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Disappointment from unexpected sources

We just got back from a fantastic trip to the UK. We landed at Gatwick got a car and drove to Bath then Oxford, Cotswolds, Keswick and Newcastle. From there trains to Durham, Edinburgh and finally London. It was almost perfect.

We are always on the lookout for pick pockets and street vendor scams and the sort but never expected disappointment from the government itself.

First one was Oxford. We found a parking lot on a Saturday which was great. But for whatever reason my first attempt to pay at the machine with a credit card ended with an error. A parking attendant in a yellow vest happened to be near by so I asked him how do we pay with cash. He said, "let me help you" and started to press buttons. He asked how long we wanted to stay and my wife and I both said 5 hours. Then he asked for the car registration (license plate) which I had in my phone. He said you must have a rental. I was wondering why he would ask that but we entered the plate number and then he said you can try your card again. It worked. We were happy that all was well, or appeared to be, so I placed the little ticket on the dash and off we went. Three hours later we came back thinking we had plenty of time only to find a notice taped to our windshield for a 50 pound penalty! The parking attendant was still there and played ignorance. I went online to write my protest and received a response that sounded like it didn't come from a customer service department but from someone who worked in the local office, probably the guy who helped us. Anyway, my protest was denied and we were told we should have checked the expiration. That being true, obviously this happens a lot and obviously the parking attendant would have known that and could have, if he really was being helpful, checked it along with me (it didn't say number of hours but expiration time in 24 hour format which I don't register quickly). As it is we paid over $70 for 3 hours of parking!

Another case, we rented bikes in London. All the information says first 30 minutes are free after that it's 2 pounds for 24 hours. When we re-docked the bikes an hour and 9 minutes later (according to their records) I got a text that said we were charged the correct amount, 4 pounds. But two days after we returned home we saw a charge for $10. As it turns out they say it's 2 pounds PER HALF HOUR! And the lady was insistent that it is very clear before you pay. If you do a search for Santander this has happened a lot to people to the tune of several hundred dollars! The problem is that London city gov sponsors the bike "hire" but it's outsourced to private companies similar to how it's done in Seattle. It appears Santander does this in the US as well.

It wasn't a great loss and we still had a fantastic trip despite this crap but thought I'd share we need to be alert for all transactions and places we visit.

Posted by
2914 posts

OP, it's too bad that you had these problems, but I wouldn't call them scams, nor would I call the companies criminals. In the first instance, if you had taken the time to check the ticket as soon as you got it, with the attendant still there, you could have avoided the fine entirely. Sorry, but this is on you.

As for the bikes, again it looks like you jumped in without taking the time to read the details, and made false assumptions. Unfortunately both are a case of "act in haste, repent at leisure". A cautionary tale for all of us, whether travelling or at home.

Posted by
25716 posts

I'm sorry you are paranoid about scams and scammers - but neither of these are scams. Both are failure to read the appropriate information. It was in English, too.

Sorry your haste cost you money.

Did you not see any of my several posts encouring people visiting Oxford to use the Park and Ride scheme? Or how I described how expensive parking the centre of Oxford can be?

Posted by
14 posts

LOL Those are the responses I had expected. I know I was a bit long in explaining but if you read it you would have noticed I said it is true that I should have checked it but it's also true we think we are helpful even when we don't complete the job. As far as checking the web and reading the contract of a company while you are standing on the side of the street is looney tunes. All of the information should be there clear and easy to understand. So it's on me to make sure all is legit since we can't trust anyone...

Posted by
3465 posts

Now if the guy wearing the yellow vest had taken your cash himself giving you a worthless permit, then that is a scam. The fact you didn't understand the process, maybe not entering the correct return time, does not make this a scam no matter how frustrating the situation was.

I agree that the bike issue does sound closer to a scam, especially if the signage is not clear and really does say ​£2 for 24 hours.

Hopefully your experience and your sharing it here will help others choose more carefully.

Posted by
4362 posts

First, neither occurence has anything to do with the government, both the car park and the cycle rental are operated by indpendent companies.

You state that you paid over $70 for 3 hours parking. Was that the parking rate or the rate PLUS the fine? Your inability to understand the 24 hour format is your problem, no-one elses and certainly not indicative of a scam. You also allude to the attendant being in on alleged scam when you suggest that the response from head office appeared to come from the local office, probably the attendant. How does this "scam" operate and how would the attendant benefit?

As for the bike rental, how can you claim it's a scam? The details are quite clear:

How much does it cost?

  1. Hire

You pay £2 to access the bikes for 24 hours.

  1. Ride

You can make as many journeys as you like. If your journey is less than 30 minutes, you won't pay more. If it's longer than 30 minutes, you pay £2 for every 30 minutes.

  1. Return

You can return the bike at any time, as long as it's within 24 hours. You could be charged up to £300 if you damage the bike or don't return it.

No-where does it say that you can ride the bikes for £2 for 24 hours. For £2 you have ACCESS to the bike for 24 hours, the first 30 minutes of rental is included within that price after which the rental is charged at £2 for every 30 minutes. It's as clear as day so to claim that it's a scam and that the operators are criminals is entirely unjustified and without merit. Posts like yours are the reason for so much scaremongering and myth perpetuating, it does an absolute disservice to people who are apprehensive about their first trip abroad. The problems you encountered are all of your own making.

