Oregon To Consider Predatory Towing Ban After Meals-On-Wheels Is Almost Towed During Delivery

Remember Andrew? His car was towed from Starbucks while he was inside sipping a latte. He isn’t alone. In mid-August, a predatory tow-truck driver set up shop outside a retirement community and waited for local meals-on-wheels driver Marie Phillippi to leave her car. As she made her deliveries, the tow-truck driver latched on and prepared to tow. He was stopped only when a retiree ran out and splayed herself across the car’s hood until the Marie could return. The tow-truck driver’s actions were entirely legal under Oregon law, although that may soon change…

Under Oregon law, towing companies can sign contracts with property owners for the exclusive right to patrol private lots and haul off improperly parked vehicles. Drivers, typically, are paid on commission — the more cars they tow, the more money they make.

It is at once the most widespread and controversial towing practice in Oregon. And it is big business. In Portland alone, tow-truck drivers seized 10,864 vehicles from private property last year and collected a minimum of $161 each time, not including storage fees.

A bill being drafted for this session would make towing more consumer-friendly by:

  • Banning Patrol Towing: No more waiting to snab Starbucks customers or the meals-on-wheels delivery gal.
  • Eliminating Commissions: Tow-truck driving should be an respectable profession, one with an hourly wage that doesn’t encourage drivers to recklessly tow cars.
  • Requiring A Manger’s Ok: Under the bill, tow-truck drivers would need to touch base with a store’s manager before towing a car. Why? Because that car might be parked there for a reason, or worse, it might be the manager’s car.

The head of Retriever Towing, the company that hauled away Andrew’s car, thinks the proposal is outrageous and unreasonable:

“What right does the government have to tell me how I pay my people, whether hourly, salary or commission? I pay my salespeople on commission. I pay my managers on commission. And I pay my drivers on commission. It gives them the incentive they need to tow any car, at any time, with all but the flimsiest of justifications.”

Ok, we may have embellished that last part. He may have yabbered something about an “an incentive-based system to perform.” Regardless, the effect is the same.

Towing can be useful to businesses, but only if it’s conducted by responsible, ethical operators. Since the tow-truck companies have clearly proven that they can’t regulate themselves, it’s time for Oregon to step up and protect consumers.

‘Patrol towing’ on the hook if Oregon law passes [The Oregonian]
PREVIOUSLY: Help, Starbucks Towed My Car While I Was Sipping A Latte!
(Photo: Yogi)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. thnkwhatyouthnk says:

    Hopefully this spreads just as fast as hands-free cell phone driving laws.

    • RandaPanda says:

      @thnkwhatyouthnk: which, ironically haven’t spread as much as people think, and are enforced far less than you may know. It’s only a law in 5 states (Washington, California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut).

      [www.ghsa.org]

    • jwissick says:

      @thnkwhatyouthnk: Hands free is a dumb law. I do not agree with it. Nothing has improved since the law was passed. It should be repealed.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      @thnkwhatyouthnk: Hands free laws do nothing, as its your brain that impairs you when you’re on the phone, not the phone itself.

      They’ve done studies and proven that while on a cell phone – handsfree or not – you are driving with the same attention span as if you were drunk. I’m sure food holds the same effect.

      • Jetts says:

        @Oranges w/ Cheese: For accidents that I cause without noticing at all while on the phone, this is a good analogy. If I notice that traffic is going crazy, however, or road conditions require me to drive with some skill, I can drop the phone or stop listening to my hands-free.

        I can’t consciously sober myself up if the same thing happens when I’m drunk though…

    • redkamel says:

      @thnkwhatyouthnk: wait are you being sarcastic? because I live in Cali, and let me tell you its way more distracting trying to turn off the radio/ push a button on my sunvisor/replace and/or adjust an earpiece than it is to pick my phone out of the cupholder and put it to my ear. Do you drive and lean your head on your hand ever? cause thats the same as driving with a phone.

      It really is the talking, not the phone. More so its the texting. Or just in general people being idiots like the lady who ran a stop sign and then actually took a wrong turn, tried to U turn, got stuck, and made me go around her into the other lane. Almost killed me twice.

  2. Pylon83 says:

    Perhaps people shouldn’t park illegally/improperly, then they wouldn’t have to worry about getting towed. It seems that bills like this make it OK for people to break the rules, because it’s just not fair to punish them for doing so. It’s not OK to park illegally/improperly just because you’ll only be a minute/delivering meals/in a rush/more important than everyone else. I hate these kinds of things because it essentially makes it OK for people to not follow the rules, and because these things make it more difficult to enforce said rules.

    • floraposte says:

      @Pylon83: But there’s no evidence that the examples we’ve seen were breaking the rules. They were both parking in private parking lots to use the facility that owns the lot, and they were in full compliance with signage. These weren’t people who were assuming their breach would go unnoticed if they kept it short. It’s just that the towing company is financially rewarded for towing people even if they’re compliant.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @Pylon83: If you don’t give exceptions to delivery drivers, how can they deliver? Park 5 blocks over and walk outside in the cold rain with hot food? They aren’t trying to park, they just want to drop something off and go.

      It’s also not always about being parked illegally. Sometimes places require permits to park. What sense does it make for a delivery driver to get a permit to park when he just delivers things?

      Also would you want to place these same rules on fedex and ups? Because if they could not double park, delivery would be impossible.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Corporate_guy: “If you don’t give exceptions to delivery drivers, how can they deliver?”

        Also, most urban areas write delivery exceptions into law. We had a big thing about this recently because the beer trucks wanted a change in the hours they’re allowed to “double park” to deliver in the downtown, which is an older downtown without alleys or loading docks — all deliveries have to go in the front. Different parts of the city allow deliveries at different times of day to avoid commuter rush hour and other kinds of heavy traffic. It was actually really interesting to read the local ordinances that applied to the various kinds of delivery, and their attempts to balance convenient delivery with efficient traffic.

    • thrid001 says:

      @Pylon83: Well at an old folks home maybe a private ambulance company will be parking illegally and people could die. Towing is a last resort, not a first choice. The driver has INCENTIVE to grab any car at any time. What would happen if it is the property owner,or a police officer who is in an unmarked car? Towing should be a last resort.

    • Aladdyn says:

      @Pylon83: Illegal is one thing, improperly as you put it is another. I assume you mean parking on private property in a way that violates the signage. In that case improper parking is ultimately defined by the owner/manager and I dont see whats wrong with requiring the tow truck driver to ok it with someone in charge when dealing with a private lot.

      • Pylon83 says:

        @Aladdyn:
        The Tow Truck driver has already gotten the explicit OK to tow from the company via the contract. If Starbucks or whomever wants to have a say on each and every car, they should write that into their contract with the towing company. It’s not something the government should be getting involved with.

