The customer is always right, right?

WHATEVER happened to innocent until proven guilty?

I decided on the spur of the moment the other Saturday to pop into Sainsbury’s in Horsham to get some chicken. As I drove into the car park, I pressed the button for my parking ticket as usual and parked in a vacant spot. I had my son’s family dog in the back so thought I wouldn’t loiter long.

I got the chicken and - as I’m easily tempted - quickly grabbed a number of other things I didn’t know I needed while I was at it.

At the checkout I went to pay my £41.47 bill when I realised I couldn’t find my parking ticket to be verified.

The till assistant suggested I look in my car and, if it wasn’t there, go to Customer Service.

Nope, it wasn’t in my car, not in my bag, not in my pockets. Customer Service told me to go to the car park exit gate and explain to the people there that I had lost my ticket. I did. They told me they would charge me £5. A fiver! I had only been there 25 minutes, tops.

Not prepared to pay, The Gatekeeper told me to go to Customer Service and warned me that if I drove to the exit gate in my car and held up the traffic I could face a £50 charge!

Back at Customer Service yet again a lovely lady told me that if she had a spare parking ticket she would give it to me, but she hadn’t. She called The Boss. He said there was nothing he could do. It was company policy, he informed me.

I asked him why he couldn’t simply instruct The Gatekeeper to let me out.

Apparently not. The Gatekeeper works for a separate company. “You’ve no idea how many people try to park here all day for free,” The Boss told me.

Well, actually, no I don’t. But it’s not the point: I had been there for less than 25 minutes and spent over £45. And now I was being penalised.

Sorry, Sainsbury’s, but I think it’s time for some flexibility. And whatever happened to The Customer Is Always Right?

Oh, and did I pay up? No, actually. When I finally drove up to the exit, with my fiver reluctantly in my hand, The Gatekeeper asked me what was wrong. “I’m the one with the lost ticket,” I reminded him.

“Have a nice day,” he said as he lifted the barrier and let me out.

Aaargh. What was all the fuss about?