Apologies to the shopkeepers in Chesterfield who I have not supported this Christmas.
I’ve always shopped in Chesterfield because I prefer the friendliness of face-to-face contact with retailers rather than shopping online, and I like the variety of independent retailers in contrast to the corporate experience of visiting bigger cities and shopping outlets.
However, I’ve changed my opinion.
Earlier this year, I needed to make a quick visit to Chesterfield and a friend kindly gave me a lift. We parked in the Holywell Cross car park (the Donut) and I went to pay the parking charge. The car park was quite busy and there was a queue of people at the pay machine. However, they kindly allowed me to go ahead of them as I had the correct change ready and they were still sorting out their money.
I quickly put a £1 coin and two 20p pieces in the machine — £1.40 for an hour’s parking — and took the ticket, which we then placed on the car dashboard.
We hurried to get back to the car before the time was due to expire and arrived with a few minutes to spare. I must say that we were, therefore, quite indignant when we saw the penalty notice. It was only then, when I examined the ticket, that I realised that the machine had failed to register 20p of my payment and issued a half hour ticket.
Obviously I feel really stupid that I failed to notice this at the time of the transaction. However, I was hurrying to get out of people’s way and frankly, it never occurred to me to check. I was certainly not aware that the machine had rejected a coin. I wrote to appeal the fine, pointing out that it was a genuine mistake – I wouldn’t have put in £1.20 if I only intended to get a 70p ticket – but got a standard reply saying I should have checked the ticket.
So I threw myself on the mercy of Chesterfield Borough Council and wrote to explain, enclosing copies of the correspondence. I received no acknowledgement, so I followed up with an email stating the nature of my original letter. This got a quick, very corporate response saying they could find no trace of my letter – they didn’t bother to ask for copies of the correspondence which explained the situation – and saying there was an appeals procedure. They also said that if I had problems using the pay and display machine I could call a helpline and get an attendant to come and assist me.
So it turned out that the ‘friendly’ face of the high street was not so friendly after all and had no sympathy for a pensioner paying £25 for an error of 20p.
So, sorry Chesterfield high street, but I did my Christmas shopping online this year.
Check out these other opinions about Chesterfield town centre:
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