Open Letter to Mike Coupe, CEO of Sainsbury’s

Following on from my earlier blog about the damage done to my car by Sainsbury’s car wash in Rugby, I wrote the following letter to Mr Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s CEO:

12 January 2015

Mr Mike Coupe
CEO Sainsbury’s PLC
33 Holburn

Dear Mr Coupe,

On the 15th December 2014, my mother visited the car wash at your Rugby store, thinking she was doing me a favour by having my car washed just before Christmas. She was guided into the car wash and the lights came on telling her she was in the correct location at which point she applied the handbrake and turned off the ignition. Unfortunately, the car wash hit the front wing of the car, causing quite a large amount of damage – as shown in the enclosed photographs. In a state of shock, my mum came to my house and I took her and my insurance documents back to the store.

The incident was reported to the petrol station manager – a gentleman by the name of Glenn. He expressed surprise that there had been an incident as other cars had subsequently gone through the car wash. I noticed that there was CCTV in the petrol station and I asked Glenn if there would have been any footage from the car wash. He replied that there wasn’t any and, even if there was, we wouldn’t be allowed to see it. Glenn took down all of the details on a form, which he asked my mother to sign, and promised that someone would be in touch the following day.

No contact was received and so after Christmas, my mother returned to the store to see what was happening. It was at this point that we discovered that nothing was happening – nothing had been done with the paperwork. The gentleman who she spoke with took charge of the situation and promised that someone would call the following day.

The call did come the next day from a Scottish lady (my mum didn’t catch her name) who said that the incident would be investigated and there would be a follow-up call. Two days later the lady called back to say that the incident had been investigated and that it was my mother’s fault.

Apparently CCTV footage showed that my mother had positioned the car incorrectly in the car wash and, in doing so, broke one of the sensors. The lady who called told my mum that the car wash had been out of action since the incident.

I find it very strange that we should  be told on the day of the incident that there was no CCTV and that the car wash was still operational, only for this to be contradicted some days later. Clearly, someone is either mistaken or telling lies.

I informed my insurance company about the newly found CCTV footage and they got in touch with you requesting that it be released. This request was declined and my insurers called me back telling me that I had to make the request. This was done in an email sent to “” which was sent on the 6th January. As of the time of writing I have had no reply – not even a confirmation of receipt. This is clearly unacceptable and not the sort of response I would expect from one of the UK’s premier retailers.

Putting aside the poor communication and contradicting information we’ve been given, I would like to ask a question. How is it safe for a large, complicated bit of machinery to operate if there is a sensor fault? Surely it should fail safe? I would also like to ask how it is that my mother was supposed to realise that the car was incorrectly aligned when the car wash itself told her to stop before it commenced its programming? I am surprised that the HSE would give such a machine a clean bill of health.

I would appreciate your looking into this situation for me as I have had no luck with your “customer care” helpline who just brushed me off saying that they were sorry I wasn’t happy with findings of the investigation. At present, I am £150 out of pocket for the excess on my policy and I will have lost my no claims discount too.

Yours sincerely

Simon Coates


Today, I received a reply from their “Executive Office” which, as you can see, does nothing to address the questions I raised in my letter.

Dear Mr Coates

Thank you for your letter to Mike Coupe.  I have been asked to respond to you on his behalf.  I am sorry your car was damaged whilst using our car wash and I appreciate the chance to address your concerns.

Please let me assure you the safety of our customers and their property is very important to us.  We do all we can to ensure all areas of our stores, including our car parking facilities, meet our high standards.

We have investigated this matter further and reviewed the CCTV footage.  Whilst we appreciate your mother was unaware she was parked incorrectly, we do not feel we can be held responsible for the damage caused to your vehicle.  We know this is not the answer you were looking for and we will cooperate fully with any third party you wish to contact us on your behalf.

We are grateful to you for taking the time to contact us and we hope we have been able to explain the reasons for our decision.

Yours sincerely

Shawnee Russell
Executive Office

I find it quite amusing that they say that they “will cooperate fully with any third party” when they refused to release the CCTV footage to my insurers and haven’t had the common decency to respond to my request for its release. They also do not explain how it is that a two-ton machine can operate if a sensor has failed!

Comments 10

  1. Post

    I have now sent a follow up to them….

    Thank you for your email. Unfortunately it fails to address any of the questions that I raised in my letter to Mr Coupe. Allow me to express them simply as bullet points in the hopes of making it clear.

    1) Why was I told, at the time, that there was no CCTV footage?
    2) Why was nothing done with the original paperwork?
    3) Why was the request from my insurers to see the CCTV rejected?
    4) Why has my request for to see the footage been ignored?
    5) Why is it safe for a machine to operate if a sensor is damaged?

    Given your company’s lack of cooperation over this incident, I am left with little alternative other than to seek legal guidance.

    Yours sincerely

    Simon Coates

  2. Post

    Well, Shawnee replied to the bulleted message with some actual answers!

    Dear Mr Coates

    Thank you for your further comments.

    Due to an admin error, the paperwork was misplaced in store. We have since provided coaching to ensure this does not happen again.

    Prior to your mother’s visit to the car wash, the sensor was in full working order, which would have prevented the equipment from moving if an obstacle was in the way. However, were the sensor to have been damaged during the process of a wash, it would no longer recognise any potential obstructions.

    It is disappointing you were advised there was no CCTV footage available. I can assure you we do have footage and we are in the process of facilitating your request. A copy of the footage will be sent to you shortly. Should you have any further questions once you have viewed this, please to not hesitate to contact us, or alternatively we are happy to discuss this with your insurers.

    Our claims handlers have not been contacted by your insurers yet, but should they wish to progress this incident, they can write to BLM at the following address:

    Tim Cadwallader
    Castle Chambers
    43 Castle Street
    L2 9SU

    We are grateful to you for taking the time to contact us once more.

    Yours sincerely

    Shawnee Russell
    Executive Office

    It is great to see that Sainsbury’s have admitted that they think it is acceptable for the machine to operate when a sensor has failed.

    1. Post
    1. Post
  3. Sainsburys Executive office is a dubious and totally incompetent team, I have personally dealt with them this year to complain and they pretty much wrote the same dismissive, response as the above letter you received.

    I also noted that they refuse to allow anyone speak with the CEO directly.

    I personally feel they should be shut down.

  4. Around mid 2018 I was trapped inside my car, inside a Sainsburys car wash.
    I was parked correctly, but it seems that a sensor malfunctioned, also causing
    damage to my own car. Communication is ongoing, but I think I will send details
    to the Health and Safety Executive. If I did nothing and somebody was later seriously
    hurt in one of these machines, I would be very distressed.
    Hope you get the resolution you’re seeking Simon.

  5. Has this been sorted now? Did they pay out? Taking legal action myself after they damaged my vehicle and denied liability!

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.