    • coren says:

      @Pylon83: Yes, but in some of these cases, for example starbucks guy, he was parked totally legitimately. Or how about the chick who was a victim of domestic violence and parked improperly (or maybe illegally) to go into a family member’s home to call for assistance (who then told the driver to get a fucking clue and cut it out, but the driver wouldn’t comply (not that he had to, just that common sense should have told him to))

      • Bog says:

        @coren:

        I remember this case. I really think that the police on site should have forced the tow driver to release the car. I still belive that they had the power to do but didn’t exorcise it.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Pylon83: “Perhaps people shouldn’t park illegally/improperly, then they wouldn’t have to worry about getting towed.”

      Yeah, you need to live somewhere with predatory towers for a while. You’ll see double-parked cars sitting there blocking traffic for hours while you go around the block 42 times until you get a legal space … and then you get towed. For, you know, existing.

      Predatory towing definitionally doesn’t limit itself to illegally-parked cars; their rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

      Another common trick is to post a sign saying “only customers of X may park here” or “parking limited to 5 minutes” and then be sure it’s completely invisible and obscured by vegetation. Usually the property owner’s getting a cut when they do that.

    • Kajj says:

      @Pylon83: Everyone who comments here should be required to read the definition of the “just world fallacy.” Insisting that everyone who has bad things happen to them “deserves it” will not keep bad things from happening to you.

    • theblackdog says:

      @Pylon83: So it should have been okay for the tow truck driver to try and haul off the Meals on Wheels vehicle just because the woman making the deliveries was not a resident?

      • Pylon83 says:

        @theblackdog:
        Yes, I think that’s totally appropriate in absence of a special exemption from the lot owner (or the state) for delivery vehicles. Your status as a delivery driver, regardless of for-profit or not-for-profit, does not automatically entitle you to a break from the rules. You wouldn’t make the same argument if the meals-on-wheel driver had been pulled over for speeding. If the sign says “Permit parking only”, find another place to park if you don’t have a permit. I wouldn’t have a problem with a delivery exemption (As suggested by Eyebrows), and in fact I think one is probably necessary, but in the absence of one, don’t break the rules. I have NO sympathy for the Starbucks guy. The procedure they have in place is entirely reasonable, he’s just too important to be bothered with it. When you pull into a lot that says “X Customers Only”, it’s only reasonable to assume that there will be some sort of procedure in place to ensure that only customers are parking there. He just doesn’t like the one they have.

        • Smashville says:

          @Pylon83: Quit trolling.

          • Pylon83 says:

            @Smashville:
            I fail to understand how espousing a view that isn’t in-line with most makes me a troll.

            • Cyberxion101 says:

              @Pylon83: Because you appear to be taking a contrary opinion just to get a rise out of people. It’s one thing to engage in debate, it’s another entirely to seemingly go out of your way to argue.

        • jamar0303 says:

          @Pylon83: Except that he WAS a customer. And STILL got towed. I’m quite surprised you keep trying to hit the nail on the side here. Of course government regulation is needed because LEGITIMATELY parked people are getting towed.

          • Pylon83 says:

            @jamar0303:
            I never said he wasn’t a customer. I said that when he parked and saw the sign that says “Starbucks Customers Only”, that should have put him on notice that there would be some sort of enforcement mechanism. The fact he ignored or didn’t notice the driver shouting out plate numbers is where he went wrong. I accept that people in Starbucks are doing their own thing and don’t want to be bothered, but parking in a restricted lot comes with a responsibility. Starbucks guy seems to think he’s too important to be subject to their enforcement mechanism and subsequently got towed. His whole little diatribe about how he can’t be bothered is indicative of his attitude. I agree he was a legitimate customer legitimately parked, but when presented with a demand to prove said legitimacy, he failed. Thus, he was towed. If he doesn’t like their parking procedures, go to another Starbucks. If the people of Oregon don’t like companies that contract with such tow operations to ensure their lots are only used properly, they should patronize businesses without such policies. Government regulation is not the answer.

            • athmsVT says:

              @Pylon83:

              You have never had to deal with any of these predatory towing services.

              I have a friend that lived in an apartment for a year during college and was towed one day after getting back from winter break. He had parallel parked in a spot that people routinely parked in before break. When he questioned the towing they responded that the spot was not legal, because although it did have the T part of the parallel spot it did not have the ending L line marking and that they had recently gotten permission from the owner of the complex to start towing that spot over break. No signage changed or the like. My friend began to mark off the spot to try and let people know they would get towed, but his attempts were continually thwarted (ie removed). The point is they can go out of their way to be deceptive, and how do you know how deceptive they can be, until you are towed and out 100-200$.

              The government should be involved because illegal towing does occur and goes largely unchecked. If towing companies are given the power to effectively steal peoples car and hold them for ransom, there should be plenty of rules to ensure they comply with the law. They should have to prove that you illegally parked, not that you were illegally towed. If you are towed illegally, the company is only liable for the towing cost and court fees. They are not liable in most places for time spent retrieving the car and the like. It is hard to get any kind of punitive damages for what is essentially stealing your car. Basically they have no disincentive to not tow your car, except to not push it so far as to the public to action. They know if the have a marginal case, it just is simply not worth your time to take time off from work, plead your case, pay court cost, and THEN try to collect money from them. It almost results in a greater net loss for you.

              As for Starbucks, I have never been to a place that my license plate has been called out to ensure I was a customer of the business. So it is does not make sense for me to be alert for such practice. I try to tune out loud and obnoxious people. So it is illogical to assume I should be on guard for such predatory practice. It is even further illogical, to assume that I would be able to hear the license plate calling if I were say using the restroom or sitting outside at one their out door tables. Heaven forbid, I speak another language, or be hearing impaired and not want to jump and down and declare myself as such. If I was towed and I was a customer, I would be upset but would most likely settle for a “my bad” if they returned my car without any charge.

              And as for your whole free market thing, well that is what this is. We are letting everyone know how deceptive and how poorly managed these businesses are. The hope is that, as a large group we can have a larger net effect than any one of us has. Oh but wait, its not totally free. These companies are given special rights, or regulations if you would, by the government that limit and remove employees and companies of personal responsibility. That is great, the government through regulation limits my rights to prosecute them for illegal towing procedures.

              • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

                @athmsVT: “They are not liable in most places for time spent retrieving the car and the like.”

                And it’s a common scam where I grew up for them to tell you fake hours over the phone, so you keep showing up for three days in a row to retrieve your car and they keep being closed … forcing you to pay for three extra days of storage.

    • Bog says:

      @Pylon83:

      You are missing the point. Many of the people WERE parked legally and were doing business within the property from which they were towed.

