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Our local shopping complex has always displayed signs stipulating 'shoppers parking only'.  However, I had NEVER seen any signs limiting parking to a set time - let alone stating that fines would be issued.  Following a shopping trip during the last school holidays I was horrified to discover a grumpy gentleman ticketing my car as I was returning from the toilets.  

Having parted with well over $200 during our excursioun I was enraged to be charged some $90 for having over-stayed our welcome.

After two attempts to plead my case I managed to successfully appeal the charges but the experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth.  The ticket issuing officer was incredibly rude to me - despite the fact that I was carrying several filled shopping bags and accompanied by a small child.  It was humiliating and incredibly frustrating to be lumped with an additional charge on top of what I had already spent.  Since then, I have noted a number of new signs - rather LARGE signs - have gone up to notify people of these parking fines.  What's more, there are varying time limits imposed depending on the location of your carpark.  So shopper beware!

Signs or no signs, I believe these fines are grossly unfair - especially on parents who cannot simply dash around the mall to complete their shopping in a short amount of time.  Surely it is in the best interest of the retailers to encourage patrons to stay, take their time to browse, enjoy a coffee and/or a meal with their family and friends, have a play at the playground, get their hair done, watch a movie and return to their shopping??  Retailers should do everything in their power to make the shopping experience enjoyable and stress free for their customers.  Having to clock-watch to ensure you aren't punished for spending your hard earned money is not my idea of stress-free retail therapy!!

As a result of this experience, I now avoid that particular shopping complex - unless absolutely necessary - and certainly no longer waste time browsing through the rest of the shops.  Unfortunately, shortly after (just in time for Christmas!) our local Westfield mall also errected parking signs and now this article below confirms that this practise of penalising shoppers is to become the new norm.

Oh well, perhaps in these times when the cost of living is rising and many grocery items are joining the list of luxuries, it is a good thing that we're being encouraged to not spend our money unnecessarily?

And for those of us fortunate enough to have the occasion to spend on luxury items, we're probably better off buying online - with broader choices, possibly better deals, at a time that is convenient to you, and delivery to your door.  Which if you ask me, equate to savings all around.

 | Sunday, 9 Jan 2011

For a day at the mall, add $45 parking fine

by Celeste Gornell Anstiss

Some of the country's biggest shopping centres are preparing to hit shoppers with $45 parking fines, a leaked memo reveals.

Those shopaholics who stay more than four hours in the malls' expansive car parks - which once boasted free parking - will be ticketed.

Westfield malls at West City and Manukau have already begun fining shoppers, and St Lukes will begin doing so next month. Similar schemes are planned for Queensgate in Lower Hutt, and Riccarton in Christchurch. Saturday shoppers were dismayed by the idea of Westfield penalising them while they spent money inside.

St Lukes regular Megan Smith said she would not take the $45 fine lying down.

"It's got 'money-making scheme' written all over it," she said. "Westfield are starting to seem like a huge corporate parking monster."

Kaitaia woman Amber Prouting travels to Auckland several times a year to do "big shops", and said she would sometimes spend an entire day inside the mall. "A four-hour limit will make that difficult," she said. Other shoppers said they would choose different malls.

Westfield public relations manager Debra McGhie claimed bona fide shoppers could appeal against the ticket if they had proof of purchase.

But the leaked memo reveals that Parking Enforcement Services, which is contracted to patrol the carparks, will ticket any car that has been there more than four hours - shopper or not.

Posters and signs will be erected around the malls and for the first four weeks shoppers will get a warning, not a fine.

Consumer Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Kate Camp said the fine was legally binding, but only as long as the consequences were clearly signposted. "If they're advertising free parking and then have a tiny piece of fine print saying it's only for four hours, that would be misleading consumers and breaking the law," Camp said.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the policy was heavy-handed.

"People go to these malls because they expect to get a free car park," she said.

"They are quite possibly spending quite a lot of money if they're there for four hours and they shouldn't then have to prove that is indeed what they've been doing. I think it's really unfair."