Saturday, December 13, 2008

Predatory Towing Is Ruining Tourism In Asheville, North Carolina

Flickr.com Photo

Asheville, North Carolina depends heavily on tourism, but a few predatory towing companies are ruining life for everybody. So Asheville is considering new ordinances, probably modeled on those of Raleigh, North Carolina.

I previously reported about how predatory towing was merely on the table for discussion in Asheville, click here, but an excellent and detailed article by Jason Sandford, click here, fleshes out how...

...a tourist-oriented town like Asheville can be harmed by predatory towing. The article is not merely a window into Asheville, but something of a case study in predatory-towing-meets-tourism industry.

Here are some highlights of the article.

Way To Spoil Asheville For Us

A husband and wife were downtown at a restaurant and--wouldn't you know it--thought a parking lot next to the restaurant was a good place to, well, park. Ha ha. Tourists.

They were having drinks across the street when WHAT did they see? A pink elephant? No, it was their car being dragged away by a tow truck.

What started as a fun night out turned into a tale of misery. After that, the couple stayed in the hotel at the outskirts of town, ate at the Outback steak chain, and refused to dump money in the downtown art shops and eateries.

Big Whopping Lies?

Faced with a proposal to tweak Asheville's laws to look more like the laws of Raleigh, NC, the owner of a local towing company complained about the possibility of being required to accept credit cards and not just cash. He claims--and I find this claim truly incredible, PROVE IT, I say--that "over half of customers reversed charges" back when he allowed credit cards.

Prove it, I say. I find it incredible that 50 percent of the public would be that bold, that innovative, that rebellious, even in the heart of Dixieland where common sense is king and folks know a lot of smart tricks. I'd believe ten percent, even twenty, but FIFTY? Sounds like a big whopper to me. But I'm open to hearing the evidence.

The Ultimate "Tourist Friendly" Solution

So how about using high tech to notify individuals of an impending tow so they can "move it or lose it?" Wouldn't that be the ultimate "tourist friendly solution" to fight predatory towing?

A small town like Asheville couldn't pull something like this off, all by itself. Indeed, even when I propose the "high tech move it or lose it notification" in cities like Minneapolis, where there are a lot of snow emergencies, I usually propose having individuals buy some sort of sticker to place on their vehicle. Such a solution wouldn't be practical for tourists.

But consider this: a whole bunch of tourist towns all getting together, coordinating with entities like "Triple A," to compile a massive list of auto information...enough to notify a lot of tourists (certainly not all, but a lot) of an impending tow if their particular car should be sitting where it's not supposed to sit.

Ultimately, the whole nation should adopt high tech solutions, not only "move it or lose it notification" but also systems to let towed drivers find their car in the system quickly, easily...all over the nation, in a seamless web of information between various jurisdictions.

Ah, yes, that's quite a vision. But in the meantime, maybe there's a way to get Danny Jones of All-Safe Towing to quit preying on tourists cars in Asheville, before he manages to kill what sounds like a really fun and funky downtown.

The Value of Upset Letters To Local Chambers Of Commerce

Oh, by the way...here is yet another instance of a local chamber of commerce reacting to upset letters from the victims of predatory towing. If you are towed in a small town...be sure to vent your spleen on the local Chamber of Commerce, and let them know you're NEVER COMING BACK TO THEIR CRUMMY TOWN AGAIN because of what happened.

Some places might even give you gift certificates and a free hotel stay. And if not, what have you lost? A stamp. What have you gained? An opportunity to make sure your suffering is not borne by you alone, but somehow contributes to the greater good.

Chambers Of Commerce Getting Involved

This article also shows Chambers of Commerce can approach their local government and ask for reforms to prevent predatory towing, and they can get somewhere like that. I hope more Chambers of Commerce will follow Asheville's example.

3 comments:

teecrafter said...

Asheville police just arrested two predator tow truck drivers. They were caught in a sting. You can read more about it in our newspaper, The Asheville Citizen-Times, or on topix thread, "Two Men Charged with Illegal Towing."

Soundguy69 said...

February 27, 2009
Re: Predatory Towing in Asheville, NC
144 Biltmore Ave.
To whom it may concern:
I was a victim of predatory towing last night in Asheville, some friends and I stopped at the Dripolator Coffee House on Biltmore Ave, a cafĂ© that I frequent. We parked in the lot that was designed for the customers of the establishments in that building. My friends and I proceeded to go into the Dripolator and order our beverages, no sooner than I had sat down, a gentleman ran into the Dripolator and exclaimed “There is a mini-van being towed”, I jumped up, ran outside, and saw our vehicle hooked up to the tow truck, mind you, not even on the bed of the tow truck yet. I yelled out, “Whoa, whoa, what are you doing? Stop it! I haven’t even been parked here for a minute yet! Let me move it, and park somewhere else” The gentleman, -and it behooves me to describe him as such- that was on the passenger side of the tow truck said, “It will be $125.00 to get your vehicle unhooked, or if we take it to the yard, it will be $175.00 and $3.00 an hour until you’re able to get it.” I stood there in disbelief for about 30 seconds, before I, again, tried to reason with this guy. Telling him that, “I work at a non-profit organization and that this is a company vehicle, and we just can’t afford to pay this!” Well, of course, he wouldn’t budge, and kept robotically repeating his previous statement. Thank God, one of my friends had a 100 dollar bill on him; I took out my last 20 dollars, and received 5 dollars from another friend. We begrudgingly paid this predator $125.00 cash and received a receipt with no company info, I, then, instructed the Shark to please include all company information, which, in turn, he wrote Davis Automotive & Towing on the top of the receipt. With our vehicle finally free, the tow truck left and the gentleman had the audacity to walk across the parking lot and get into a car that was parked directly behind ours!!! He had been sitting there the entire time, waiting on someone to park in this space! And without a murmur of warning to us about what was about to take place, he patiently waited for us to leave the parking lot and immediately called his crony to come get our vehicle.
There has got to be some law of ethics somewhere that prevents this situation from happening! This guy was parked in a parking space, taking up space for someone else to park, just waiting for the next victim! I wonder how many of these “spotters” are strategically placed around town preying on unsuspected citizens & tourists.
What can be done to prevent this from happening to others?
What’s more, what can I do to seek restitution for my own infuriating encounter?

Sincerely,


J E. Spence
Grazingpangea@yahoo.com

PaperOrchid said...

On my boyfriend's birthday I took him to downtown Asheville for dinner, we parked in the lot near Doc Chez where you fold your money into a tiny bundle and push it through a tiny slot with your spot # on it. We paid for our spot but the machine is not electronic so no reciepts are given. A few hours later we returned to find our car was gone. My first thought was that it had actually been stollen, but just in case I called the allsafe towing # on the sign in the parking lot, sure enough they had our car. We paid $200 cash to get our car back and when we picked it up I asked why it had been towed. The employee smirked and said "you parked in a tow away zone," I said "that's impossible, we were parked in a paid parking spot." He said "prove it," and that was that. Since our parking lot didn't give a little ticket for proof they knew they could illegally take our car without consequence. Terrible, illegal, car snatching, tow sharks. We did not return after that incident as $200 is more than we could afford for a parking space. Not to mention the creepy area they are located in, and the extreme difficulty we had finding it so we could get our car back.