Supermarket Sting

It’s maybe a bit strange but it suits me fine. I used to be the procurement director for an international car manufacturer. I got a seriously golden handshake three years ago when I was sixty three. It was the usual thing: new bosses want their own men and I was well past my sell-by date. Retirement did not sit comfortably. I don’t play golf or have any major hobby passions so being without a twelve to fourteen hour working day left me a bit at a loose end. I looked after the garden but that wasn’t nearly enough. I might have soldiered on but the biggest problem was my wife. We have always got on well enough but with the pressure of my job she had developed her own life. Having me under her feet all the time was not in either of our interests.

So, I got myself a job and here I am; Tom Timmins, parking superintendent and manager (part-time) for the large local supermarket. The money’s irrelevant. The job keeps me occupied three days a week and in its own way it’s fun. I’m out in the open air most of the time and meeting lots of mostly nice people. The staff are a nice enough bunch. They don’t know much about my history and happily they don’t care. The store manager is a complete divvi. But after a couple of run-ins, he leaves me well alone. As I said before most of the customers are nice enough. This area has a high proportion of retirees so the age profile is high. By the standards of many of our customers I’m still in the prime of life.

I guess the job has the usual problems, mostly caused by either the old and feeble who drive to the shop because they can’t even walk properly or the young and careless. Hardly a day goes by without a small bump or a bit of parking rage that requires my attention. I’ve filled in more insurance reports than you could shake a stick at and developed my diplomatic skills no end. There are really three main issues. The first is those who insist in parking in disabled bays without the requisite permit. I’m usually polite and if they look as though they need the space I advise them to apply for a permit. I’m relaxed about the odd short term illness or handicap victim but I can’t stand the ‘So what; you can’t touch me brigade.’ They get two warnings and after that they get a nice very adhesive sticker across their windscreen asking them politely not to park in a disabled bay without a proper permit. It can be removed but it takes time and the ten minutes it takes usually attracts an appreciative crowd. The second bad group are the young crazies who drive the wrong way round the lanes and treat the place like a racetrack. Normally I try a quiet word; “Come on now, half of the people here are nearly senile. They haven’t a clue but how would you feel if you killed one.” Mostly it works but if it doesn’t, and boy are they predictable, I just get in my old car (I don’t come to work in my Jaguar) and when I see them coming into the park I can usually manage to get in their way. In the end they get the message.

The worst though are the cash machine brigade. Rather than find a space they pull up alongside the cash machines on the double yellows and get out to draw money. Most of them say the same thing. ‘I’ll only be a minute’. The company has a rule that we can’t put a windscreen notice on a vehicle on the car park ‘highway’ for safety reasons. Mostly I fume but there is little to be done. They know the store park is not a public highway. One, however, really got up my nose, the bastard. Just about every day he pulled up alongside the cash machines. He didn’t even use the machines. It was just a convenient place to stop when he made his almost daily visit to the bank fifty metres away. I remonstrated, of course, but the replies varied from two fingers to a taunting, “What you going to do about it, loser.”

After a particularly annoying encounter I decided that something had to be done and fortunately opportunity presented itself. You make acquaintances with customers in my job and two in particular became friends. There was Dick Richardson and Harry Hartson: yes; funny isn’t it; Tom Dick and Harry? It came to the point where on my working days we usually met in the supermarket’s restaurant before I started work. Dick had a passion for his old Land Rover. It was very old but he kept it immaculate and constantly praised it for its durability and the fact that, in his view, it would go on for ever because when something went you could just bolt in a new bit. Harry, on the other hand, spent his time complaining about the cost of motoring and particularly the cost of spares and repairs.

It was on a Tuesday in March that I had my inspiration. Dick was miffed because the Land Rover had just had its MoT test and the tester had warned him that a rear structural member was corroded and strained by his towbar and that it wouldn’t pass again unless it was replaced. This set Harry off. It seemed that in another car park someone had touched his front bumper or valance and cracked it slightly. “The bastards say it’s going to cost nearly a thousand for a new one and re-spraying it to match. God knows; it’s only a lump of plastic.”

Hey fellas; how’d it be if I could fix it for your repairs to be carried out for nothing?” Well as you can imagine I have their attention and outline the plan. It involved me doing a little modification to Harry’s car but it only took a few minutes to put a big bolt on the main front member just behind the crack in the bumper. A couple of days later, right on cue, our boy arrived and pulled in right behind Dick’s Land Rover on the double yellows in front of the cash machines. I didn’t say anything; I couldn’t I was in the CCTV room at the time. I watched Dick saunter over and back up the land Rover to about 600 mm from the front of chummy’s car. Then I watched Harry drive his car up behind chummy’s car leaving just the instructed 300 mm. Having checked that the camera was properly sighted and working, I repaired outside to join Dick and Harry. It was almost fifteen minutes before our man came back and climbed up into the high seat of his huge Porsche Cayenne. My old company made a lot of those big Chelsea tractors but I never understood them myself.

