The recent decision by Jempsons to charge for using their car park seems to have stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest, and the shop itself may be surprised at the extent of discontent that appears to have been simmering under the surface.
There are two things about this parking furore that make me curious:
The first is the timing of the introduction of the charge. When I asked one of the shop staff the reason for charging, I was told that it was to help avoid the congestion and accidents that had occurred during the summer when the town was full of visitors. Now I can see some logic in this – impose a charge, redeemable on purchasing goods, and it would, in theory, put off people who simply want to use the free car park without intending to darken Messrs Jempson’s doorstep.
But in that case, why impose the charge now when the holiday season is over and the shop and car park are under less pressure? A cynic (which, of course, I am not) might perhaps link it with the approach of the Christmas shopping spree and the fact that a not insignificant number of people either lose their parking ticket before getting to the tills, or forget about it until too late. Perish the thought!
Also a lot of people may be spending less than £5 because they are just buying a newspaper, or wanting cash, or a snack, or are even using the Post Office – run by Jempson’s. Surely some space could have been provided for temporary parkers (often, in Rye, the elderly and infirm). Jempson’s already provide for quick shoppers (outside the barrier gates) so surely they could and should have provided for quick parkers?
The second matter is the question of charging on Sundays, a day when the shop is shut. The Jempson family make much of their Christian beliefs and this is, I assume, the reason why they wish to have strict observance of the Sabbath and undertake no trading and making of money on that day. Fair enough.
But wait! What are those money-collecting machines in the car park doing? They are of course enabling Jempsons to trade by proxy. No human will need to work (or will they, there surely needs to be some check that people have paid and displayed?), but money will still be made, for no one will be able to claim their £1 back on the day and how many will be bothered to go into the shop on Monday, make £5 worth of purchases and claim their £1 back then? Some will, of course, but the majority, probably not.
And why are they parking on Sunday anyway if Jempson’s is shut? Perhaps they are going to church?
Jempson’s have seen one crisis, in the form of possible opposition from Tesco or Sainsburys, averted thanks to the inept handling of that affair (with both supermarkets having planning permission), but in a small town such as Rye, it needs to remember it is important for any business to retain the goodwill of its customers if it is to prosper. The company may, perhaps, wish to think again, or at least to explain better, the reasons for their decision . . . and handle comments and complaints better, as Rye News (see below) tries to do.
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Photo: John Minter