Unanswered questions remain

Jempson's in Rye

Nearly three months ago Rye News reported a row about the introduction of parking charges in the store car park at Jempson’s supermarket in Rye opposite the station. Jempson’s also manages the adjacent post office. This week Pay and Display parking was due to start at Jempsons on Wednesday, having been put back from Monday – and was apparently in use by Thursday, with very few cars in sight around 9 a.m.

The row on Jempsons’ own Facebook page led to Rye News seeking an interview with Stephen Jempson, which did not happen at the time, but he has now been interviewed by Kenneth Bird, three months later, just as the new parking charges are due to be introduced.

Mr Jempson claims in the interview that he has the “loyalty of customers” but that was not true when the row erupted last year on Facebook. October’s complaints about the Rye store included prices, the quality of goods, and the lack of Sunday opening, alongside queries about parking charges for people popping in for a single item (like cigarettes, a newspaper or the cash machine) or using the adjacent Post Office, also run by Jempson’s, which has a bus lay-by immediately outside it.

The interview does not answer a number of these points. For example Mr Jempson does not explain why he can charge for car parking on Sunday while he can not open his store for customers.

The car parking charges do not now apply to customers before 9am and after 4pm, but he has nothing to say about “pop-in shoppers” spending less than £5 between 9am and 4pm, or the Post Office customers – most of whom will be there during the normal daytime Post Office hours , though longer opening hours are being proposed for some Post Office items.

Also, while he says the store will be extended, it is also proposed that the Post Office be moved inside the supermarket, which may mean there is limited extra space for a wider range of goods.

Jempson’s store in Rye effectively has a monopoly, unless you have a car – and particularly after the cuts in bus services – so Rye News will be paying attention to the many and varied complaints, not just about prices (where independent checks will be made) but also about choice, quality, the range of goods and general service levels – the frequent breakdown of refrigeration units with puddles on the floor being an oft quoted example.

Image Credits: J.minter .


  1. I couldn’t believe the greediness of Jempsons when I discovered that they are now asking their customers to pay to use their Rye shop. They already have a monopoly around here which they use to their advantage with stale produce – no “use by” dates on soft fruit etc and little choice unless you want processed food. Now you have to pay for the privilege. What’s even worse, the disabled have to pay too. The disabled bays were empty when I went in (for the very last time I might add) because they are being charged as well. Waitrose in Tenterden allows disabled drivers to park for free in any bay for 3 hours so why not here? Rye is sadly lacking in Disabled Parking Bays as it is and now Jempsons has made it worse.

    They obviously have no consideration for other shops and restaurants in the town who already suffer from lack of parking spaces, but perhaps that’s the idea. I shall be boycotting all Jempsons stores from now on and judging by the lack of customers in the Rye store on the day I went in they look as if they are voting with their feet as well. Disgusting.

  2. I am puzzled by the claim that commuters and others were ‘parking all day’ at Jempsons’ Rye branch, taking up spaces that could have been used by bona fide customers. The car park was monitored and, presumably, administered on a two hour time controlled basis, so anyone parking all day would have received a charge in the post a few days later. That is what the signs led one to believe, at any rate.

  3. Why are some people getting so up tight about Jempsons deciding to charge for parking on their own private land? Everybody else in Rye does it so why not Jempsons? They have made dispensation for their customers and although I agree that the dispensation arrangement could be rather more friendly, like refunding the car park fee against any purchase (rather than a minimum value), that is surely their commercial decision. If they lose significant trade, then I presume they will revisit?

    Yes, a 15 minute free facility would be ideal, but how would this be policed unless it was a separate area of the car park?

    And as for their ability to charge for parking on a Sunday when the store is closed, then I ask why not? Surely it is preferable to have the parking facility available at a cost, rather than to have it locked shut and not available at all?

  4. We used car park first time Saturday am, put £1 in and it broke down. We did manage to claim our money back as we spent the obligatory amount thank you to the lady on the cigarette counter. Would still like to know if we pick up our pension on Mondays is that classed as a purchase, and who gives us our money back. Have asked this twice before and still not had an answer.

