Christmas shoppers in the Essex town of Dovercourt were left out in the cold, after returning to their vehicles to find they had been locked inside a car park.
The town had seen an increase in visitors for Friday evening's Christmas light switch on, but some found they couldn't leave when they returned to the Milton Road car park in the early evening.
Around ten shoppers were affected when staff at the multi-storey locked the gates in error, after a breakdown in communication over extended Christmas opening hours at a nearby shopping centre.
Shopper Marie Phillips, 32, was one of those affected.
"I went back to the car at about 6.45pm to find two people standing with children and a policeman, she said, reported the Harwich and Manningtree Standard.
"I asked what was happening and they said they had locked the car park."
Tendring Council leader, Peter Halliday, explained the mix-up to the local newspaper: "Normally there would have been a separate road closure for the event which would have alerted us to the fact we needed to let our cleaning contractors know not to lock up as early that evening.
"However, that is no excuse and we should made arrangements for the car park to be open later and we can only hold our hands up to that. We also thank Lesley Pollard very much for going along with her key to let the vehicles out."