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Waitrose: the conversation continues...

The latest exchange of views begins:

"I was sorry to learn that you were dissatisfied with my response to your recent complaint and I apologise for the additional trouble you have been caused in having to write to us.....and whilst we value your custom....I know that you will be disappointed with this response, but I hope that on reflection you will understand our reasoning........"

The detailed exchange is posted on my 'supermarket watch page'.

You can also follow the full exchange on the Waitrose Forum

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Waitrose: The response

I have just received this comment, which has been published on the Waitrose Company Forum:

Dear Sean Brady,

I was sorry to learn that you are unhappy with the car park charges at our Stroud branch and would like to take this opportunity to explain our reasoning for these charges.

Wherever it can Waitrose is keen to provide unlimited free parking. Unfortunately, this is not always possible especially in areas where we must conform with local restrictions or the car park is under the control of the local authority. At Stroud there is a very high demand for the number of spaces, and to ensure there is a continual turnover of spaces so all of our customers can find a space during peak periods, Britannia Parking Limited control the car park by introducing a charge after a reasonable period of time.

Due to the increased volume of custom at our Stroud branch it has been necessary to implement a policy that will help our customers park with ease. The car park is now strictly for customers who's sole purpose is to shop in Waitrose Stroud. However, I have been informed by the Duty Manager that it is possible to park for 1 hour in the Pay & Display car park adjacent to the Waitrose car park and they will reimburse the cost of 40p if you have a valid Waitrose receipt for £5.

I would like to thank you for taking the trouble to bring this matter to our attention. I appreciate that whilst what I have written will not have been what you wanted to learn, I am glad to have had an opportunity to clarify our position. I can assure you of our continued commitment to providing you with the service and merchandise you expect when shopping at Waitrose and hope this unfortunate incident will not deter you from shopping with us again in the future.

Chris
Waitrose Customer Service

This is my reply on that company forum:

You will be aware I have written a number of questions directly to customer services and I presume you will do me the courtesy of replying to those also directly. I have absolutely no quarrel with the need for parking controls and I'm sure as the previous respondent has written it has helped with Stroud Waitrose only customers.
I would however like to point out the ambiguity of the so called rules as published on the notice. I refer, of course, to the use of the word 'may'. As a loyal customer of Waitrose in Formby I am used to a different application of the same rule - it's not applied! In my view any Waitrose customer who uses a 'strange' Waitrose shop will fall foul of this parking penalty if it's applied in this fashion. There is no indication at Stroud that this is not a question of 'may' but 'certainty'.
It is even more galling that I was a customer of the store and in this case I have a receipt to prove it.
I know it's only for two seafood sandwiches for the rest of the journey to Formby, a bottle of Pinot Noir for the evening and a copy of the Guardian but I chose to buy them in Waitrose despite plenty of opportunity to buy 'locally' in the town.
You also mention the issue of car parks in general I might ask where was the notice about the Waitrose discount scheme you claim was available? Why did'nt the operative exercise discretion and provide advice rather than wait for us to leave, it's clear from the comment on the ticket he watched us, he could have called us back, that surely would be more like appropriate Waitrose customer care.
To turn finally to the parking conditions and their effects and to ask a question. I suspect that planning permission was granted to Waitrose for this store on certain conditions, some of which will apply to parking and trading. Effectively the Stroud operation erects a 'firewall' between Waitrose customers and the rest of the town. Did Waitrose argue in their planning application that it would increase 'footfall' in the town? The application of the Stroud conditions is likely to be construed as having a negative impact on other traders. Are you and your local customers happy with that potential harm to the town in general? Have you informed the local planning authorities of these changes, did they agree? If you didn't should you, because it seems to be a variation in trading?
Finally what if Waitrose applied the policy across the country? At least not one of us Waitrose customers would make the same mistake again but it would raise questions about Waitrose as a 'business in the community' and I notice that while you celebrate the sale of Duchy of Cornwall products, as a company you do not seem to have won any recent awards from the body he helped found and sponsor.

At least their comment seems to confirm my views that it will be unwise to shop at any 'strange' Waitrose unless all you want to do is shop there, if you leave the car park you 'may' be given a penalty. Perhaps even more worryingly if the parking rules were applied in the Stroud fashion then here in Formby local traders would be even more penalised. More on waitrose soon. I've started a 'supermarket' watch section and I'll add to that as I examine the impact of supermarkets on our local traders and by direct impact on us, the residents.

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Waitrose: More on the parking issue

I have written to the Waitrose company today in order to clarify their rules regarding parking, I have posted the questions below, if you have experienced any problems please contact me and I'll take them up for you...

Dear Customer Service,

Can you answer these questions following my very unfortunate experience at the Stroud store yesterday?
You will be aware that in Formby where I live the local store is flexible in the operation of the parking rule as published on it's notice board. Residents can and do park in the car park and leave it without penalty. They then return and shop in the store.

My questions are as follows:
How many of your stores throughout England apply this interpretation of the 'parking restriction'?
Have there been any other recorded incidents like mine where visitors to other shops have been penalised in the way I was because of their experience of the custom and practice of their local store and which they took to be a common practice for the whole of Waitrose?
I notice you use a range different agencies to manage your car parking it raises a series of questions, why? How do the individual agencies get chosen? Are they given the same remit or are there variations depending on the location?
How do you monitor and evaluate  the quality of their work?
Finally what degree of local latitude or discretion is given to local shops to exercise local discretion and understanding when customers have grievances?
Are you satisfied that in general Waitrose customers understand these local variations sufficiently, should the notice boards be clearer?
In the case of Stroud, where I parked the signs were on the slip road as I entered the site but drivers when approaching the park are  only likely to catch a glimpse. When i left the park the key instructions were on the other side and not in my eye line, should they be published on both sides and should the relevant text about the penalties for leaving the park be highlighted?

I hope you are able to oblige me answers to these questions, as a local Parish Councillor in Formby I would like to be in a position where I can inform local Formby residents of the hazards they face if they assume that there is a common practice in these matters at all Waitrose stores.

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