Saturday, January 24, 2009

Defense of the Impound Tower

In the US, there will be 17 million new vehicles and more than 43 million used vehicles sold this year. That's an astounding number if you consider there will only be 4.5 million newborns in the same time period. That's 13 cars built and/or sold for each newborn child in this country this year alone!

Every day we are trying to park more and more cars in less and less space. Add to that the average Americans arrogance in the use of their vehicles & you could reasonably assume that the property owners in this country are under a full blown vehicular assault. I'm not sure how this happened but the American driving public has reached the conclusion that their rights as car owners supersede all others.

Enter, the impound tower. That's me. I don't really like that term, I would rather be known as the tow operator that does non consent towing. My job is to help those weary from the battle property owners regain and keep control of their facilities.

Like the property owner, I am constantly under assault. Many people have the mistaken notion that all tow operators that perform non consent towing are criminals or have criminalistic tendencies. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Of course there are those that look for ways to take advantage of the system but not any more than you would find in any other profession, police included. Because my business is to help these property owners defend their holdings, I not only come under attack by the car owner, but from the media, the local politicians and the police departments that don't agree with what I do even though it's the only solution that works.

The media tends to help feed the frenzy. In a lot of situations, they will word an article to create a false bias against the property owner or towing company who is only trying to defend his holdings or do his job. In every story I have ever read about a car being impounded you can find facts in the story that will lead you to the truth. The media is good at making sure these facts exist but keeping them well hidden among the different emotional levels of the story. To find them, you need to put the emotional grip of the story aside and look only at the content. Here's a perfect example.

This is an ongoing news story in Roanoke. There are bloggers that have taken up the challenge and the saga continues to grow and grow. Read this through to its end. Then come back here and I'll point something out to you.

Spanky Macher

There are three sides to any impound story.

  1. The property owner. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They have businesses that need those parking facilities for their customers whether it be a fast food restaurant, an apartment complex, an office building or just a parking lot. They also have to pay for the upkeep on those lots. Asphalt maintenance is not cheap and the more cars that use the lot the faster the lot decays and needs repairs. For obvious reasons, they generally do not like being in the public eye. The last thing they want is a negative news story that may affect their business. At some point however, they lose control and are forced to act.
  2. The car owner. There are two types of car owners. There are car owners that have respect for other peoples private property and will never have their car towed. They pay attention, heed the warning signs and understand the rule that if you don't own it or have specific permission to use it, you need to stay off it! These types are generally good people. They pay their bills on time, they are upstanding citizens and generally have their acts together. Type two is just the opposite. This car owner's vehicle is always in need of an oil change, the tags are expired, they only do what they have to do to keep moving forward. These are the people that get caught with their pants down around their ankles. When you talk to these people, it's always someone elses fault.
  3. The reporter. What a great story! Human interest and all that. The paraplegic that got his van towed! It sells papers and gets people to watch the nightly news. Usually the title itself incites moral outrage. The only interest that reporter has is to sell his story. These stories are rarely unbiased and most of the time, have little actual content other than the crying pregnant mother that parked at the mini mart because it was 5 steps closer to the burger joint than the parking facility she should have parked in.

This particular story (like all the others) has one fact that is admitted to by everyone. The warning. In this particular case, there is a FOREST of signs on that property warning people to not park there. It is a fact that gets slid under the carpet over and over as they try to attack the owner of the property by saying things like, It's unfair, It's theft, The poor person was a paraplegic, Spanky is just morally corrupt, etc.

None of that matters. What matters is the property owner has asked you not to park on his property with multiple, very large and easy to read signs and they were ignored. That's trespassing. They deserved what they got and it doesn't matter if you think Spanky is a little underhanded or just flat out an opportunistic pig. His mother owns that property and he's the agent in control of it. If you pay attention to the signs and do not trespass, you will never have to meet or deal with Spanky and his crew.

Yes, I know what you are thinking. There has to be a better way. After driving a tow truck off and on for nearly 30 years, I can tell you there isn't. Warning stickers don't help, they are ignored and by this story you can also see that big red ugly signs don't work either. I've even helped property owners that have hired employees just to stand in the parking lot and tell people not to park and they are met with foul language and threats. Once that happens, the property owner finally understands. The ONLY way to solve a parking problem is to remove the offending vehicle and make it EXPENSIVE to get it back. Surprisingly, 5% to 10% of these offenders will not learn their lesson and will have their car towed again within the same year!

Here are some realities.