It's not genuine companies trying to make a profit that we have to look out for, it's people spreading misinformation and false allegations that we need to be wary of.

Posted by
14 posts

I get that, Mark. And I've ran it through several times. Parking attendant pushes the buttons, tells me to insert card, it works, I'm happy, off we go then find the penalty. I was hesitant to call it a scam but they acted like hey you did it - but I really didn't... I'm not calling the parking attendant a criminal, I probably should have worded that better. I've seen posts on here about watching out for thieves and the like and just wanted to point out you have to check everyone one even if it's someone who is supposed to be doing their job.

Posted by
4362 posts

As far as checking the web and reading the contract of a company while you are standing on the side of the street is looney tunes

It took me less than 30 seconds to find the information online regarding the costs of the bike rental. We're not talking wading through pages of T&C's, it's as clear as it could possibly be.

Posted by
3197 posts

Had to enter the vehicle registration number a couple times in Wales at parking lots before I could pay. I used cash and double checked the time on the ticket to ensure I returned in plenty of time. Sorry you got a citation, but it was avoidable.

Posted by
14 posts

LOL JC, come on. Seriously? " For £2 you have ACCESS to the bike for 24 hours" wow lets make everyone pay a fee just to access the sidewalk but additional if you actually use it.

As far as the parking goes, www.oxford.gov.uk is not a private company, at least URLs of that sort are not supposed to be used for private companies. Also has the Oxford City Council logo.

I'm not as smart as some of you, I expected the attendant to know more about what was going on than me.

Posted by
4527 posts

Having to state the registration came from the practice people had (and still do where possible) of passing on tickets that had not yet expired to someone else.

Advice for the future or others, if you really have to park in the centre of Oxford the Westgate Centre underground car park is a bit cheaper than most of the council ones and you pay on exit so you don't have to guess how long you need to allow. Just make sure you don't lose the ticket.

Posted by
4524 posts

You would be better not to call these scams, which are essentially criminal activities, but rather "cautions" for people to be alert to.

I sympathize with you on the car park ticket. If you told the attendant 5 hours and he only plugged in 3 hours for you, he certainly made a mistake that seems to only cost you. Technically you should have checked the ticket, but I can certainly see how someone might not if you had just been given customer service. And many people are not used to 24 hour time and have to really calculate the time in their heads. So a quick glance at the time might not have triggered a warning.

The bike rental may be a bit confusing, but it is up to you to understand the terms. And that was a pretty inexpensive lesson learned.

The word "scam" has specific meaning and attracts a lot of attention here. It's misuse, as you have seen, generates a lot of responses.

Posted by
4362 posts

LOL JC, come on. Seriously? " For £2 you have ACCESS to the bike for 24 hours" wow lets make everyone pay a fee just to access the sidewalk but additional if you actually use it.

Yes, you have access to that bike for a 24 hour period. It is not your bike and therefore the period that you can rent it for is restricted to a maximum of 24 hours. This is to ensure that people don't take a bike for extended periods of time and depriving others the use of it. Your sidewalk analogy is irrelevant, for £2 you can use that bike for any number of journeys within a 30 minute period, after that there is an additional fee of £2 per half hour. To simplify things, it costs £2 per 30 minutes to rent those bikes within a 24 hour period.

Posted by
25716 posts

I'm surprised that the person apparently helping you identified themself as an Oxford City Council parking operative and was wearling a yellow vest. I was under the impression that all Oxford parking operatives (the open carparks as themselves unstaffed and all the rules on a big sign) wore blueish uniforms.

Which car park was this? Where, if you don't know the name?

Posted by
64 posts

Sounds like a learning experience really.
I had BIG fines and charges my first year after coming home.
Tolls and a parking ticket. The toll ended up being $75.00 and the parking ticket was $50.00, but IIRC they cut that in half if you pay within 14 days. I didn't get mad though. It was my fault. This just sounds like the parking attendant got the time wrong (it is stamped on the ticket though, I always look now.) And the bike thing is pretty clear as well. Just let it go and realize that sometimes we learn the hard way. Especially me!
Peace!

Posted by
241 posts

Well...I was waiting but no one stated (my) obvious....what company is going to make moeny by renting a bike for 2 pounds a day? (Unless it's 2 pounds of gold. Yeah, no fancy 'pound' sign for me!)

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks for the responses, especially the more thoughtful ones. There seem to be too many words these days that set people off.

I felt like I had trusted someone and instead paid for it. Even the response to my email sounded like they didn't give a damn. The 50 pounds was the 14 day half price fee otherwise it would have been 100. And yes, lesson learned.

The cost of the bike wasn't the issue. I was at a machine, people where waiting behind me, I did the best I could trying to read everything presented on the little screen and comprehend what it all meant. When I checked the bike back in the amount I expected was charged to our credit card. It was two days later the additional charge came through with no explanation.

Anyway, maybe someone will learn from my mistakes...

