Thursday, October 30, 2008

Unethical "Fee Splitting" Practice Banned In New York State Photo

"Fee splitting" is when a business with a parking lot and a predatory towing company both get a cut of the take, looking upon citizens who happen into lots--often poorly and deceptively marked--as human prey.

According to an article in, The good, decent, and visionary legislators who sponsored this law are...

State Senator Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenburg (D-Long Beach). Clearly, in the State of New York there is bipartisan support for stopping predatory towing. Yes, even right before Election Day! But the idea, according to the article, actually came from Oyster Bay Town Clerk Steven Labriola.

Other reform measures in the bill, according to the article:

1.) Listing the name and location of the towing company. (They didn't already do that? Good lord, and I thought New York was leading the curve in most regards. I guess Minneapolis was way ahead of New York on this one)

2.) Lot owners have to be present when a vehicle is towed.

3.) Local governments can have stricter regulations against the lots. (I hope many local governments in New York state take this and run with it!)

The unfortunately-named town of "Hicksville" is mentioned in the article as a place infamous for predatory towing.

Take note of the term: FEE SPLITTING. It's now illegal in New York. It SHOULD be illegal in all 50 States, the terrorities, and (let us not forget) Canada.

But I seriously doubt if the Canadians--whose humane towing practices are the stuff of legend--would ever allow this kind of thing to crop up in the first place.

The End Of An Evil Towing Empire In Springfield, Mass. (Or Is It?) Photo

Springfield is terminating its contract with the Springfield "Towing Alliance" as of midnight tomorrow, according to an article in The Republican. An earlier article gives more background.

One of my own sources (and I do have some) recently spoke to police in that city and...

...reports police said they have "good documentation of fees and expenses" and there is "no way" the Towing Alliance is coming back. I don't know, though. The whole "alliance" struggle reminds me of Star Wars and there is ALWAYS a sequel, even if it's to be found on the Cartoon Network. The defeated side will lick its wounds, then create a big...towing death star thingie or...something.

However, in the meantime, a judge in Superior Court is ordering records preserved while reviewing the dispute. The "Towing Alliance" isn't going to make this pretty, and apparently hopes to sue its way into the good graces of city officials. I have to say it's kind of nice to see city officials--who are so often the ones who unleash predatory towing entities on citizens--experiencing the bare knuckle, aggressive, mean-spirited tactics which so often citizens are left to endure alone.

Yeah, Springfield City Government...check out the ugly face of predatory and abusive towing. Incredibly--and the article reported this without a hint of irony or humor--the Towing Alliance wants $3.2 million in compensation for vehicles stored AT THE CITY'S OWN TOWING YARD ON CHANDLER STREET.

Outrageous. I hope there is a counter-suit looming.

The city is trying to get a restraining order to allow access to computerized records. Yeah, well, this is what happens when all the parties in the system don't have access to the same data base, including the citizens whose cars are towed who are trying to locate their vehicles.

Again, another ugly, painful and expensive lesson for Springfield, Massachusetts. I just hope the Towing Alliance gets the worst of it, in the end. I have a feeling they will.

Passaic, New Jersey, Stands Up To Aggressive Towing photo

Appalling stories of aggressive towing have led the city of Passaic, New Jersey to increase the price of parking tickets, but (quite sensibly) refrain from towing vehicles during street cleaning days, according to North Jersey Dot Com.

City drivers are...

...reportedly "applauding" the new system, where fines for parking go from $37 to $74, still much cheaper than getting towed.

Notably, the difficulties citizens have in Passaic seem to revolve more around TIME than MONEY, since the inefficient retrieval process takes many hours and some people are forced to take off the whole day. Councilman Chaim Munk helped lead the reform, and so gets a positive mention from this blog. Oily thumbs up to ya, Chaim!

These imperfect but positive reforms are the result of hundreds of residents in the city's Third Ward signing a petition against aggressive towing after the city changed parking rules to clean streets and keep storm drains free of debris.

The aggressive towing company which helped cause all the trouble--Raineri's Towing Company--wasn't commenting for North Jersey Dot Com. No surprise there.

Passaic, New Jersey proves that a petition with just a few hundred signatures can actually lead to positive towing reforms. Be inspired, citizens. Be very inspired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Predatory Towing King Of Frederick, Maryland Cries "Police Harassment" Photo, Frederick, Maryland

The police in Frederick, Maryland sound like they're doing a great job, making a vigorous effort to keep Clint "Predatory Towing King" Hoffman from running rampant. So what does the Predatory Towing King do...