      The previously mentioned Starbucks customer and license to be there. The meals on wheels delivery vehicle had license to be there. In both those cases the they had a right to park and the towing was therefore illegal and improper.

      They tried that sort of thing in Washington state too. It got nipped in the bud pretty quickly. One company even tried to boot cars, which is not legal here.

      • Pylon83 says:

        @Bog:
        The Meals-on-Wheels care was not parked legally. The article is very careful not to point that out, but it’s implied in the fact they admit the car was towed legally. My guess is the “Spot” that was open was not one which the resident has the power to re-appropriate at will. Even if it’s “their” spot, their lease probably says they can only park their car there, or a car with a permit. The Starbucks guy was parked legally, but failed to comply with the “license” that you assert he had. As I said above, he had to expect that there would be some method of enforcement and verification of the “Starbucks Only” sign, He simply believes he’s too important to be subject to it. While I agree that his argument has some merit (with regard to headphones, etc.) but that doesn’t make him right. Starbucks has to have some way to enforce the rules, the way they’ve chosen is reasonable. Finally, if he doesn’t like their parking policies, don’t drive or don’t patronize the store.

        • El_Fez says:

          @Pylon83:

          The Starbucks guy was parked legally, but failed to comply with the “license” that you assert he had.

          Pardon my french, but what the fuck?!? He failed to comply? Can only customers park there? Yes. Did he complete a transaction and was in the process of consuming his item? Yes. Then he was a customer, and complied.

          Anything else is some kind of trolling bullshit on your part.

          • SlappySquirrel says:

            @Pylon83: The usual enforcement mechanism for that sort of thing is either:

            A: they watch people park and look for the ones who don’t go into the starbucks

            or

            B: they wait for a car to have been there for several hours.

            I am a frequent Starbucks customer and have literally NEVER heard a tow truck driver announce plate numbers, so I think it’s safe to assume that’s a highly usual way of going about this.

    • Mentalpyro says:

      @Pylon83: You do seem to be baiting people here.

      I have been towed by one of these companies from a lot with one covered sign, posted at the back entrance. They damaged my car, charged a per mile towing that added up to over $200 ect. I had no recourse because I was a working student. So I have to say suck it tow companies everywhere you get what is coming to you. They’re practices are shady, and they know it. They are owned by scumbags that create more scumbags by their “incentive” payment practices and in general make the world a worse place to live in. You can’t fight bad behavior with more bad behavior! If you have a problem with someone parking on your property, put up a f’ing fence and gate and then you can control your lot. If you are a business, signing a contract with one of these predators is a great way to eradicate your pesky customer problem.

    • SC123 says:

      oh great, another libertarian-nerd who thinks everyone else in the world is an idiot who deserve bad things because of their idiocy. The libertarian-nerd thinks he’s too clever to ever get into these situations, and too special because of his cleverness

      • Alisha Gray says:

        @SC123: I’m a libertarian, and I think predatory tow truck drivers should be punched in the face with bricks.

        And maybe the bricks should be on fire.

    • synergy says:

      @Pylon83: I agree. If it’s not somewhere they should be parking, they should take their chances on the towing. If they don’t want to get towed, they should park somewhere they’re allowed to.

      • Pylon83 says:

        @synergy:
        Finally! Someone who agrees with me. Parking “illegally” is no different than speeding. Most people do it, some people get caught. It’s a personal cost-benefit analysis that one has to do. Is it worth the convenience to park illegally for a short time, but risk getting towed? Is it worth getting to your destination a bit faster, but risk getting a ticket? This law lets people get all the reward without the risk.

    • mythago says:

      @Pylon83: Your act is getting a old. You need to dress it up a little.

      • Pylon83 says:

        @mythago:
        Why is it difficult for so many people on here to debate the actual idea rather than attack the person asserting it? That gets a little old.

        • Yossarian says:

          @Pylon83: Just so I’m clear, you’re down with towing the cars of deaf Starbucks patrons?

          • Pylon83 says:

            @Yossarian:
            I like how you’re trying to invoke emotion by insinuating how horrible it would be to tow the car of someone who couldn’t hear the announcements. However, you fail to consider that while Starbucks has an obligation to accommodate the deaf patron, that patron also has a responsibility to ensure that the employees on duty know he’s parked in the lot and will need to be specially notified when they prepare to tow cars. You’re comment assumes that this wouldn’t occur. If the patron fails to take reasonable steps to ensure they accommodated, then I have no problem with their car being towed. I suspect most Deaf people are used to ensuring such accommodations are made, so I doubt it poses any significant problem. Again, my primary argument re: Starbucks is that so long as their is a sign that says “Starbucks Patrons Only”, anyone parking in the lot should assume there are some enforcement procedures in place and should be alert for them.

            • chrisjames says:

              @Pylon83: You’re arguing that there are rules to be followed. No amount of common sense should override those rules. Administration of the rules does not have to be carried out with any level of diligence or regard for circumstances.

              In the case of the Starbucks guy, he fulfilled the requirements by simply being a Starbucks patron, and you know that’s all the signage indicates is required. And…

              You know, all this is really aimless idealist pondering. Imagine the tow truck driver walking into Starbucks, reading off a list of license plates, everyone speaking up on cue, but suddenly the bathroom door bursts open and a patron comes shooting out with their pants around their ankles and a stream of toilet paper trailing behind them. They’re screaming, “That’s me! That’s me! Don’t tow me! Don’t tow me!” Yes, rules shouldn’t be broken. Yes, there are proper and improper ways to enforce those rules, and this is undoubtedly improper!

            • Firethorn says:

              @Pylon83: However, Starbucks would also have a duty to inform said deaf patron, heck ANY patron, that the lots are subject to license plate calls for towing.

              Why? It’s assumed in the informal business contract that when I’m allowed to park in the store’s parking lot when I’m patronizing the store. They might as well charge a $1 to park in the lot and give you a coupon for a buck off in the store.

              Without said notification, I might miss the call because I’m jamming to my headphones, deep in a conversation, in the bathroom, etc…

              Of course, as far as I’m concerned the proper response to a towing while I’m sipping a latte* is to blow up the Starbucks, the Tow Truck, the tow truck company, the tow truck driver’s house, the owner of the tow truck company’s house, the manager that signed the contract with the tow truck company’s house, etc… Then steal your own car back.

              *I don’t actually drink lattes, or coffee products in general, but you get the point.