Posted by
256 posts

Becky, I was going to write the same thing... Someone really expects to rent and ride a bike for 24 hours paying just 2 pounds?

Posted by
4362 posts

Thanks for the responses, especially the more thoughtful ones. There seem to be too many words these days that set people off.

Not really but when people come to these boards alleging scams and rip offs when they are nothing of the sort are extremely unhelpful and may even be discouraging for those who are nervous about travelling anyway.

At least you've acknowledged that the misfortune you experienced was down to your mistakes and not the deceitful actions of someone else.

Posted by
14 posts

Hi emma

Thanks for the positive feedback. I started on this forum only a year or so ago but haven't been on a lot so I had no idea anyone was that sensitive to the word scam or that it was used that often. My reason for going down that road was based on how I was treated after the fact when trying to find out what went wrong. In both cases the people I contacted were rude and didn't want to bother with it. I can't realize a mistake if I don't know exactly what I did wrong.

But I am seeing a lot of complaints "why do so many american travelers ..." I do know from talking to the owners of businesses we worked with and stayed with in the UK that they want us to come because that is how they survive. Not all experiences are 5 star and we like to share with others why. It's not about worrying the world is out to get us but more about checks and balances. You can take our money but live up to what you advertise. In other words, WE ALL need to hold ourselves accountable.

Posted by
623 posts

^^I'm with Emma here.

Obviously, in those situations you incurred expenses greater than you expected. And you're angry about it.

However, I'm not impressed by, or sympathetic with, your angry accusations that the "government" was running "scams" in those cases. Dude, you goofed. That happens, even to well-educated intelligent people. Especially when they are traveling in a foreign country: new environment, variations in language usage, possibly higher levels of fatigue, etc.

Nobody committed a crime against you.

I appreciate your sharing the story in that it reminds me to be careful about the details, including how dates and times are written, when I'm traveling in foreign parts.

Posted by
2624 posts

I’m glad you had good time in the U.K. But please, there wasn’t any scam, it’s just due you not taking time to read the time of your parking ticket and on the bike rental. In my many trips to the U.K., I’ve never run into anyone trying to scam me. If you parked your car 11am (for example) and you wanted to pay for five hours your ticket would show as 16:00, meaning you paid for parking until 4pm.

Posted by
4524 posts

BTW smxbob - You can expect this thread to go on and on until everyone has weighed in on the same outrage about it not being a scam...

Another quirk about this forum.

Posted by
14 posts

BTW smxbob - You can expect this thread to go on and on until everyone has weighed in on the same outrage about it not being a scam...
Another quirk about this forum.

LOL you never know what you are going to walk into... I'm not sure why it keeps going, it doesn't help make the original problem any better but I digress.

Posted by
2914 posts

I see you significantly edited both the title and original post. Mentioning it for new readers who are wondering WTH the rest of us were responding to.

Posted by
14 posts

Nigel

It looks like we went around you. I was checking your location on the map. We drove through Birmingham and had to change trains in Peterborough due to a malfunction. Great country, we really enjoyed our trip!

Posted by
64 posts

There seem to be too many words these days that set people off.

HAHAHAHAHA. Welcome to the forum!
You get used to it, once you realize it means NOTHING at all.

Posted by
4362 posts

HAHAHAHAHA. Welcome to the forum!
You get used to it, once you realize it means NOTHING at all.

I disagree. I've had lengthy exchanges with webmasters regarding how new or inexperienced posters are often put off by misleading information. We witness almost daily posts expressing concern over vastly exaggerated crime risks in Europe so it's only fair and right that such misinformation, however well intended it may be, is put right.

It's not an exercise in castigation but rather an attempt to correct "fake news". The OP would have been far better detailing his experiences and highlighting what he perceived as information that was difficult to interpret as opposed to claiming that he was subjected to scams performed on behalf of the British Government!

So no, it doesn't mean nothing. It is actually very helpful to people to have such misinformation called out. If it results in people being less paranoid when they travel to Europe and actually being able to relax and enjoy their trip rather than worry about the hundreds of Fagin like characters lurking around them waiting to take advantage then in my opinion it's worth quite a lot.

Posted by
64 posts

I meant the people that get set off mean nothing. Not the topics.
There are some over the top responses from time to time.

The most memorable to me was me asking "Is the congestion charge area in London clearly marked, and do they just take a pic of my plates" or something like that. The response was very "You're insane for driving into London" and "Parking is expensive" and of course "Why would you ever do that?"

I never said I was going to do that. I just asked a question. Some of the responses were pretty off-topic. I have since driven in London 3 times and it's gravy compared to Atlanta or Nashville on occasions.

Posted by
4362 posts

I meant the people that get set off mean nothing. Not the topics.
There are some over the top responses from time to time.

Ah ok, apologies for the misinterpetation.

Yes, some people do overreact although informing people that driving in London is difficult is not bad advice. People have many different interpretations of driving difficulty, whilst you found driving in London to be a breeze there are many that would find it terrifying. I'll happily drive pretty much anywhere but I know I'm in a minority, I suspect that you are also within that minority but from many of the comments I've read on this forum and others where people have described their bad experiences of driving in the UK in quite normal traffic most people are not quite as confident.