According to this article, he cries "police harassment" and tries to catch incidents on videotape of his "victimization." Despite being more hated in Frederick, Maryland than people who don't scoop pitbull poop, Clint is running for MAYOR.


I guess this must be a town where the position of dogcatcher isn't up for election.

If Clint Hoffman were running for Mayor, and a ham sandwich were running against him as a write-in candidate, I'm sure the ham sandwich would win, by a landslide. But on a positive note, whine-baby Clint Hoffman just caused me to write my very first Maryland entry, and put that state on the "Towing Utopia" road map.

Graffiti, Vandalism, Filth, Panhandling And PREDATORY TOWING In Ashville, South Carolina photo, Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, North Carolina wants to attract tourists, so they're having a meeting to talk about some negative things that might drive tourists away...

Their list of civic concerns discussed in this article, click here, made my day: Graffiti. Vandalism. Filth. Panhandling. And Predatory Towing.

Asheville needs to work on the listing order a little more, though. Which one of these things costs tourists the most? Which one makes a visitor to the city vow, "I'll never go there again?" Yup, predatory towing.

List predatory towing FIRST, I say.

As with substance addiction, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward getting help. I sure hope Asheville manages to lick its predatory towing habit.

(Naked, obese cherubs? Nah...not really an issue for most folks)

San Antonio Hides Its Dirty "Texas Towing" Laundry photo

After a blistering exchange some months ago about about the deficiencies of "Texas Towing," which I blogged about here, San Antonio inexplicably renewed its contact with the firm and appeared reluctant to air its dirty laundry. Local media... the reporter who wrote this article, click here, were mystified, and said so openly. Was any of the rancor sincere, or was it all a negotiating strategy? Or did the city government just back down in the face of a powerful monster they themselves have created, with plenty of money to pay lawyers and drag this matter out in court FOREVER?

I vote for the second one.

Death Of A Towing Dream In Ohio photo

Danny Birt of Gahanna, Ohio, dreamed of being a tow truck driver. So he did what a lot of folks do who have that precious childhood dream: Danny he got himself a tow truck, and started holding cars for ransom. The only problem was...

According to this article, click here, Birt "towed cars from private lots without the consent of the owners and impounded the vehicles until their owners paid him a fee."

Uh huh. Well, isn't that what tow truck drivers do EVERY DAY? Apparently, Danny Birt and his company, On-Demand Towing, got away with it about TWENTY TIMES before he got caught. And no, Danny wasn't an IMPOSTER. He was just...too enthusiastic.

So Birt will have to do a year's probation. The real punishment, I suppose, is the death of his dream.

OR IS IT? Now that Birt's been convicted of stealing cars, he may be a lot more qualified to get a real job in the business of predatory towing. Oh, wait...he already has one!

Mob Justice--Internet Style!

I made a point of submitting a review for On-Demand Towing at a merchant's site. If you are treated badly by a business--not just a towing business, but any business--use the power of the internet to air your grievance. Let me tell you, it was a good feeling to write the first review of On-Demand Towing, and let people know Danny Wirth is on probation.

"The Alliance" Is Defeated In Springfield, Mass.

Photo By John Hoff, Star Wars Trivial Pursuit

The situation with the "towing alliance" in Springfield, Massachusetts has finally come to a head, and it looks like a humiliating retreat toward the Ice Planet of Hoth or wherever an "alliance" in defeat goes...

Here's the article which discusses how the City of Springfield invoked its right to terminate with 30 days notice, no need to state a cause, though in fact there was documentation of something like 17 violations. I blogged about this twice before, click here and also here.

Usually, the Springfield blog known as "The Intruder" weighs in on these issues involving the "towing alliance" after the mainstream media in Springfield break the story. I'm guessing the pattern will continue, and in a few days or a week The Intruder will have an obsessive level of detail for those of us who require it.

Predatory Towing Reform May Happen In Rexburg, Idaho Photo, BYU Rexburg, Idaho

It only took a decade of complaints from victimized students, most of them from BYU-Idaho. What is the lesson in this? Well,...

If reform takes a decade, better start complaining RIGHT NOW.

According to this article, the proposed ordinance in Rexburg, Idaho aims to address towing concerns at a particular apartment complex, where tow trucks have ranged freely, snatching cars. Now, a representative from the apartment complex will have to be on-site, no more "patrol towing." And there will be an appeals board, too.