    • Mentalpyro says:

      @Pylon83: you know what, When the tow truck driver did the plate number call BS he was hoping he would miss someone. He is a scumbag, Because his boss is a scumbag. Why couldn’t he just walk around and ask each individual patron What car they have in the lot? Have the staff check the restrooms? He didn’t. You know why? Because if he doesn’t tow someone he doesn’t make money! That law would stop him from having to bend and break the rules so he can pay his rent, bills, ect. Then he could just do his job, the way it should be done. It’s the same reason Cops shouldn’t have ticket quota’s. Enforcers of any kind should be bribed into fining people. Imagine what it would be like if cops got to keep the money from the tickets they write. You want to live in THAT world? Because I don’t.

    • Lemony-Fresh says:

      @Pylon83: Sorry, but I gotta admit that Pylon83 has some good points.

      Also:

      “Of course government regulation is needed because LEGITIMATELY parked people are getting towed.”

      Yeah, there already IS government regulation – it’s called “car theft”. Why add more intrusive laws? If a scummy tow truck driver tows a legally-parked car, he should be arrested for theft. Why not just enforce the laws that already exist?

    • redkamel says:

      @Pylon83: or people shouldn’t be super duper anal.

      I parked overnight at a breakfast place (that only holds about 10 people) so I wouldnt drive home drunk. Came back 30 minutes before the opened. They’d towed my car. They had plenty of spots. When I asked the lady why, she just shrugged.

      Or people who try to claim the street in front of their house is private parking. Your garage is full of your junk. You dont have a parking spot anymore. Deal with it.

      I think they should have no tow-away spots at all, trucks only come when called, and patrol cops who hand out fat tickets. That way you can at least appeal since they usually take photos of your car, and only ticket if you are actually impairing a road or something. If a store cares that much they should call the parking patrol cops to come figure out whats going on.

  3. Sandlapper says:

    Finally.

    Really, what idiot in the state house let it get like this to begin with?

    (Wait. This is government we’re talking about. Never mind.)

  4. Yankees368 says:

    Some people, like the 2nd poster, are missing the point. A lot of the time, people are towed while LEGALLY parked, doing nothing wrong. An example is the story about the guy at starbucks. These towing scum decide to come in and randomly tow cars with little or no warning, even when they are legally parked. Down with predatory towing!

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    He may have yabbered something about an “an incentive-based system to perform.” Regardless, the effect is the same.

    This is the same situation that Wall Street was in before the collapse. Thinking about instant gratification (money/short term goals), without regards for the future, consequences, or victims of their actions, until of course the day of reckoning comes and they lose all the toys they amassed from their nefarious actions.

    • Sheogorath says:

      @Blueskylaw:
      Except the ones who got the most benefit from the Wall Street scam are living it up in the Bahamas and chuckling about the suckers they stuck in as placeholders who took the fall.

    • ScottRose says:

      @Blueskylaw: I like how Consumerist is taking liberties with the use of quotes.

      Kinda like being told you’re getting 3.99% APR.

  6. Dracoster says:

    Nobody else reacting to the “any car, any time” bit?

    The way I read, he says he approves towing of random cars, parked legally or not.

  7. TVarmy says:

    So what’s the 100% libertarian view on this? It seems to me that if a company is expected to do something too specific, they get overzealous. Maybe if the company was responsible for maintaining the roads, parking spaces and traffic throughput, it’d be better. Or is there a natural system that stops this kind of thing from happening, even with companies that just tow?

    • abbamouse says:

      @TVarmy: I’m no libertarian, but I suspect that their view would be that

      A. Property owners should be able to contract for towing (as in the status quo)

      B. Towing companies can pay their drivers however they want (as in the status quo)

      BUT

      C. Tow trucks and their drivers are not exempt from vehicle-theft statutes, so an illegal tow = criminal charges. The car is private property, after all.

      • Alisha Gray says:

        @abbamouse: That’s pretty much right, for me at least. I consider predatory towing to be on the same level as grand theft auto, and it’s all the more galling that the police will usually take the side of the criminal.

        • joellevand says:

          @Divals: @TVarmy: Pretty much it for me, except that I’d add that we, the consumer, can also say a big “F You” to any company whose lease-holder engages in such practices.

          For example, that Starbucks might close or renegotiate its lease agreement to exclude the tow company if it started losing business because no one wanted to deal with the bullshit towing. Voting with your wallet and all that.

          It’s a bit different, naturally, with the assisted living home mentioned — there your only recourse would be a complaint for grand theft auto. And dragging their scummy asses into court — costing them time and money — might stop their practices. Plus a civil suit. Plus sanctions by the state/city (AKA a civil penalty) in addition to damages paid to the car owner in such suits.

          But regulating how a company pays its employees is just wrong. Period.

    • Firethorn says:

      @TVarmy: @abbamouse:

      Moderate libertarian here,
      About the only thing I’d add to abbamouse’s listing is that contractual terms would have to be clearly posted in the lot specifying causes for towing; including the enforcement method, especially if it might require action while in the premises, like responding to a license call.

  8. rpm773 says:

    If my car was towed while I was at Starbucks, I’d make sure the manager caught hell in such a manner that his other customers would know about it. For fear of losing business or retaliation from the regional director, the manager then makes it right. Perhaps if this happened enough times, he would institute a different policy with the towing service requiring managerial approval. That should be all it takes to solve the problem.

    Do we really need a state law for this, or is it just people have to speak up when they’ve been wronged (as starbucks guy in the OP was).

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @rpm773:

      You can’t rely on word of mouth for things like this, yes, you need a state law.

      The only way word of mouth would be enough is if managers of businesses who employ predatory towers started dying in their sleep. You throwing a tantrum in the store isn’t going to carry very far.

      • rpm773 says:

        @TechnoDestructo: Well I can certainly vote with my feet and not shop there if my car were towed. I’m willing to bet every customer towed, wrongly or otherwise, equals at least one lost customer. And if the towers are as predatory as reported, that Starbucks is going to lose a lot of business quickly.

        No state law needed.

        • PriceIsWrong says:

          @rpm773:
          The problem I see with that is it can cost a lot of innocent people a lot of money up front.

          I’m fine with tow companies getting paid on commission, the problem I have with it is the predatory habits they exhibit such as in the Starbucks story. There is no justifiable excuse for that kind of behavior.

          If anything, there should be some sort of clause for those who have been unjustifiably towed to be able to get there car back for free with some sort of affidavit from the store their vehicle was towed from, like parking validation.

          I’ve never personally had a problem with getting towed, but I’ve seen and avoided the areas that are notorious for it as well.

    • selianth says:

      @rpm773: The thing is, many times the store owners don’t own the lots, and are not the ones signing the contract with the towing companies. A lot of times it’s property owner thinking their tenants (the store) want this kind of thing.

      • joellevand says:

        @selianth: Right. And when you vote with your wallet, they learn quickly that it’s NOT what the tenants want.

        @PriceIsWrong: There is–it’s called a civil suit. I have no idea why people are dancing around the fact that the Starbucks guy has a pretty clear-cut case for civil litigation.

