spokesman said that from a corporate perspective they do advocate that staff adopt a commonsense approach to situations like this. "Quite clearly this didn't happen in this instance and we apologise for that." He said that on foot of our reader's complaint, Tesco was looking at the systems in the store to make sure that a situation like this does not happen again.

Fast French rail

At 12.50am on Tuesday, March 18th, Gearóid Mac Domhnaill ordered tickets from SNCF (French National Railway Company) and two days later at 10.30am they were delivered by the An Post. "Thanks SNCF and An Post, that's what I call service."

Ripped off? Stunned by good value? Write, text or blog your experience to us