It sounds like a good model, especially for what sounds like a rather small town situation. I hope some sympathetic people get on the board. Indeed, students who were victimized should make a point of "packing the board," if at all possible.

This is my first post about Idaho, and it's a great way to put that state on the "Towing Utopia" road map!

Following Threads Of Info, Blog-O-Sphere Gets The Dirt On "Lone Star Towing" photo

A blogger who is part of something called "Barking Dogs" has very little sympathy for people who get towed, but despite that huge flaw in his character, this guy dug up an amazing amount of dirt about Lone Star Towing, and how the company appears to be slapping on illegal surcharges and putting this money right in their pockets...

Click here for a link to the blog posting, "Dallas-area towing service ripping people off, $43 at a time." The "Barking Dogs" blogger in question continues to solicit documents about Lone Star, in particular the dubious surcharges. Lone Star Towing is the same company involved in the suspicious incidents at the Cotton Bowl, which I blogged about here and also here.

Predatory Towing Justice--TEXAS STYLE!!!! photo

Thanks to the media--and certainly no other reason--numerous auto owners who were towed during the Texas State Fair will get refunds. I blogged about it a few days ago, but there has been a positive development...

...discussed in this article, click here. In a nutshell: everybody is getting refunds and Lone Star Towing says it was all just a big, unfortunate mistake. Uh huh.

Mob Justice--Internet Style!

As short as this article was, it received a heated response in the online comments section. Here's my cherry-picking of the best comments.

Texasstarsun wrote: Dallas is known for scams like this. I lived a few miles from the Cottonbowl a few years ago.

Irving wrote: The towing company's "pigeon drop" backfired and it blew up in their face. They just didn't figure on it making front page news.

Shaun3342 wrote: (In regard to the towing company offering a $1,000 reward for arrest of the persons who set up the "parking scam") Start the investigation under your own roof. It's as comical as O.J. looking for "the real killers."

Hautedame wrote: This is not a new game for the towing companies. I had this happen once years ago in College Station while parked on the street in front of my own home. It was game day and some sorry towing company came through, put up their own flimsy little signs, and towed my car. We fought it but the police were no help. The hard reality was that the towing company held the car for ransom and we had to cough up cash to get it back.

Jane71 wrote: While I was living in Dallas, my care broke down on the side of the street two blocks from my I walked home and called a towing company to take it to a garage. Lo and behold, the towing company I called out took my car to the city impound instead! The impound told me the towing company ignored my instructions because they could make $10 more taking it to the impound, as though it happens all the time!

I called the towing company to give them a piece of my mind. They said if they see a car parked on the side of the street, then they are within their legal right to take it to the impound, regardless of whether I called the towing company or not. For the towing company to make the extra $10, it cost me $200 in pound fees, plus another $50 to have the car towed from the pound to the garage.

Just The Fax wrote: I'm willing to bet my last dollar against a donut hole that Lone Star Towing has their fingers right in the middle of things. All the media pressure and accusations caused the wrecker company to act like they were innocent about the situation and will do the right thing by refunding the money.

"Those To Whom Evil Is Done Do Evil In Return"

Photo by John Hoff, Bedlam Theater

Word comes of a disturbing incident at a towing company lot. A man who was not allowed to retrieve his medicine and was told to leave came back. He came back with an AK-47...

The story is told here, click at this link, and note how the facts related about what the man was told about getting his property shifts. Truth is a slippery thing in the best of times, but these are clearly not the best of times as the smoke clears and blood pools on pavement.

One of version of the story says the guy was told he had to leave the property, and he should go, and police were called about an "unwanted guest." Yeah, an "unwanted guest." More like a guy desperate to retrieve his meds from his vehicle, very likely the medicine which helps to shut off the voices in his head telling him to do bad stuff. Another version of the story--and you can compare the two, side by side at this link--says the man was told he had to return with "proof of ownership."

Yeah, well...a lot of people carry that stuff IN THEIR CAR, don't they?

I do not approve of this kind of violence. I don't even approve of the cartoon antics of Angle Grinder Man, click here. But a few nights ago I was watching "Body of Lies" and the movie started with a quote by the poet W.H. Auden, who said, "I and the public know/ What all schoolchildren learn/Those to whom evil is done/ Do evil in return."

What Do These Two Stories Have In Common?

In for a dime, in for a dollar. Click here for a story about a 20-year-old woman who tried to torch a tow truck making off with her vehicle. What do these two stories have in common? Other than a common theme of violence in the face of predatory towing?