        @TechnoDestructo: A: you clearly haven’t worked retail. One dissatisfied customer statistically turns into a net loss of 10 customers. If you work retail, they teach that on Day One. I imagine the way the InterTubes is now, it’s more than that. B: No, you don’t need litigation to tell companies how to run their business; most will find other ways to skirt the law. The only thing businesses listen to is the bottom line; you have to fuck with that to effect change. Government agencies can be bribed; customers usually can’t.

  9. Anonymous says:

    My God people, we should praise this tow truck driver for his hero like actions. When most people would see a Meals on Wheels delivering free food to needly elderly people this hero saw something not right and took action when most people normal decent folk would look the other way.Today he did his part in the War on Terror, today he drew a line in the sand, and today he said Let Freedom Reign!!! and did his God given right to defend our Laws and our way of life in this country. God Bless America and God Bless him.

  10. coren says:

    Let them keep it commission based – and then have heavy fines for breaking the rules.

    Tow trucks are a racket anyway – my brother got in an accident where he flipped the car (how, I don’t know, but other than some minor cuts and glass in his hair, he was fine). The responding officer didn’t tell us that they have a “system” where they call whichever company is next up on the list of local companies. Oddly enough, it was the most expensive one in the area with high storage fees and one that wouldn’t tow to our house (which was much closer than the tow yard).

    Come to find out that this same company seems to get called to all accidents after a certain hour. Anecdotal evidence, yeah, but pretty compelling when you’ve talked to a dozen people, 3 of whom had accidents on the same night, within 2 hours of each other. For the “system” to be honest, there’d have to have been no less than 7 accidents requiring a tow in 2 hours.

    • tbonekatz says:

      @coren:

      In most places you are allowed to use a tow company of your choice. But if you don’t make a choice, then it goes to the driver up in the rotation. Best to do a little research on them and have one in mind, just in case.

    • tinmanx says:

      @coren: I was towed after my car broke down on an NYC highway before, and the tow truck driver told me they are the only company allowed by law to tow in that part of the highway. Monopoly, in other words. It cost around $250 for a 15 min tow, the itemized list said something like $100+ for the lift and another $100+ for taking the car off.

      The driver was certainly a nice guy, but I think that’s a rip off. But then cars are pretty reliable these days, and they have to make a living. Plus, the road side assistance on my insurance sent me a check to cover the tow after I filed a claim. So it’s all good.

  11. runchadrun says:

    My mom was towed illegally here in California and she took the tow company to small claims court (they settled out of court) and we discovered some interesting things about tow laws.

    The tow truck operators claim they are regulated under federal law, not state law. Amazingly enough, they say they are regulated under the FAA Act, which has a provision to make air carriers’ truck fleets (like FedEx) on the same regulatory level as non-air carriers and that they can only be regulated by the federal government. Under this interpretation of the law, other than basic safety regulations, the tow companies are not governed by state laws. Tow companies have been very successful in using this to defend themselves in court.

    There is something floating around Congress which would change this but don’t hold your breath. I believe there is a new FAA authorization bill up this year so hopefully it will get fixed then.

    As for my mom’s case she got some of her money back when she settled out of court, and the rest when the LA city attorney filed fraud charges against the tow operator. The charges weren’t that they were towing people illegally, but that they were defrauding people. The tow operators lost their license, had to pay restitution, and do 100+ hours of roadside trash pickup.

  12. Tamar Weinberg says:

    Just Oregon? They could use this kind of thing in New York also.

  13. savdavid says:

    Companies are owned and operated by people. People are flawed. Some people are inclined to be extremely selfish, greedy to the extent they hurt other people. There is no such thing as a free market place since not everyone will act for the greater good or use good judgement. Laws should exist to protect us from those who will not use fairness and good judgment (some laws are made to protect certain businesses which insures there is no free market, by the way). Yes, laws can and are flawed as they are made by humans. So, you can have people getting rich as they hurt others because they can without fear of punishment OR you can have some fighting chance against those that would get rich and hurt others out of their selfishness. Take your pick. I pick laws.

    • Mentalpyro says:

      @savdavid: Well said. For the slow folks like me I put it like this.

      It is illegal to shoot them for stealing your car.

      So it should be illegal for them to steal your car

  14. Shivved says:

    Sorry, but I don’t really understand how the Starbucks guy was illegally towed. It seems that there is a system in place to verify who is parked legally and who is parked illegally. By not speaking up when his license plate number was called, he left the tow company with the impression that he was illegally parked. That being the case, the tow driver did his job and towed away a car that he reasonably believed was parked illegally.

    Does that suck? Of course. But sometimes mistakes happen. Maybe next time he’ll pay a little more attention when a tow driver comes into a business he is patronizing.

    • chris_d says:

      @Shivved:
      That’s completely ridiculous. There’s no way in hell I would patronize an establishment where I constantly had to be listening to see if my car was about to be towed. Most of the time when I visit the coffee shop I’m there to get some coffee and work on something. Last time I was there I was working on learning some new software development tools. That requires some concentration. I don’t want to be constantly on edge worrying about whether or not my car will be there when I’m ready to leave.

    • Aladdyn says:

      @Shivved: Im not sure anyone said he was towed illegally. Im surprised that anyone would try to blame him for the mistake though. Well not surprised, disappointed.

    • dddoistutter says:

      @Shivved: Are you kidding?!? As numerous comments pointed out, if the car owner was listening to music/hearing impaired/taking a phone call/in the bathroom, he would not have heard his plate called. Furthermore, not everyone even knows their license plate by heart.

      Those things, in this context, add up to a decidedly fishy business agreement.

      • b.k. says:

        @dddoistutter: While we don’t have predatory towing around here, we do have a lot of parking problems. Patrons for a restaurant or bar will often park in what are reserved spots for people who live in the neighborhood. That gets annoying for residents, and because of that most businesses have TONS of signage explaining exactly what spots are for public parking, when they can park there, and warning that they will most definitely be towed if they leave their vehicles parked inappropriately. Friends of mine who liked to laugh about how they were ignoring the warnings only had to get towed once to learn that those signs weren’t just there for decoration.

        So unless the Starbucks had that sort of explicit “Starbucks Patrons ONLY!” sign, I don’t know why anyone would have any fear of getting towed in the first place. And if you don’t know that it’s a possibility, why would you be paying any attention to some crazy person shouting out random numbers in a coffee shop?

    • nightshade74 says:

      @Shivved:

      I’ll restate that it is ridiculous. What about the
      patron in the bathroom? Does it violate the ADA
      is you have a hearing impaired person’s car towed?

