Saturday, April 3, 2010

Living In The City #2: Tow Be Or Not Tow Be

Cell phones aren't allowed where I work, so when I came out and saw City Girl had called 9 times, I knew something was up.  As I called her back, I was trying not to think worrisome thoughts since she just got her license a month ago.

Fortunately, it was nothing like that.  It is Spring Break this week, and City Girl went to the beach.

There was no parking, so she parked here: 

She and her friend returned an hour later and the car was gone.

Yep, it was towed.  I commiserated with her on the phone about life's hard lessons, how much money did she have in savings, blah, blah, while she waited for her dad to pick her up.

Clearly, she shouldn't have parked in that spot, but there were no towing signs and the lot was nearly empty.  She went into the store to ask about her car, and a young clerk said a freelance towing service came in, asked if any cars needed towing, and even though he said no, they towed her anyway.  After she called the towing company, she called the manager that had been on duty at the time.  The manager said it was all right for her to park there.

My husband and his Mom took City Girl to the towing lot.  Two tow operators were pretty intimidating, as my husband pointed out big scratches on the hood.  "You can't prove it, and besides the air bags would have gone off", they said.

Retro Man asked to see their contract.  They said it was none of his business.  They wanted cash - no checks, no credit cards.  Thank God City Girl's Gramma was visiting and always has cash, because they were about to close, and it's a $400 storage fee if it stays overnight.  I think that is a nightly fee, so in a short time the towing company can essentially own your car.

They paid, and then, with his hand covering to top of the contract, the tow operator said to sign at the bottom.  My husband asked to read it, and the operator pulled the top printed copy off, pointed to the carbon and said "read it".  There was nothing to read.  The operator put the top back on, covered the top with his hand, and said "sign it".  Parts were scratched out, like the "Auth By".

Retro Man signed it.  It was the only way we were going to get the car back.  It seems we have a trend of having our cars held hostage.

Retro Man found a consumer protection agency that is a watch dog for towing operators, and we're fighting it.  Not because City Girl shouldn't have parked there, she shouldn't have.  But because they scratched the car, and wouldn't let us see the contract we had to sign to get the car out of their lot.

In case you've never been towed, the consumer agency advice was to call the police if there are no towing signs.

I hope this story is useful for anyone who gets towed in the future.  Hopefully City Girl will get her money back, but I'm not thinking she will.

UPDATE:  City Girl will probably never get her money back, but it was a little sweet justice seeing that the towing company just got collared for towing other cars unlawfully.


  1. Okay, City Girl might have found a better place to park but those guys are bogus. I'd have the police checking on this- something smells, and it ain't cabbage. Retro should have brought along his shotgun... am I really saying this? Yow! Love ya, Buzzinmama

  2. It's a lesson learned but also sounds like those guys need to be looked into. I'm positive it's illegal to make you sign anything without letting you read it. I hope RM gets them good!

  3. Holy smokes! I'd get the police involved as well, sounds like extortion to me. Have new teen-age driver here as well, plus the no cell phones at work situation, I can imagine the 'worrisome thoughts". I visit them on a regular basis. Hope this has a positive outcome and a refund.

    hmmm...word verification is cheater!

  4. Did they have a gun handy? Technically if you go to a Waffle House, you are supposed to carry gun. We learned that in Nashville when we lived seemed like every shooting that happened was at a Go-Mart or a Waffle House. Anyhow, bummer....