Friday, November 28, 2008

Predatory Towing On The Island Paradise Of Hawaii

Flickr.com Photo

In Hawaii, according to state law as related in this recent "legal advice" article, click here, towing companies can only charge $65 for a tow, or $75 for a tow involving a dolly. They are allowed to charge $7.50 per mile. So you have to wonder how, exactly, a guy who got towed "just around the corner" on Cooke Street paid $145 cash!

I'll bet that...

...he's wondering the same thing.

Here are some other aspects of the law I want to highlight, with credit to the article:

* Storage rates are capped at $25 per day, or a fraction thereof, for the first 7 days, and $20 per day after that.

* Mandatory free drop! If you reach your car while the tower is hooking up the vehicle, he must unhook it, without charge. This is something ALL STATES AND CITIES SHOULD ADOPT and I'm sure glad I've found Hawaii as an example that can be cited.

Why is Hawaii like this? I'm guessing Hawaii is very conscious of its tourist industry, and knows a bad experience means somebody won't be coming back to spend their money. If only other cities and states could be this bright.

* The towing companies must provide a receive stating the maximum towing charges allowed by law, and the telephone number of a consumer information service. All I can say is...wow!

* Towing companies must make payment convenient by cash, credit card or automated teller machine located on the premises. Requiring only cash payments is against the law.

Online Comments Provide Substantive Info

It's hard work mining streams of online comments for any kind of worthwhile info; so often online comments degenerate into stupid and pointless discussions about race, religion, and the superiority of red versus blue. But, in this case, some good information actually turned up, pretty and gleaming, in the bottom of my gold-mining pan.

It seems there is a company called ACE Towing on Makepono Drive. They are out on a place called "Sand Island," so the only way to get there is a $40 taxi ride from downtown or the bus. The bus only goes as far as "OCCC," whatever that is, so after that you have to walk 4 miles.

Then ACE Towing says "only cash." This according to an online commenter called "Dude Aloha Joe," and it is unconfirmed.

Filling In The Towing Utopia National Map

I was worried I'd never see a towing story from Hawaii, and this state would remain terra incognito on my national map. But, it appears, predatory towing is even present in what is supposedly an "island paradise." And this during the very week when I saw my first Hawaii State Quarter.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

My car was towed from a parking lot in Honolulu on Dec 3rd at 3:34pm by Edge Towing & Recovery. I was towed for not putting $1 in an unattended machine that I didn't see because it was in the opposite direction of the office I was going to. I arrived at the parking lot at 3:38pm as the tow truck was pulling away. I immediately called the tow company on my cell phone
and asked them to stop the truck, at which time they told me it would cost $317.50 to get my car, cash only. I didn't know until the next night that they are required by law to accept credit cards.
They said they were taking my car to Kapolei, 24 miles away, even though they have a location much closer on Waialae ave in Kaimuki. I spoke to the dispatcher on the phone for a few minutes while the truck drove away. According to my cell phone log, the call ended at 3:41pm, only 7 minutes after the car was towed.

Then the dispatcher told me the yard where my car would be held is only open between 10am-5pm. Of course these are the hours during which everybody is at work, including me. The next day I left work early at 3:45pm in Hawaii Kai to get to Kapolei by 5pm, but it took until 5:30pm. The tow company then told me I owed another $25 because it went beyond 24 hours. They had towed the car at about the same time of day, so I must have arrived about 20 minutes after the 24 hour period.

My complaints are:
1) The tow company does not take credit card or ATM as the law requires.
2) They charged me a total of $342.50 for a $1 violation, when they could easily have stopped the tow truck or taken it to Kaimuki instead of Kapolei.
3) They charged me $25 for being about 30 minutes beyond the 24hour mark.
4) At no time did they provide the telephone number of a consumer information service as required by law.

Russell said...

I had nearly the same experience and even got the towing company on the phone before the truck made it to the lot, but they wouldn't listen.

Here is a picture of my bill

I even got there the next day and had to wait for thirty minutes while someone came out of the "office".

$371.50

Florian Jaeger said...

Hi, our rental van got towed today. By Ace Towing (same as mentioned above). They charged us $205 ($75 + $25 for the first 24 hours --even though we were there within 2 hours of being towed--, $90 [for an alleged 12 miles of towing -- rather than 9 actual miles], and $15 off-hour charge [it was 11pm]). They did not hand us the receipt before we had paid (the receipt, by law, has to contained the number of the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs).

We had no choice but to pay given that we needed that car and it was late in the night. I had read your blog on the way to the lot, so I was prepared to insist on credit card payment, but it seems that providing an ATM is sufficient according to the article you link to (the article is ambiguous about that point, but the owner of the lot kept insisting this was the case).

They are located in the middle of nowhere (1040 Makepono Street, close to Honolulu Airport). I'd be happy to send a picture of the bill along with pictures of where we parked, which prove that there was no sign visible to us.

Tomorrow I plan to take this issue to the Legal Aid Society for Hawaii (http://www.legalaidhawaii.org/). They have several post on this topic. I hope this is useful. In any case, thanks for putting up the blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Ace Towing is definitely predatory. Best bet is parking with a ticket attendant. These private parking lots are dubious. Even vultures must eat.

Anonymous said...

The only way I can reconcile these outrageous fees and inconvenience, is that even vultures must eat. And there are plenty in Waikiki. My guess is they are more lenient with the tourists, but at the drop of a hat they will tow a local car. Beware of these private lots, as the "security guards" probably call the tow trucks themselves and get a kick back. Vultures.

Chas said...

I have been a victim of predatory towing by both Edge Towing, and ACE Towing (on 2 different occasions) in the past. My story is not much different than the ones written above so I won't bother going into detail.

The Better Business Bureau has issued an F rating for both Edge Towing, and ACE Towing. Will you property owners out there please quit rewarding companies like these with contracts? Both of these companies are scam artists that steal from Hawaii's people!!!