    • ColoradoShark says:

      @Shivved: How about if he was taking a dump in the bathroom? Did the tow truck operator stick his head in there and call out the license number? What about if the tow truck operator and car owner were opposite sex, should he go in the wrong restroom to check?

    • Bog says:

      @Shivved:

      There could be a lot of reasons for not “speaking up…” he could have been in the bathroom. He could be hard of hearing, he could been listening to a walkman. The tow driver did not do due diligence and basically stole the car.

    • coren says:

      @Shivved: Because the parking lot was for customers, he parked there and was a customer, and the notice didn’t say “at random” but rather “not being a customer” as the condition of getting towed. Reasonable impression or not, the car was parked legally, so the tow driver was in the wrong – if he even called out the car’s tags

      • Shivved says:

        @coren: I have a simple question for those saying what I said was ridiculous: How should the tow company go about ascertaining who is parked legally and who is parked illegally? I suppose they could go up to every individual patron and ask them. Maybe wait five minutes to make sure there is no one in the bathroom. At the end of the day though, there is no way of enforcing it without some kind of system that relies on entering stores and figuring out who’s who. Without that you might as well not post any signs in the first place and hope there are enough spots for actual customers when it’s busy.

        I also have another question: Why is everyone dumping on the tow company? Their methods are obviously approved by the building owner. If you have a problem with anyone, it should be with the guy who hired the tow company in the first place.

        • mythago says:

          @Shivved: That’s the whole reason that “tow patrol” is just begging for abuse. The way the system SHOULD work is that the tow has to be called in. Then the incentive is for the business owner to remove improperly parked cars – not for the tower to pretend legally-parked cars are “illegal” because, shit, he gets a commission either way so who cares?

          Most business owners are more than capable of handling this. In malls, there is generally a security patrol that checks how long cars are parked (you know, the guys with the chalk).

        • Cyberxion101 says:

          @Shivved: “I have a simple question for those saying what I said was ridiculous: How should the tow company go about ascertaining who is parked legally and who is parked illegally?”

          If their job is to tow cars that are parked illegally, then that’s something that they ought to know. And if they have no way of confirming that before they tow, then that exposes a huge issue. And IMO, that level of incompetence doesn’t fly, especially when it costs innocent people big money.

    • Sidecutter says:

      @Shivved: The driver complied with the posted requirements, which stated that the parking was for Starbucks customers only. He was a customer and was enjoying his purchase when his car was towed. Unless there were clear, obvious signs posted disclosing that he was expected to answer a tow driver calling out plate numbers to verify himself as a customer, he was under no obligation to do so in order to be parked in compliance with the rules. In which case, he was parked legally, and the tow should definitely be considered theft.

  15. StevePJobs says:

    “or worse, it might be the manager’s car”

    Maybe if that happened a few times…

  16. Kekaha says:

    My car was stolen in SF some years ago. I reported it stolen. A week later I got a notice in the mail that it had been towed from the other side of town.

    When I went to get the release from SFPD, I told them that it had been reported as stolen. Fortunately I knew that the law did not require me to pay for the tow or storage under the circumstances because the police tried to charge me for it.

    The thief had smashed open my steering column so the key mechanism was no longer functional but you could start it by inserting a flat object and twisting. The attendant at the towing lot handed me a screwdriver and said, “Here’s your new car key, courtesy of the people of the City and County of San Francisco.”

  17. fcastro says:

    My question is why do cities have to hire private companies to do city work? Tow truck guys are ruthless but shouldn’t be roaming the streets doing official city business.

    • dddoistutter says:

      @fcastro: In many cases, they’re not doing city business – in the Starbucks example, the company had a contract with the property owner to tow “non-patron” vehicles.

  18. Boberto says:

    I can’t believe Starbucks would contract with a towing company to do this, even under the best of circumstances. What probably did happen was that the landlord of the strip mall/plaza most likely made the tow contract.

    In any event, this is a a really scummy practice. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear more stories about physical violence against tow operators.

    And BTW-the FAA Act is the same law that has allowed the abuses of the moving industry.

    • jwissick says:

      @Boberto: I really doubt it is starbucks. I bet it is the property owner who leases the space to starbucks. I bet HE gets a cut from the tow company, which is why he allows it.

  19. Aladdyn says:

    They should also add in a clause to prevent the worst kind of predatory towing. Ive heard that some towing companies will use scanners to monitor police communications about cars in accidents then show up and pretend to be the towing company that the person has presumably already called for. Of course their rates are much higher than average and people would never use them if they knew.

  20. mlynn5 says:

    I think it’s really dishonest of you to change the end of his quotation like that. I’m sure that his reasoning is evil and greedy, but I’d still like to hear what exactly he said so I can form MY OWN OPINION on the matter.

  21. godawgs7 says:

    Did you really intentionally misquote someone? That’s some real fine journalistic integrity you got there! The operator may be slime, but that’s no reason to put words in his mouth. Give him the rope and let him hang himself.

    “What right does the government have to tell me how I pay my people, whether hourly, salary or commission? I pay my salespeople on commission. I pay my managers on commission. And I pay my drivers on commission. It gives them the incentive they need to tow any car, at any time, with all but the flimsiest of justifications.”

    Ok, we may have embellished that last part. He may have yabbered something about an “an incentive-based system to perform.” Regardless, the effect is the same.

    • coren says:

      @godawgs7: As a joke, yes. Which they then said wasn’t his words. This is a blog, not the NYT

      • ZekeSulastin says:

        @coren: … except it’s in a quote box and it’s not too much to ask that the quote is accurate.

        How quickly do you think the goers of this site would be up in arms if someone pulled a similar stunt using a quote from a Consumerist blogger?

      • ReverendBrown says:

        @coren: It’s bad form, and it’s fair to call them on it.

      • fatcop says:

        @coren: I have far more respect and believe more of what’s posted here than the NYT.

      • that charlie sedarka says:

        @coren: Yeah, I’m in the “bad form” camp here. This practice is bad enough. There’s no reason to sow confusion falsely attributing quotes to people.

        • Cyberxion101 says:

          @that charlie sedarka: Right, because you can’t read the original article can you? I mean, it’s nowhere on the net, and certainly not at the end of the story.

          • that charlie sedarka says:

            @Cyberxion101: Oh please. On what planet is the -existence- of the correct quote any excuse for altering it? This is a consumer blog that daily lashes out against companies for misleading practices. Changing a direct quote in order to sensationalize an issue is incredibly misleading, whether or not a link to the actual quote is provided at the end of the post. Misleading practices are misleading practices, and the Consumerist should avoid them is it wants any credibility confronting them.

