Whilst a number of reasons contributed to it, including fast falling localised snow and traffic accidents, my main issue was the almost complete lack of planning and customer service from Tesco when the snow and the gridlock started. Below is an open letter to Tesco which details my story, what went wrong and suggestions as to what should have happened:
Please note that any calls and tweets made by me were done when my car was stationary with the engine turned off, as it was for most of the 4 hours. I was annoyed and frustrated, not stupid
“To whom it may concern
Yesterday was a bad day, for me, hundreds of other poor souls and your Wrekin Retail Park store in Telford. Let me explain…
1pm – I arrive at Wrekin Retail Park, Telford. The traffic is heavy and it’s started to snow a little. No surprise the traffic is heavy; this Retail Park has long been a bottleneck, especially at a weekend. As I enter the Tesco car park at the bottom of the Retail Park, I note it is almost full and getting gridlocked, again nothing I haven’t seen before here. I consider turning round but I think of my 2 poorly sons at home and I want to buy them something nice for tea and need some more medicine, so I park.
1.43pm – I finish my shop and head back to my car – I’m confronted with total gridlock in the car park, every access lane is rammed bumper to bumper. My heart sinks. I consider going back in the store until it gets better but I want to get home to my boys, so I get in the car.
2pm - I manage to reverse out of my car parking space – I started at 1.45 as someone kindly left me room but the gridlock was in full flow so I couldn’t move. Now I’m in the gridlock I cannot move or park my car, so I cannot go into the store or leave my car.
I call the Tesco store (obviously I can’t talk to the store itself, god forbid, it’s a regional customer service centre) and advise them to stop traffic coming into the Tesco car park due to the gridlock. I’m promised this will be passed on to the store immediately and the man I spoke to was perfectly polite and helpful.
About 90 minutes later, traffic is finally stopped entering the car park (not sure if someone actually stopped it or if it was due to the lorry crash – see below) – strangely enough the damage is more than done by then…
For the next 90 minutes I move about 25 metres and I see 2, and finally 4, Tesco staff in the car park, they were doing a lot of chatting, moved a few bollards and that was all I saw. The staff did not talk to people trapped in their cars, or suggest they go back in the store, or in fact, anything.
I, and a few other people trapped in the car park, contact our brilliant local radio (@BBCShropshire) to let them know to tell listeners to avoid the Wrekin Retail Park area at all costs. As far as I heard/am aware, Tesco, or any of the other stores, did not – too busy at the tills?.
3.15pm I hear on the radio that there has been a large accident just outside the retail park, which means everyone in the retail park is now properly trapped. I’ve also heard the M54 just up the road is down to 1 lane (and then gets shut, exacerbating the problem further).
3.45pm I find and contact the Tesco twitter customer service account, @UKTesco, to suggest there was a lack of contingency planning. The plus side is they replied within 15 minutes and apologised, the negative is I was told there were staff out in the car park and free hot drinks in the cafe. 4 intermittent staff who clearly had no plan to what they were doing (and 1 of whom felt the need to swear at me when I didn’t move my car forward 20cm instantly – to be fair had I been in his shoes, I may have done the same).
Oh, my car was GRIDLOCKED – if I had gone into the cafe for my free cuppa, I would have had to have abandoned my car, making matters even worse for those behind me. Oh, and I knew there was free hot drinks because I’d found the Tesco twitter account and got in touch, 99% of those trapped had no clue because NO-ONE told them.
I don’t know if Tesco had any legal duty of care to make sure those stuck were ok, but surely there is a moral duty of care - would it have been so hard during the 3 hours that I, and many others, were within their car park to send a member of staff to each car, let them know there was an accident blocking the exit, that they could park if safe to do so and get a drink in the cafe, or better still take drinks out to those who couldn’t leave their cars? Is customer service totally dead at Tesco – sadly, I think so.
4.50pm - I finally crawl out of the Tesco car park and now just need to get out of the retail park and drive the 3 miles home. I arrive home 45 minutes later. The driving conditions around the retail park exit were absolutely treacherous, which would have been avoided if the initial gridlock had not been allowed to get as bad as it did. Never have I been so glad to get home, my nerves were shredded.
I’m not pointing the finger of blame entirely at Tesco; however, ineffective/non-existent emergency planning by Tesco had a snowball effect. Everyone local knows that car park is a total bottleneck, I find it incredulous that Tesco do not have a plan in place for such a situation. My thoughts are:
Thankfully, I had Twitter to keep me sane and I must say a massive thank you to everyone who virtually kept me company, kept me informed and entertained during the whole afternoon (you know who you are). A great example of Twitter doing good and proving invaluable information. I pity all those trapped who didn’t have access to such real time information and virtual company. Also I pity those who had kids in the car, I cannot imagine how terrible an ordeal it would have been if my boys had been with me.
I really hope the powers at be at Tesco read this, this isn’t a rant, I’m actually trying to help to ensure this can never happen again. I also hope Tesco apologises. The second and only tweet I received from @UKTesco informed me the gridlock was all due to the lorry accident near the retail park. As you can tell from the above, that is poppycock – take responsibility for your poor planning and poor duty of care to your (maybe no longer) loyal customers.
Finally Tesco, if anyone trapped there yesterday actually still wants to shop at Tesco in the future, compensation for them would be more than appropriate.
I look forward to your response.
Jan Minihane (an ex-Tesco shopper)”
I would love to hear others thoughts – were you there or affected by it? Do you think I’m being too harsh? And for local people, is it time Telford & Wrekin council put the traffic pressures around Wrekin Retail park back on their agenda?
If you’re still reading, I thank you for taking the time and please share it – keep warm and safe everyone!
Image from www.retailing.com