A Metropolis at Metrotown shopper learned the hard way that free parking at her go-to mall wasn’t so free afterall.

Sabrina Badal lives near Metrotown and frequents the mall, using the free parking that’s allowed for up to four hours. It was a convenient option for her, until one day it wasn’t.

“I arrived early in the morning and I parked just outside of Superstore,” she explained.

She left the mall but returned that afternoon for spa treatment, parking in a different spot. But when she got back to her car she was shocked to find a $25 ticket. She thought it was a mistake.

"The ticket said I had parked there for more than four hours and I said, ‘well that's not possible. I haven't been here for more than four hours,’" she said.

And she has the receipts to prove she was actually parked for less than two hours altogether.

What she didn’t know is there are no in-and-out privileges at the mall and there’s nothing on the mall’s parking sign to indicate that.

"Our parking policy is in place to ensure that we have the best parking spots available for our shoppers and that they're not being taken up by nearby office workers or people that use the Skytrain for Park and Ride," said Charles Fleck, GM of Metropolis at Metrotown.

The mall uses a plate recognition system that spots violators, but it doesn't distinguish if you left and came back.

"I think their system is flawed,” said Badal. “People are spending money here and getting penalized for making frequent trips.”

Ross McLaughlin went with Badal to the mall to try and sort the ticket out. The mall did end up cancelling the ticket after McLaughlin got involved. It also gave her a $50 gift certification to invite her back and promised to review their system.

"We have discussed that with this customer and we will certainly will review that with our parking contractor to see if there are any alternative options," explained Fleck.

The mall says innocent shoppers do get caught up every once in a while and that they deal with the complaints on a case by case basis, but it can be inconvenient. The mall told CTV News if it happens you need to prove you shopped by providing receipts.

If you didn’t buy anything on one of your frequent trips, then you should check into security with your plate number to let them know you're back.