    • kev313 says:

      @godawgs7: Just imagine the Consumerist editors’ reaction if someone posted a highlighted, made-up quote attributed to them – and then mentioned in the fine print with an asterisk that it was actually just a joke…

  22. varro says:

    Retriever Towing needs their money. How dare the Oregon Legislature interfere with them! How dare they!

    And about Meals on Wheels, the elderly people shouldn’t have aged so that they need people to bring them food.

    Excuse me…the Citibank jet is pulling up.

  23. wesrubix says:

    land of opportunity is taking a sad meaning. I hope we can stand up for greater things in the coming years.

  24. Cliff_Donner says:

    “Snab”?

  25. Silversmok3 says:

    Im not one to encourage illegal parking, but this bill is a step in the right direction.

    Comission retail sales are good. Comissioned car towing is bad, because the boss and employee have a financial interest in taking cars first, and asking questions later-after getting their $200 tow fee.

    I lived in Chicago, which is a good balance IMO.If you legally park , youre safe. If you park in a lot trying to ‘sneak in’, ‘run inside’, or take up someone else’s paid for parking spot, kiss your car goodbye. As it should be.

    • welsey says:

      @Silversmok3: I don’t want the city of chicago to read this and realize their mistakes, but for the most part unless parked illegally in Wrigleyville (ugh!) I’ve barely even gotten a ticket for breaking parking laws. Then again, I think you may be talking about private lots and I don’t fuck around with those! I had an apartment with paid spots and we never hesitated to call for a tow when someone had parked in our expensive spot, so I always assume everyone else does the same.

  26. Tijil says:

    Carey, purposely mis-quoting in your article is NOT good or legitimate journalism (no matter how “funny”).

    I expect better here.

    Tomas
    –University Place, WA

    • coren says:

      @Tijil: She didn’t claim otherwise.

      • Tijil says:

        @coren:

        Actually the writer DID claim otherwise as soon as she included “…the incentive they need to tow any car, at any time, with all but the flimsiest of justifications” in a published quote attributed directly to the owner of Retriever even if she did admit to it a paragraph later with this:

        “Ok, we may have embellished that last part. He may have yabbered something about an ‘an incentive-based system to perform.'”

        This isn’t, after all, the National Enquirer…

  27. Bog says:

    If someone were tow my legally peaked car, I would take it back and refuse to pay their fee. If necessary I would use force to get the car back and/or make the tow driver unhook the vehicle if I caught him. I have no problem with that. Could there be legal issue with the cops arriving? Perhaps – don’t care. If they are going to be predatory towards me, I WILL be predatory against them.

  28. MooseOfReason says:

    They’ll pick and choose which cars can be towed.

    This isn’t right. All cars should be treated the same. Park legally so you don’t get towed..

  29. trademarked67 says:

    I agree on the misquote. Regardless of how much we all despise the tow truck operator, at least Carey could have left his comment outside of the quotation mark. Just what is the “last part”? The last sentence? At least one person above commented if the tow truck operator said “tow any car, any time…”

    Yes, we realize this is a blog and not the NYT, but it would be nice for The Consumerist to maintain some integrity.

  30. balthisar says:

    Sorry about Andrew. The tow truck company screwed up. He deserves to be compensated for his time. But that’s no excuse to destroy the opportunity for private property to be protected in a private contract. What’s the real *percentage* of screw-ups? It’s got to be small (really, I’d like to know; data is what changes my mind — not sentiment).

    • mythago says:

      @balthisar: The problem isn’t screw-ups; the problem is predatory towing. That is, when there is a financial incentive per car towed, there is a disincentive to insure that the car is in fact illegally parked and should be towed. Preventing predatory towing does not prevent property owners from calling in a tow.

      I know that, you know that, we both know you’re trolling; this is just for the folks at home.

      • balthisar says:

        @mythago: Accusations of trolling? Wow, you’re really a piece of work!
        We’re talking about a private contract between willing parties. As soon as people like you use a word like “predatory,” it becomes an evil, bad thing. Stop and use your brain for a minute. These are private contracts. This is private property. If you follow the property owners’ rules, you won’t normally have problems.

        Except, when you do follow the rules and have problems. In a very un-troll-like manner, I suggested that the towing company and the Starbucks should be held accountable for their mistake. Yeah, accidents happen. Grow up. That’s life.

        Also in an un-troll-like manner, I suggested that real data would be valuable in determining how wide-spread the problem really is. Instead of offering some data in an adult-like manner, you’ve resorted to childish name calling.

        I would suggest you examine who is really the troll.

  31. TheUncleBob says:

    Perhaps the solution isn’t to make it more difficult for those who need to be towed to be towed, but to make it worse for tow truck drivers who two vehicles that are legally parked? Large fines, jail time and suspension of business licenses, maybe?

  32. Anonymous says:

    Now what about those like my nieghbour who is stone deaf.he can still drive(before you think that is dangerous just think of people on phones or with loud radios in thier cars)they would always get towed when that guy comes in and yells.and around D.C. the police will side with the tow driver not you.

  33. EyeintheLAsky says:

    @Pylon -

    Your head must be full of glue. Go back and not only read, but this time try to COMPREHEND what was said in the Starbucks case (among others that helped prompt this action).
    Again – for those with short attention-spans: Predatory towing was also taking place IN the parking lots of businesses where CUSTOMERS were LEGALLY parked.

    That being said, if more Oregonians were to support their second amendment rights – that would help curb this type of illegal action.

    Yes, i said it. You try to steal my car, you run the risk of dying of lead poisioning.

    Kinda hard for someone to operate the controls of a tow-truck properly when it’s raining lead in your direction.

    • mythago says:

      @EyeintheLAsky: Oregon is a “shall issue” state for CCW permits and has very liberal gun laws. Yes, this includes Portland.

      I’d like to think somebody so interested in Second Amendment rights would know that, but you don’t even seem to consider that it’s not legal anywhere to use deadly force to interrupt a tow that you think is illegal, nor is it safe to start “raining lead” in a commercial area crowded with bystanders. this is real live, not Planet GTA.

    • MightyCow says:

      @EyeintheLAsky:
      Really? Vigilante justice is the answer instead of intelligent legislation?

      Shooting someone for stealing your car isn’t justifiable homicide. Enjoy your time in jail for “protecting” your car.

      • jamar0303 says:

        @MightyCow: Who said anything about aiming to kill? In this case it’d be perfectly reasonable to “only” make sure he’s not capable of operating the device used to steal the car anymore.

  34. tinmanx says:

    Why would any sane mall owner/operator have any other kind of contract with a tow truck company other than the “come with we call” kind? Don’t they want people to spend all day in the mall? Folks aren’t going to spend much money at a mall when they have to worry about their car getting towed from the parking lot.

