I’m all for charitable ventures. It simply isn’t possible for the various ‘authorities’ to provide all the cash and facilities that are needed in all areas so I support my favourites with donations, and in the case of greyhound rescue, my time and a few saleable items like hand made earrings and notecards.
Today, Sid and I spent the best part of the day standing out in the rain and wind on the coldest day of the year so far, supporting my local greyhound re-homing charity at a Meet and Greet in the Rivergate Centre of our nearest city. It was so cold that Sid wore two coats and still shivered.
Now, the Rivergate Centre is a pleasant little area with a covered arcade, an open shopping square, and an Asda supermarket bordered by a very large car park, which has the laudable policy of charging for parking but giving you cash back on the ticket if you spend a tenner in Asda. But they charge very heavily for allowing charities to make collections on the property – to the tune of Â£80 per day (which at current exchange rates is about $132 USD). And I was incensed to find that as a volunteer bringing a dog with all the trappings that he needs on a cold day out (bed, water supply, treats, coats, etc), I was expected to pay for the parking and then spend Â£10 on shopping if I wanted to see my money again. That applied to the organisers as well, by the way. They were the ones who had to pay the Â£80 to for us to be there, and they too had to pay the parking charges.
Last time I volunteered for this one, I collected my parking tickets (Â£6 worth) and went into Asda and explained the situation and they said oh, that’s fine, we’ll refund the vouchers since you are officially here with the charity, but next time you need to go to the office and get a permit first. This time, I went round to the office and they said they’d stopped doing the vouchers, so I should just save my tickets and go for a refund afterwards.
So I stood in the biting wind and shivered for four hours, walking Sid from time to time to warm him up and feed the parking machine, or sitting on the ground hugging him, and chatting to people about greyhounds and racing and rescue and no, you can’t have Sid, he’s mine, but you can have that one over there, he needs a home, etc etc., and at the end of my time there, I went into Asda and asked for my refund.
Customer Service Lady: ‘No, sorry, I can’t refund that, you have to spend ten pounds first .. and you can only exchange one ticket voucher. That’s the limit’.
Me: ‘But I’m with the greyhound charity. The lady in the office told me I could get a refund for the parking here!’
Customer Service Lady: ‘Did she? Hang on, I’ll ring through’.
Pause while CSL rings through.
Customer Service Lady: ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t do a refund. You have to go and spend ten pounds.’
Me: ‘But .. .hang on, we’ve paid Â£80 for the day just to stand outside, and you’re telling me parking isn’t included?’
Customer Service Lady: ‘Yes. See, it’s not Asda, it’s Rivergate that gets the money. You need to go talk to them.’
She pointed the way to the Rivergate Office and I walked over.
And basically, what they said was this: Yep, you paid us Â£80 for the day to stand out there collecting for charity, but no, you can’t have a refund, we don’t include parking. He did say (to be fair) that there were a couple of free slots ’round the back’ for now and since they weren’t busy we could have those, but since we’d already paid the parking fee that didn’t help much.
So tell me. Is it unreasonable to think that having paid such a very large amount of money just to be allowed use the spot, parking should be included, since we need to bring so much personal stuff with us – plus the table and saleable items to set up AND handle the dogs too?
The Rivergate Centre thinks so. How about you?