  5. Thank you for your comments;
    We have had many comments about having a 15minute leeway. We like the idea and have considered at length, but as john says – how do you monitor it, how do you police it and how do you ensure that it is not abused?
    We have tried to fair to all and incorporate those that wish to use the Post Office without incurring any charges (ie no charges before 9am or after 4pm).
    Please remember an average 3 out of 4 cars were not using the store, this rose to 7 out of 8 in the Summer – we simply had to get this under control.
    Disabled parking bays are free as are all the spaces – subject to a £5 minimum charge during the 9am – 4pm period.
    Others have mention why not have an area where people come in and just use for convenience shopping. Some of our competitors do this, and it is a possibility, but please consider this is only an 80 space car park – the competitors named in correspondence have 300+ spaces.
    As clearly outlined and promised we will take on board any comments and review after 3 months. Please don’t hesitate to email us at mail@jempsons.com or phone 01797 230 214
    Best wishes, Stephen Jempson
    PS: Does anyone remember the time when this was a paid for car park? It wasn’t that long ago!

  6. I am in walking distance from the store so this doesn’t really affect me. However I was speaking to an lady last week who lives too far away to walk and she said that last market day, she needed to buy something from Jempsons and for the first time she can recall, she found a place to park with no trouble. Normally on a Thursday she has to circle around the carpark like a vulture, waiting for someone to leave. She said when she paid, she remarked upon how easy it had been to the check out lady who said that the store had been much busier than usual as the people that were parked were actually there to use the supermarket rather than the nearby market, shops or other services in Rye.

  7. Using the Post Office is clearly an issue that concerns some as parking space immediately adjacent is a bus bay and should not be used. However the Post Office, unlike Jempsons, is only open 830-530 Monday to Friday, and 830-1 Saturday so the times when it is free to park and use the Post Office are very limited and coincide with the heaviest periods of traffic. Also, given that Jempsons run the Post Office, it should be possible for them to issue a receipt which can be used in the supermarket to reclaim the parking charge.

  8. Evening All,

    The Post Office is a facility that Jempsons operate on behalf of the Post Office (PO). Many will recall that Jempsons stepped in at short notice to preserve this facility for the town (2009) at a time the existing postmaster had closed the business.
    The PO in simple terms is a “franchise” business model. Jempsons have no access to the software to develop any car parking rebate. PO operators work to the Horizon System whether they be a sub postmaster, mains operator or W H Smith OR McColls who operate 100s of PO units around the country. The “franchisee” simply cannot amend or adapt any part of the software.
    Jempsons long term aim, which will secure the PO’s future in the town, is to bring the facility into the main store. This is in line with the vision which is outlined in the Post Office Network Transformation Programme.
    Best wishes to all Stephen Jempson

  9. I am not a big fan of Jempsons, but why is it their responsibility to provide free parking for people to use the post office? In other towns around the country use of the post office is no different from any other activity conducted in that town, you either park free on street if you are able, or you pay if you have to. Also the point made about Jempsons being a ‘monopoly’, this is not their fault, it is up to other stores to come to the town, but as we all know Sainsbury recently declined due to market conditions. A retail chain the size of Jempsons will never be able to offer everything that a national chain can, in terms of price, range, etc etc. it is unrealistic to expect it. Finally as I understand it, Jempsons parking charge is only up to 4pm, so perhaps post office users who come by car could arrive at 4:01pm?

  10. Very few cars in Jempsons car park on two occasions I walked past so went in to see how many customers they had, not many. Oh how sad I am crying all the way to Aldi’s.

  11. Ha ha ha ha
    The law of unintended consequences. (often known as management by idiots) strikes again.
    Did it not occur to Jempson that people would use the car park as a cheap park whilst they shopped in town? After all the market car park is £1.50 all day. Who needs to stay all day?
    Better still for a quid, people could use the Jempson car park as a staging post to collect their family and friends then whizz off to Aldi or Lidl and shop. Thus for £2 worth of petrol (and a little time) they could save up 40% on a lot of basic produce.
    Who needs a circus to visit town? We have one six days a week all year round in the centre of Rye.


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