Me Dick and Harry, casually arranged with a good view, exchanged smiles and glances. As I said we watched chummy climb in to his car and then climb out and look at the gaps, front and back. Then he spotted me. “Hey you; get these fucking cars moved. I can’t get out.”

Sorry sir, no can do; please just hang on. They said they’d only be a minute or two.”

I’m busy; this is ridiculous. Call the police – now!”

Sorry sir, I’m afraid this is not a public highway. As you have pointed out to me on more than one occasion, they have no jurisdiction.”

This was the moment that tested my assessment of my adversary but it was only a moment. Just as I expected he got back in his car and threw it into gear to push Dick’s Land Rover forward. He didn’t crash forwards. That might have spoilt his nice shiny car front. However he forgot, as I had hoped, that Dick’s Land Rover had a bloody great towbar attachment on the back and Dick had put the handbrake on hard and the car in reverse gear. It was really no contest between the plastic valance of the Porsche and Dick’s 50 mm forged steel tow-ball. There was an expensive sounding crack and Dick’s towbar disappeared through the plastic front valance of the Porsche. Chummy, obviously a bit taken aback then did the predictable thing and reversed quite savagely. Harry’s car with its wheels locked duly went back about a metre but the contact crushed Harry’s already damaged bumper and the strategically placed bolt went through the rear bumper valance of the big Porsche like a stiletto.

Chummy had at least succeeded in getting the space to pull out and did so in a screech of tyres. The three of us failed to keep our faces straight as chummy disappeared off the lot.

He was back the following day and I was waiting with security. “Good morning sir. We’d be grateful if you would accompany us to the office. There is an important matter we wish to discuss.”

Piss off; I’m busy.”

Believe me sir; it would be better if you came. The store does not like to involve the police unless it is necessary but if you will not come with us we shall be forced to do so.”

What’s this all about?”

I think it would be better to discuss the matter in private sir. Leave the car here. It will be quite safe. George here will look after it.”

He followed me into the office and I invited him to sit. I should point out that we’d been busy since hatching our plot and using up a few favours we had had some useful information. I switched on the video and watched his face as the previous day’s events were re-played. When the video ended I started. “Now, Mr Shane Barker, managing director of East of England Fabricators, registered keeper of and driver of the Porsche Cayenne we have just been watching and currently holder of nine driving penalty points; you are, how shall I put it, in deep shit. If I report this matter to the police you will be convicted of criminal damage to two vehicles. Your licence will be suspended and you will also, I promise you, be faced with insurance claims by the owners of the two cars you damaged for the costs of repairing their vehicles.”

You can’t do that. They shouldn’t have parked where they were.”

Neither were you Mr Barker; It’s a crap defence and if we can’t come to an accommodation here and now I will report this matter to the police.”

You set me up; you bastard.”

Perhaps but I just can’t see how that is going to help you. Work it out for yourself. I’m sure you’re not entirely without brains.”

What do you want?”

Here are the estimates of the damage to the other cars. You will see that their names are on the estimates. You will now give me cheques in those names to cover each of these estimates plus ten percent and I will forget about the matter when the cheques have cleared. If for any reason the cheques are not honoured then everything goes to the police. By the way; I checked out the cost of the damage to your car. The main dealer advises me that about £3,000 should just about cover it. Of course you’ve no chance of an insurance claim. In future I strongly advise you to park properly. At a total of, let me see; about £5000, you made an expensive mistake, didn’t you?”

You bastard, you haven’t heard the last of this. One fine day soon you’re going to run into a fist.”

I had considered that possibility.” I pressed a button and the door opened behind Barker to admit three men, who ranged themselves behind him. “Hi guys; introduce yourselves to Mr Barker here.

Hello Mr Barker.” The first man stuck out a hand which Barker automatically took and then winced and squealed as pressure was applied. “I’m ex-RSM Jones; late of Her Majesty’s Paratroop Regiment, my companions are Warrant Officer Williams from the same stable and Sergeant Hargreaves rumoured to have done time with the SAS. He’s just a pussycat. Now, we’ve got a real soft spot for Tommy here. Hate to see anything happen to him; understand? Now you go home and tell the mirror all about it and what revenge you’re going to take but keep it between you and the mirror, otherwise you might just find that you don’t like your reflection anymore.”

As I said; I like the job; sometimes it’s fun and it keeps me out from under my wife’s feet.

Robert Winston McNaughton

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