A rant if ever there was one. Have you ever tried opening the rear doors of a car wide enough to get a struggling (or sleeping) baby out of a seat, then into a baby buggy in the pouring rain? Or two fractious toddlers? You need extra wide parking spaces, space next to the door for the buggy, and supermarkets provide them, and they should also be nearer the entrance.
Provision varies enormously, and this doesn’t seem to be the brand of supermarket so much as the individual location and size of the car park. For example, when my daughter lived in Guildford, Tesco had ‘registered users’ stickers that you had to display when using the spaces. A Sainsburys in Poole used to have a whole separate pair of rows with a pass card and barrier … it seems to have gone though. It was an excellent idea, but perhaps problematic in a tourist area where there may be many one-off shoppers. Our nearest Waitrose is well-patrolled and attended, and they do tell people not to park in parent and child spaces. Our nearest Tesco, in Branksome, Poole, is the one I’ve seen most abused. My daughter won’t shop there, because she’s found the chance of getting a parent and child space is too low.
A few instances.
The area is full of building sites. Drivers of large white vans find the bigger parent and child spaces particularly convenient for lunch, and sit and munch away while reading The Sun. Income for the supermarket? A meal-deal sandwich and soft drink, and one newspaper.
Another frequent one is mum in a car with the thirteen year old daughter sitting in the front seat. Straight into the parent and child space, ‘Well, I’m a parent, this is my child.’ Tesco has a sensible sign saying “Please only park here with children under five” but it’s ignored.
A bizarre one, which I’ve seen several times on recent Sunday mornings, is the two middle-aged men in an open top sports car, who always deliberately park in the parent and child spaces. I see the snappy BMW sports car because they habitually shop at the same time as me on Sundays. They also get out and stand and glare around. I’ve also seen two different men go straight into the spaces in a Smart car. A Smart car? You can even park that sideways. In both cases, I feel they are making a deliberate point, though I’ll leave it to the reader to guess what it might be.
Group four shows a different cultural attitude to turn-taking. Russians (and I mean Russians specifically, not generally ‘immigrants’) see the larger spaces near the door and think “that’s for me”. A couple of months ago, a lady very mildly said to a couple, ‘You do realize that space is for people with small children?” She received a viciously upraised finger and “F*ck off!” then they relapsed into Russian as they marched into the store. The sign is pictorial. Time and again, when the under-thirty childless couple emerge from cars in the parent and child zone, it’s Russian they’re speaking.
Then there’s just “a man.” The aggressive single man who ignores the sign can’t be typecast by type or price of car. Some are in big SUVs, some are in S-Class Mercedes, some are in Ford Mondeos, some are in noisy Subarus and some are in battered and rusting Ford Fiestas or Honda Civics (it’s a compliment to Honda that now the very oldest surviving cars so often seem to be Hondas.)
Disabled people get the same issue, though to a lesser degree, because they are easier to check: the supermarket can say ‘only with disabled badges.’ They could do the same with child seats, though that goes past the five year old point. I’ve listened to parents complain that at peak times, you can’t find a Parent & Child space, but opposite are a dozen empty Disabled spaces, and it’s true. While supermarkets could look at allocation, they can’t simply combine them because they then lose the ability to check for disabled stickers.
I mentioned it at one supermarket, and was told that the security man had got beaten up when pointing it out to a lone male driver recently. I don’t think you can clamp. I think a large sticker with “Please Do Not Park Here in Future” might help, but it would have to be annoyingly hard to remove, and again the supermarket would get sued or the poor guy who had to apply it get knocked about. Maybe just a note tucked under the wipers? But I suspect the type of person who parks in a parent & child space would just throw it on the ground.
I guess it’s lack of a social conscience, but either you have it or you don’t. Maybe I’m ultra-sensitive. Recently, we parked in a Waitrose with three kids in a parent and child space. We went for a cup of tea, and saw a toy shop. I said, ‘I know, I’ll go and get the shopping and drive over and pick you up here.’ I emerged with my trolley and realized I was a lone male loading a car in a parent and child space. I felt constrained to go over and explain to the guy moving trolleys that I had had kids when I parked, but was going to drive over and collect them. He just looked bemused.