26 April 2011

Something about Dick Turpin wearing a mask

I got wheelclamped on Friday night. My own stupid fault, but nonetheless I have never felt so violated - and robbed - in my life. It was a vile experience.

The new Manchester gig comes with no onsite parking and so I have to park on the streets. That's fine, as after 6pm it's entirely free everywhere, but with free parking comes popularity and as I arrived for work on Good Friday I simply could not find a space. I drove round in circles for ages, hoping someone would vacate a space as I chased the wild goose, but it didn't happen and eventually I got to the point where I was going to be late. So I pulled into an access road with spaces and parked up, noticing the wheelclamp warning signs but not realising it wasn't a randomly roaming company operating, but a more sinister process. Also, the other cars parked thereon had no permits in their windscreens. I deliberately chose a space that I could see from the window behind the DJ area, meaning I could put on the eight minute version of Space Cowboy by Jamiroquai and beetle down to shift the car.

Every five minutes I looked outside. No space on the road, no clamper on the access street. Back to the tunes.

Then, out of nowhere, a doorman walked up to me and told me the clamper was hovering. I shot outside immediately but was too late. Clamp firmly padlocked on, notice hanging from the window. A van was behind, with a woman in the driving seat making a call. She immediately came out to tell me what was happening.

Are you ready for this?

One hundred and fifty pounds to shift it, or it'd be towed away and it would be closer to five hundred.

That's £150 now, rising up to almost £500.

The club manager, who knew the clamper personally, came out to try to reason with her but, just like when you get done for speeding, the enforcers in question are not interested in reasons or excuses. They have a job to do, a job that doesn't have room for compassion. I was shocked to find she was working after 10pm on Good Friday. She replied that she was on call only - meaning that a resident of this access street had actually rung up to complain, springing her into action. That turned me from feeling stupid and angry to feeling bitter and homicidal.

I have worked in magistrates courts over the years and I've seen people convicted of causing grievous bodily harm who have been fined less. I have no qualm with my culpability but I do have issues with both the punishment and the utter lack of discretion or bargaining power. I didn't have £150 on me. Who does, apart from a professional footballer? Some cashpoints won't give you £150 in one fell swoop. I dread to think of how much these sods make either on flogging unclaimed cars or fleecing major wedge out of people whose biggest crime is trying to keep their motor safe.

I expect most people who work for wheelclamping companies struggle to justify their jobs in their social activity. People who have little respect for authority have similar issues with the police or the revenue and customs people, but wheelclampers have little to with the law of the land or bonafide authority figures. They make their own rules and seem to have little or no monitoring of their actions going on from those alleged to represent us.

In the end, my manager just handed my wage for the night straight to the clamping woman and I went to a cashpoint and felt my heart sink as I withdrew the remainder. Sod's law then dictated that there were several legal spaces now available to me, all of which were very much full at the time I'd arrived for work. Jamiroquai had long died - I'd rushed in mid-discussion to get the six minute version of Something Good by Utah Saints on and keep the punters happy - and so I skulked back into work while my manager shifted my car. I then essentially worked the next four and a half hours for free. During that period, no car pulled into the space I had expensively vacated.

I can appeal, and intend to. I don't hold out much hope but it's too much money to not even try.


Lee Slator said...

I read this on Twitter and couldn't believe how much the unclamping fee was. And to think that someone had in effect 'grassed' you up!

Good luck with the appeal.

Chris A Tye said...

I believe there is currently legislation going through to make clamping on private land illegal. Sooner the better, in my book.

Tamara said...

its a shame it was a clamp and not just a ticket. In most cases there is no law allowing private parking firms to charge for parking (illegally), if you ever get a bill and its from a private company, my advice is to just ignore it completely. They send threatening letters and the such, but have no way of enforcing the charges. This happened to me and they even threatened court and balifs etc, i ignored it, not even an appeal or phone call and after 3or 4 letters which got progressively worse!, they have never written back since!! this was advised to me moneysupermarket based on the current regulation, and i was so pleased it totally worked as it saved me £90!!!