  1. No one has the power to usurp the property owners rights, not even a handicapped person.
  2. All parking lots are privately owned unless stated otherwise, not the other way around.
  3. A good tow operator can hook up and tow your car in less than 30 seconds, no matter where or how you park it.
  4. There is no official time limit that allows you to park anywhere you wish. Refer to rule #1. It does not matter if you were only going to park there for 5 minutes, refer to rule #3.
  5. It does not matter how you park your car, wheels turned, locked up tight, backed in, even upside down! You cannot defeat me. See rule #3.
  6. You are only a customer as long as you are on the property. Purchasing a hamburger does not entitle you to in and out privileges or free all day parking. Once you walk off the property, you are no longer a customer. Again, see rules #1, #2, and #3.
  7. It's ok to park in a fire lane if you're pregnant & you need to unload your groceries - Again, rule #3, groceries and all.
There you go. My first official post. I look forward to your responses. The comment field will be unmoderated and you may post anonymously.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting thread from someone who had his car impounded. I responded to his post and in the end, I was able to get many facts out of him. Here is the text for this blog. You tell me if I was wrong or if I was right.

    From Glowjangles
    Like any American, I own a car. I only needed one incident to build the undying hate I have for the industry. They scour the alleys and streets, looking for any opportunity to strike helpless victims. I understand they are the dung beetles of transportation, moving crap from one location to another. Here are my issues:

    -They try and lock up vehicles before the owner can even speak to them, eliminating any chance of discussing the issue rationally.
    -They are often old men who act like jackasses. Being very short and terse with their skimpy explanation.
    -They try to cut deals with you, offering to let your car go if you pay them cash in hand.
    -They flock to car wreck scenes like vultures to a fresh kill, fighting for the days goods.
    -No matter what the circumstance, once they’ve hooked up your car, you will be asking your friends for a ride (usually 20 miles from where you got towed, somewhere outside the city) to the outskirts of town to pay for your car, traveling expenses incurred by transporting, and time spent at the lot.

    I once was towed while the car was running and a friend was sitting in the car with the doors open. They’re that cold.

    I’ve always dreamt about fighting back. It’s hard not to feel righteous when you see an unshaven, overweight male yelling at a freshmen in college for having her car parked 7″ over the line. She cries and pleads as he continues with his “work”. I’ve often times dreamt about jumping in his truck, and towing him away. I’ve also dreamt about the sawed off shotgun he probably has locked and loaded.


    01/25/2009 at 2:24 am

    Wow! Nice post!
    I am one of those old men. Let me ask you a question. Do you get paid for what you do? Yes? Then why shouldn’t the tow operator that responded to someones complaint about you because your car was illegally parked?

    The deal you talk of is called a “drop fee” It helps us pay for our gas and time if we respond to remove your silly little car so we aren’t working for free. It is legal and morally correct to expect to get paid for the job we perform.

    You were never towed with a friend sitting in the car with the doors open. First off, that would damage the car, second, that would be kidnapping and if that really happened, we would have seen the news story. How about you post a link to it for us? You can’t? Imagine that. Just another, well you name yourself.

    You want to start a fight? I dare you to come make comments like that at my blog and/or my website. Lets see if you can stand the heat.

    Oh BTW, that video you are showing here was staged. A fake.
    01/26/2009 at 3:28 pm

    Then why shouldn’t the tow operator that responded to someones complaint about you because your car was illegally parked?

    Because it wasn’t called in. Like many of the tow truckers in the area, this particular driver was scouring the alley at 3a.m., looking for a quick buck. I know this because the car was not there for more than 2 minutes, traffic was not blocked, and a girl was in the car. (You said yourself that a good tower can hook up your car in less than 30 secs.)

    The deal you talk of is called a “drop fee” It helps us pay for our gas and time if we respond to remove your silly little car so we aren’t working for free.

    Drive less. Save gas and time. Again, not a call in.

    It is legal and morally correct to expect to get paid for the job we perform.

    Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it morally correct. It’s more an issue of business ethics. You chose your profession. You knew going in that it wasn’t a socially popular position to be in. That aside, we both understand that the service you perform for the city are necessary. The choice you have to pick and choose your victims is what I criticize. The harassment and intimidation of your “clients” is what I criticize. The bullying of naive young drivers into a corner and giving them an out of a “drop fee” is exactly what I hate about the industry.

    You were never towed with a friend sitting in the car with the doors open. First off, that would damage the car, second, that would be kidnapping and if that really happened, we would have seen the news story. How about you post a link to it for us? You can’t? Imagine that. Just another, well you name yourself.

    I wasn’t towed because the tower was so kind to offer us a “drop fee”, even though a person was in the car. $250. That’s a month worth of food. There’s no link, just truth.

    How about you post a link to it for us? You can’t? Imagine that. Just another, well you name yourself.

