14 December 2007

The Parking Racket

Every so often there is a story in the paper that makes you go, “WHAT?! Surely not.” A man, Jamie Thomson, went to a McDonald’s near Gatwick, ordered a burger, chips, coke, doughnut and coffee and then had the temerity to sit in the parking lot to eat them over the course of an hour. That was 15 minutes beyond the time limit. For that crime he now owes £213 and has been contacted by a debt collection agency and threatened with court action. It has been fairly well covered, to read further see here.

The background to this is that a couple of years ago the government in the UK decided to give parking enforcement over to the private sector, you know, since it has worked so well for public transport.

McDonald’s gave a contract to a company, Civil Enforcement, to police 40-odd parking lots against people who park too long. McDonald’s says that they do not profit from the fine. Strictly speaking, that is true. They profit from their contract with Civil Enforcement who pays McDonald’s to go motorist hunting, sorry, I mean enforce the regulations in their lots.

According to Civil Enforcement, they take photos of licence plates and then track the people with the help of the DVLA because it is “less confrontational than clamping and towing”. Well, no shit. I imagine that most people would drive away if someone came up to the car with a clamp or a tow truck. Getting people to leave may have been the original goal of McDonald’s giving the hunting licence, excuse me, parking enforcement contract, to CE, but now it’s just a way of fleecing people. The phrase highway robbery comes to mind.

The government is in effect subsidising Civil Enforcement because the company depends on the publicly funded courts and the DVLA database to extort, sorry, I mean, recover their fines from people who don’t just pay right away like sheep to the slaughter, sorry, I mean like responsible citizens.

It’s a nice racket. Since the UK doesn’t have anti-racketeering laws of any real meaning, it’s a pretty safe business too.

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08 December 2007

Letter to Royal Mail

Since moving to the UK eight years ago, I am every so often reminded that the UK is somewhat of a Second-World country. The mail is a case in point. Below is me going postal.

"Dear Sirs,

"The incident dates are every time I have received a package via Royal Mail since I moved to this address in July 2006.
"The most recent incident is particularly galling because the package contained perishables. It was supposed to be delivered Friday, 7 December 2007. There were two of us at home when the 'Sorry, you were out' notice was pushed through the letter slot. I am convinced that the delivery officer never had any intention of trying to deliver the package as this is part of an ongoing problem.
"Of course the telephone number on the notice doesn't allow the caller to actually talk to anyone and refers them to the website. Luckily I do have internet access. In the past the website has been under construction. Today it was working, at last. But it didn't give the one option I needed, which was to redeliver the package on Saturday. Monday was the only option for getting a redelivery or picking up the item in person from the delivery office which is over a mile away. Either way, the perishable goods will have perished by then.
"As I mentioned, this is not a one-off, but rather part of an ongoing pattern. The delivery officer, whose name I do not know, never, ever delivers packages. She delivers 'Sorry, you were out' notices. As I work from home, I am in during the postal deliveries. I have watched the notices come through the letter box. I have asked the delivery officer about them but she claims that it couldn't have been her delivering the notice and that it must have been someone else despite the fact that I had just caught her pushing one through the letter slot. Additionally, if she had brought the packages, she could have left them with either of my neighbours, both of whom I know and are home during postal deliveries.
"The simple fact is that she does not deliver packages, ever. My guess is that she doesn't like carrying them and never gets called on it since most people are not home during delivery hours.
The result is that whenever I am sent a package I have to wait two days and then take at least an hour out of my day to go pick up the package, since the delivery office is over a mile away.
Please prove the delivery officer wrong by actually doing something. Last time I caught her putting one of the 'Sorry, you were out' notices through my letter slot, she told me, 'Go ahead and complain. They won't do anything. They never do.'


"David Mulholland"