  35. Mentalpyro says:

    I imagine the “come when we call” is offered at a fee to the lot owner, and the hunt contract is free. Just speculation since they make more money with the hunt. I can see the need for towing as I work on the UT Austin campus and stupid students park any and everywhere including nearby businesses. But there is still no reason for this kind of predatory towing.

  36. seamer says:

    For future reference, embellishing what someone didn’t say makes you look just as stupid as they are.

    I hope the staff aren’t under some sort of new writing guidelines where page views of any sort are considered good.

    That would be like a commission on a towed car..

  37. jwissick says:

    I used to have problems with people parking in my parking space at my complex. Now the tow company checks it often and tows any car that is not mine. I support this. Is this predatory? I don’t think so. You park in a permit parking area w/o a permit, you should expect to be towed. I should be able to park in my parking space when I get home and not have to wait a long time for a tow truck to show up to clear it… which forces me to park illegally somewhere else while I wait to get the space I pay to use.

  38. mythago says:

    They wouldn’t. Next?

  39. INsano says:

    Man, I send in the tip and don’t even get so much as a mention in the article or a reply to the tip! Boo on your patron relations Consumerist!

  40. MightyCow says:

    There’s the same predatory towing in San Francisco. It’s nothing but a racket. They tow your car, and you can choose to pay ~$200 impound and get your car out, OR you can contest the towing.

    Unfortunately for you, if you contest, they charge you a “storage fee” while they go over your paperwork, which can take a week or more.

    So either you just pay the extortion money and get your car back, and sign away your rights to any recourse, or you try to fight it, and have to do without your car for a week, while they charge you to hold your car – which they will not let you have back – until they decide if the towing was legal or not.

    Oh, and there’s no oversight, so they are the ones who are deciding wither or not the towing was legal… wonder how they’re going to decide. Now you pay the $200 impound, PLUS the storage fees.

    It happened to a friend of mine. The tow companies should be charged with a crime for this mafia-style business. It’s disgusting.

  41. TrevorYYC says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying these guys should be shot… but I am just guessing there isn’t much of a predatory towing problem in Texas

  42. mythago says:

    @Pylon83: When you’re always sounding the same note, people aren’t interesting in playing second fiddle.

  43. bonzombiekitty says:

    My girlfriend was visiting her friend a couple months ago. There was no street parking available, and her friend told her to go ahead and park in the apartment parking lot, since it was after 8PM and they “never tow after 8PM”. Since the apartment office was closed, they couldn’t get a temporary parking pass, but they informed the security guard of this. The security guard said it was OK.

    At 10PM the towing company patrolling the lot comes by and decides to tow her car. The tow truck guy talked with the security guard and was told not to tow the car. It was towed anyways. My girlfriend found out about the tow only minutes after it happened and called the towing company up. But it was after 10PM, and the lot was closed, and even though the guy was only a couple blocks away, they wouldn’t come and bring the car back even if she paid them.

    The next day we went to get the car, she was charged the towing fee, 2 days of storage (even though the car had been there for just over 12 hours), service fee, late night towing fee, plus tax. What should have been a $150 tow according to the sign, cost over $250.

  44. felixgolden says:

    I was working for a delivery business that had a small private lot attached to the building. Since there were other tenants of the building, they used to park in our lot, even though it was for our use only. We contracted with a towing company to keep the lot clear for our employees. The first night of the contract, someone from the tow company was to come by to install a sign and give use permits for our cars.

    Someone shows up in a tow truck, pounds the sign into the ground at the entrance to the lot and proceeds to hook my car up. One of the drivers runs inside, grabs me and we run outside. The driver refuses to drop my car unless I pay him over $100, despite the fact that I keep informing him that I am the manager on duty and I am supposed to be parked there. I call the owner of business, who comes rushing down and starts arguing with the driver as well. We call the tow company, who then contact the driver, but he still refuses to drop the car. Fortunately, one of our drivers blocked the exit so the tow truck couldn’t leave. Finally we call the police, who get the guy to drop the car. Needless to say, we immediately canceled the contract and called a different tow company who would only come down at our request.

  45. Saboth says:

    Towing should be limited to cars that present a problem, like parked in a lot for a full day, or broken down, etc. At the very least they should have to try to make contact with the driver before towing.

  46. tellervision says:

    Seems like a simple and consumer friendly solution would be to put up a clipboard at the entrance and have people sign in with their license plate number. Then Mr Towtruck Driver would have to check the list before towing vehicles and the customers can conduct their business w/o worrying about an improper tow.

  47. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    @Pylon83: Again, you seem to be failing to understand how abusive abusive towing is. These companies frequently prey on parked cars they KNOW are parked legally and legitimately. In some cities, massive kickbacks are made to property owners and to local government to prevent consumers from having any way to pursue their complaints.

    I live in a city now where if you get towed, yeah, you probably deserved it, and your car’s probably been sitting there illegally for a week straight. If I see a car getting towed, I assume it broke down or it got abandoned. But I grew up in a city where predatory towing was an ENORMOUS problem, to the point where parking was a complete crapshoot. You had no idea if you car would be there when you got back. It gets THAT BAD. When I see a car getting towed there, I assume someone’s about to get screwed out of $300.

    (Moreover, I’m thinking towing a deaf person’s legally and legitimately-parked car in a city with a predatory towing problem is a straight ticket to an ADA lawsuit, since you’d be hard pressed to argue your company made a “reasonable” accommodation when it routinely fails to make “reasonable accommodation” for hearing people or to obey the law.)

  48. mizmoose says:

    I’m fine with managers/owners being allowed to structure their tow-truck employees pay scale as they see fit as long as there’s a mechanism for them to be fined and/or punished for overzealous employees.

    You want to pay on commission? Fine, but you also take the responsibility for the results.

  49. paradisefound24 says:

    What’s wrong with requiring that a tow for a car – even if it’s illegally parked – be called in by either an officer, a resident of the area, or the manager of the business that owns the parking lot?

    If the car’s illegally parked, they know they’re taking a risk. Obviously, however, tow operators are towing people with permission to be there. But why should we require that cars be towed if they’re not in anyone’s way?

  50. SteveZim1017 says:

    towing needs to be regulated because they charge you for the tow whether the reason for the tow was valid or not.

  51. dancing_bear says:

    “What right does the government have to tell me how I pay my people”

    Gee it turns out the government is very successful at telling you how to pay people Mr. Towtruck Dumbfuck. The government, both state and local, it turns out, have made nearly all the rules setting the foundation for how companies can and cannot pay employees. Go figure.

  52. ekasbury says:

    Thank you Oregon. About bloody time. And Consumerist, you really shouldn’t edit anything written in quotes – not to be a journalism ethics nut, but it’s a bit disingenuous to attribute words to someone that were never said (regardless of the disclosure you made after the quote).