In both cases, individuals in the comment sections of the stories took a similar stance. 1.) Condemning the violence, 2.) Stating basic variations on the words of W.H. Auden. People don't go over the edge all by themselves. Somebody pushes them there.

A Third Version Of Events

I came upon yet another article, click here, with yet ANOTHER version of events about what happened in regard to the guy fetching the medicine. In that version of events, he said the medicine belonged to his daughter, and she needed it or she'd die in three hours.

The towing company turned him away. And that's when he came back shooting.

So there are three possibilities, here:

1.) It was true. 2.) It wasn't true, but he believed it was. 3.) He didn't think it was true, and it wasn't true, but he said it anyway...perhaps because he was just really, incredibly desperate to get what was in the vehicle.

No matter what was the truth...there was no reason to turn the guy away. And, yeah, he was a psycho. All the more reason to treat him with kindness and respect. This state should consider something like the "Let People Get Their Stuff Back Law."

Anatomy Of A Portland Towing Empire Of Greed Photo

In the state of Oregon, Sean Cruz continues to lead the fight against predatory towing, not just by digging up facts himself but by providing a forum for those with inside information to come forward and spill the beans.

Click here to read all the dirty details about how Mr. Gary Coe has created an empire of automotive misery, owning a grubby stake everywhere in the "towing to auto auction life cycle." Airing information like this...

...may allow individuals in other parts of the country to begin to perceive patterns in their own neck of the woods.

Great work, once again, by "Blogolitical Sean."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Texas State Fair Creates Opportunity For Abusive Towing

According to this article, city officials in Dallas are investigating allegations that citizens were overcharged after their cars were snatched from spots near the Texas State Fair, whose symbol is "Big Tex," above. The drivers thought...

...they were parking in legal spots, but got towed by Lone Star Auto Services whose representative, Anna Casey, says the company "did nothing wrong" even though, gee, they charged $200 and there are limits to what can be charged.

Hint, hint: It ain't $200.

"Cyber Activists" Rip Into Lone Star Auto Services

Some "cyber activists" have already submitted scathing reviews about Lone Star Auto Services on the internet, submitting some interesting details and allegations. And, I hasten to add, these are ALLEGATIONS. But according to Darryle Smitth (sic) it was Lone Star ITSELF which offered the paid parking lots to fair goers "near the Cotton Bowl." After the lots were full and people were gone to the fair, Lone Star posted "no parking signs," towed the cars, and charged $200 for folks to get the cars back.

Boycott Suggested Of Flying J In Dallas

Another poster, t3ucking (sic) said trucks were unfairly towed by Lone Star from the Flying J truck stop in Dallas, including a tow which cost $1253 for 14 miles. The poster urges the public not to patronize the Flying J truck stop in Dallas because the business is ultimately responsible for calling in predatory towing companies.

I will say this: the last time I was at a Flying J, while doing some commercial driving--and I do--I was treated badly. They told me I could cash one of my employer's checks, then changed their mind, which caused me to have to void the check when I was critically low on company checks as well as--oh, gee--diesel.

I may still patronize a Flying J in the future, if I must, but if I have a choice in the matter I will honor the spontaneous internet boycott and not choose Flying J, out of solidarity with the people (allegedly) victimized by Lone Star Auto Services.

Did A Crooked Cop Embezzle Towing Money In La Puente, California?, La Puente, California

The easy, dirty, messy piles of money associated with poorly-regulated and predatory towing practices inevitably finds its way to somebody's pocket, but not always legally. Does all the wrongdoing come to light, eventually? I somehow doubt it, but in La Puente, California, it appears...

...the secrets have been exposed, and while there is not yet a conviction, there are allegations aplenty. In La Puente.

According to this article, click here, former traffic Sgt. Joe Dyer is accused of stealing nearly half a million dollars. Here's what I want to know: WHAT DID HE DO WITH ALL THAT MONEY? I mean, how shall I put it? THAT'S A LOT OF DOUGHNUTS!

The way it all shakes out: Dyer retired. His supervisor has been "reassigned" but supposedly that had "nothing to do with the investigation." (Oh, pleas!) The police union official--seemingly going through the motions of doing his job rather listlessly--says "We're not accountants, we're not money men" and blames the mess on Dyer's superiors who didn't TRAIN HIM to keep track of all that money.

Oh, like half a million bucks never existed, and just disappeared through--what? Bad bookkeeping? Into one of the many hypothetical "worm holes" of the universe? Or would those be...doughnut holes?

