Mike McFarlane thought he was being scammed when a scruffily-dressed man in civvies told him he would have to pay cash to get his car unclamped.
The Pakuranga resident was left bewildered when confronted by an employee of the New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company in a Manukau carpark this month.
Mr McFarlane was told he would have to pay $180 in cash for his car's release.
The vehicle was parked in a Ronwood Ave carpark and was within the specified time limit. It was not in a disabled carpark or a loading zone.
"I couldn't understand why someone had put a clamp on my car."
Mr McFarlane looked around the near-empty carpark for help and was approached by a "scruffy-looking sod" who said the vehicle was clamped because the carpark was being used for business other than shopping.
"There were no signs saying I couldn't park there, I was just popping over the road for 30 minutes at the most."
Mr McFarlane was in a rush so he withdrew the money from a nearby cash machine and paid the fine.
"I wasn't happy but I told the man I would fight it later. He gave me a receipt and I drove off."
It wasn't until later that he started to think he'd been ripped off.
"I was in such a state by the time I got home," the superannuitant says.
"I rang the company expecting them to have no recollection of the incident."
But the New Zealand Wheel Clamping Company did have a record of Mr McFarlane's experience.
A company spokesman, who wants to be referred to only as Gordon, says some of his operators don't have mobile eftpos facilities.
"We don't accept credit cards either because they are too easy to cancel after we release the clamp," he says.
Gordon says the customer is usually left a note to call a toll free number.
They are then asked if they would like to pay by cash or eftpos and told an operator with ID and the right facilities will come out to them.
The spokesman says the operator should not have approached Mr McFarlane.
"It is against our procedure to approach someone you have clamped," he says.
"Once they have clamped a car our procedure is for them to leave a note and move away from the vehicle.
"This operator was probably in a hurry because he needed to keep an eye on his other clamps. They are often stolen in that area."
Gordon says the main problem in Manukau is that the council does not provide enough public parking.
"People are forced to use either the Westfield or the Ronwood Ave parking.
"Those landlords have to employ us or Wilsons to make sure their actual customers have parking," he says.
Mr McFarlane says he can understand why the shops need to keep their carparks free for shoppers.
"I'm not debating the fact that I got clamped, " he says. "I object to the amount it cost – $50 would be enough to stop me doing it again – but $180 is extortionate."
He's concerned there was no obvious signage in the Ronwood Ave carpark saying he couldn't use it for shops across the road.
"I just want to ensure that other people don't get themselves into the same situation. What would happen if someone didn't have the money there and then?"
Go online to www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz and search for clamping for more information.