    I found some links you might be interested in.
    Tow driver shows no mercy to assault victim

    Tow Truck Scam Victims

    Towing Utopia might have some more interesting points you’d like to discuss. Pretty neat blog, you should check it out.

    I hate to perpetuate the idea that all tow drivers are bad, I do not believe this to be true. I know they are a necessary evil and I respect their service. I just think there is room for improvement, legally and morally.
    01/26/2009 at 6:39 pm

    It doesn’t matter whether they were called in or not, that tow operator has a responsibility to follow the contract he has entered into with that property owner. The idea here is to exercise that contract for remuneration and solve that property owners parking issues. That means, unless he does his job, he goes broke. These people (and yourself, I suppose) are not victims and I am offended by people that make such comments. The idea that we “pick and choose” which trespassers to tow (yes, they are ALL trespassers no matter who they are or what their personal situation might be) is just ludicrous.

    The “drop Fee” is allowed and is designed to pay the tow truck driver for his time and expense for having to respond to remove a trespasser. Even that is a hit and miss situation for the tower because many times he arrives only to find the offender has driven away and he gets nothing. Again, it’s not a scam by any stretch of anyone’s imagination except yours. The law is very clear about that. You might hate what we do but we wouldn’t have to do it if everyone like you would just respect the private property owners rights to begin with.

    What State did your drop fee situation happen in? I would like more info because even I think a $250 fee is a little high. I would do a little research on that with your local towing governing body. If the tower charged too much, usually there is a clause that will force him to give it all back. If there isn’t, I would recommend that your time would be better spent getting with your state legislature to enact or strengthen the laws in this area. Mouthing off in a blog about it in an attempt to slander an entire group of people is not going to get you anywhere.

    I appreciate the extra links to other stories (BTW, I will be getting to those too) but that is not what I asked for. I asked for the link about the story you told about the car being towed away with the doors open and someone inside? Now you are recanting that story. Was it an embellishment on your part to strengthen your position?

    Are you aware that a lie by omission is still a lie?

    Did you lie to me and everyone else?

    01/26/2009 at 7:03 pm

    What is the “standard” drop fee? Is it posted on a state governed website somewhere? It would seem a bit more credible if documents were provided rather than asking the driver how much they have to offer, or seemingly pulling the number from their head. Is this not a business transaction?

    I’m not stupid. I read signs. I park where I am permitted. The property it was parked at was mine. I lived at that complex. There is no property manager there nor is there a front office. The units are privately owned and said vehicle was perpendicularly parked directly behind my spot. It was between the hours of 2 and 3am. Please tell me who else would’ve called that in? Is it “disrespecting” property rights to park and unload? Traffic was still able to get through.

    This is merely one instance out of many that I have shared with friends. You have a point, maybe I should start speaking to my state legislature, but I have gotten more attention writing in this forum than I ever would have writing a letter/email to someone higher up.

    You might be the one white knight of the towing community Skyforum, but it doesn’t negate the fact that there are corrupt tow truck drivers out there that take advantage of the “system”. I hope your blog or website recognizes this, for a lie by omission…
    01/26/2009 at 7:34 pm

    C’mon brother! You are giving us more info every time you post. Now, the car in question was parked behind your spot sideways?

    I bet there’s a rule about keeping the egress clear or double parking or a fire lane violation. The tow driver probably had no way of knowing you were loading / unloading or even that it was a car you approved to be there. It was, after all, 3 am in the morning. (who unloads at 3 am?) He has rules to follow, your vehicle was in violation of those rules by being parked sideways behind your car. Once he arrives, he must enforce the rules of the agreement he has with your property owner or manager.

    How is this scenario. I don’t believe you were “unloading” your car. Judging by the time you stated, I believe you had just arrived home from the bars with a few friends. You “unloaded” them and all went into your apartment for a nightcap. You were hanging out inside when the car got hooked and you happened to see him out your window. I will also bet that it was there far longer than 2 minutes. I think if someone was actually with the car at the time the tow operator showed up, it would have been obvious you were unloading and he would have never tried to take it.

    You’ve already proven your propensity towards the embellishment of the facts to suit your needs. I think it is time to just admit you booboo’d and got caught with your pants down.

    It really does come down to doing something you know is wrong but deciding that the risk of being caught is minimal. When you do get caught, it’s like you lost the competition. Instead of showing grace and congratulating the winner, you are having a temper tantrum about it and trying to convince everyone the other person cheated somehow.

    I think this conversation has played itself out and I see no need to continue it. I do thank you for allowing my posts to be seen and I hope you are successful in life’s ventures. Oh, and thank you for calling me the white knight of towing, I liked that. (made me feel useful somehow).

    Have a great day!