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]
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