The money, according to the article, came from a $168 administrative fee which the city is supposed to receive every time a car is impounded. Drivers pay the fee at the sheriff's station and get a receipt, which drivers need to get their the place where they pay MORE money. To get their car. Yeah, it all adds up to PUH-LENTY of money.

In La Puente.

But not all the money ended up where it was supposed to. Some records didn't match, and City Manager Carol Cowley was apparently the first person to notice. Now the very public allegation is that a big bite of cheese was ending up in NEWLY RETIRED Police Sergeant Joe Dyer's pocket.

What a mess. But it's hardly unique, and some similar stories of corruption associated with towing fees are right here on this blog.

This is what happens when low-tech methods are used, and information about tows is tightly contained and not made freely available on the internet to all jurisdictions and all people seeking out their vehicles, really THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.

There's a big pile of dirty, dishonest cheese that piles up, and somebody in charge of that cheese is going to cut themselves off a little taste.

Fighting Predatory Towing Creates A Legal Mess In McHenry County, Illinois, McHenry County, Illinois

It started out as a good idea and, who knows, maybe it actually IS a good idea and the reporter is just talking to the wrong people. Who knows?

But one thing is for sure: there's some kind of legal mess in McHenry County Illinois, according to this article, (click here) and predatory towing in COOK County, Illinois is at the icky root of it.

According to...

...the article, some kind of legal "solution" in regard to predatory towing was "imposed" on Cook County, which continues to be one of the most politically interesting places in the country. Click here for a cool story on my OTHER blog about how the sheriff in that Cook County has been refusing to evict renters from foreclosed homes. Other counties, like McHenry, had the choice to "opt in" to the so-called "solution." And some, like McHenry County, did.

But after the counties opted in, they discovered the commission in charge to put it? The deal. Yeah, the commission in charge of THE DEAL was unexpectedly asserting authority over other kinds of towing--including some CONSENSUAL forms of towing. And McHenry County doesn't like that. Now McHenry County wants OUT.

Who do I blame? The commission for overreaching? McHenry County for being too picky? Cook County for creating the mess in the first place?

No. I blame the predatory towing companies who caused this mess in the first place, a mess which apparently led to a messy, not-entirely-satisfactory solution, which the counties are now bickering about.

Oh, the photo? Yeah, I found it on and it was taken in McHenry County, Illinois. Congrats, anonymous drunk wheelbarrow dude. You are now the face of McHenry County, Illinois.

Newark, Delaware Curbs Predatory Towing, Newark, Delaware

According to a relatively recent article in the Newark Post, click here, some towing "horror stories" contributed to a city effort to crack down on predatory towing...

Newark is just the latest example of "predatory and abusive towing consciousness" busting out all over, with government entities and ordinary citizens asserting their right to be free from these civil rights violations. This is my first post about a situation in Delaware, and it's a great way to put that state on the "Towing Utopia" map, even if Newark is usually a place name we associate with...New Jersey. I guess there's one in Ohio, too.

Well, here's what's new in Newark, (Delaware) and maybe other cities might use some of this stuff as a model for their own ordinances:

1.) All towing companies have to be licensed by the city. Yeah, no more prowling the streets with your 1970s muscle car and a filthy tow strap, calling yourself a wrecker-for-hire. Goodbye good ol' days.

2.) Limits on non-consensual towing charges.

3.) No storage fee for the first 24 hours, on federal holidays, or on days when the tow company's storage lot is closed.

4.) Individual towing requests must be faxed during business hours.

5.) One hour grace period before vehicles can be towed from private property during non-business hours.

6.) Be still my foolish heart! A DROP RULE. Vehicle owners who catch their car being towed can reclaim their vehicle on the spot and pay a lesser tow charge. Yeah, better demand a receipt or that stuff will go in the driver's pocket.

7.) Failure to adhere to the rules could cost towing companies AS WELL AS THE PROPERTY OWNERS WHO HIRE 'EM a $500 fine. Gee, I hope that's per violation.

City Councilman Paul J. Pomeroy said it was time to "bring down the hammer" due to the horror stories told by residents. So take courage, citizens of Towing Utopia! Tell your horror stories and hope for "the hammer" to result, though it may take a while.

Unfortunately, some good proposed rules fell by the wayside, including property owners being on site for all tows and a requirement to photograph the parking violation. But it sounds like excellent progress in Newark. I sure hope the rules get ENFORCED, however. The passage of the rules is only a first step. Predatory and abusive towing companies will violate the rules wholesale if nobody is minding the store.