[Update - 12.19.2011: Wow so this post is over 2.5 years old and still gets a comment almost weekly! I am turning off the comments at this time as I have moved on past this incident. I am very sorry for anyone who has to deal with this or any other towing situation in Phoenix or Arizona. My advice is to stop going to the towns and places that are ok with this type of activity. If you did get towed apparently there is a way to get your money back and possibly some sort of payment out of the towing company but it sounds like a lot of work, good luck!]
Last night was Ignite Phoenix #4 which we held at the Tempe Center for the Arts and it as awesome. We had at least 500 people there and everyone was super cool. The after party was at La Bocca wine bar near 7th and Mill Ave and it was that intersection when the evening took a turn for the dreadful.
I pulled into a semi empty lot at about 10pm and parked to go to La Bocca. There were 6 other cars and a few taxis in the lot and I assumed things would be cool. Well in Tempe this is the wrong assumption. When I came out of La Bocca at 11:30 my car was gone and so were most of the other cars that were there.
A nice group of folks from Ignite Phoenix were there as well because their cars were gone as well. Jay Thompson (@phxreguy) has a good write up here.
When I got home I called the Tempe police and talked with Katie to discuss the Tempe Towing law and in particular Sec. 32-2. Maximum charges and fees; release of vehicles:
(a) No private towing carrier shall hold or attempt to hold any vehicle towed from any location within the city without the consent of the owner or operator thereof as security for accrued towing and storage charges. Any such vehicle shall be immediately released, regardless of impound location, to the owner or operator thereof upon the production of proof of ownership or agency, as hereinafter defined.
My issue was that the towing company dispatcher was telling me that I would have to wait till 9am to pick up my car but the law says the “vehicle shall be immediately released, regardless of impound location, to the owner or operator thereof upon the production of proof of ownership”. To me this means that when I can show that the car is mine I can get my car. Katie explained that the law does not require that the lot be open 24 hours a day to which I replied that it also does not not say that either so there is room for interpretation either way.
That is issue #1.
I sensed that this was going no where so moved onto Sec. 32-6. Notice to public of right to tow. Part b:
(b) Signs will be a minimum of twelve (12) inches by eighteen (18) inches in size and will be mounted at a minimum height of five (5) feet and a maximum height of ten (10) feet above the ground.
Here is the sign in question.
Unless Jay is a giant I am pretty sure it is under 12′ by 18′ and is lower than 5 feet off the ground. Monster is the Irony here, ha!
Katie explained that I could file a complaint but that someone would have to call me back first.
30 minutes later Karen Scheffler called me back. Ms. or possible Officer Scheffler was pointedly unhappy about having to speak with me and explained that officer Tony Miller had already been to the scene and saw that the signs were all in order. I asked to speak with Officer Miller and was sent to his voice mail.
30 minutes later (1am) I was called by Officer Miller who was very nice and happy to talk to me about this situation. I asked about the size of the signs and he felt confident that they were up to code as they have to regularly check these types of lots around the city. He explained that this is a weekly issue for his beat and that it is a regular topic and Town Council meetings. He recommended that I contact the Mill Ave. Disctrict which is a coalition of Mill Ave business owners who are trying to fight this type of behavior as it is hurting their business. i thanked him for his time and went to bed.
That is issue #2.
I woke up this morning and got the car out of the lot a bit after 9am for $135. While I was there I noticed at least 10 other invoices on the desk. At $135 each that is about $1300 a night. Keep in mind this was a tuesday night in the summer in Phoenix/Tempe which means things are slow. That means conservitavely these guys are bringing in $300k a year from this one lot!
The next issue is still with Sec 32-6 but not on part e:
(e) The private towing carrier shall post a sign with a minimum one inch lettering with the maximum charges and fees as established by council resolution (see Appendix A) at the main business entry of the impound location.
Once again looking at this great picture of Jay you will notice that the only part of the sign with one inch lettering is the part that says Restricted Parking. The law states taht the charges and fees must also be this size when in fact they are about 1/8″.
That is issue #3.
While I was getting my car another customer was waiting and asked if I had seen him get pepper sprayed, see Jay’s post. I said I had missed that part but was very interested when he mentioned that the one car not towed was entered and driven away by a Tow Truck employee. This tells me that no one representing the property owner was actually at the scene which is in violation of Sec. 32-5. Authority to tow.
It shall be unlawful for a private towing carrier to tow or transport a motor vehicle from private property without the permission of the owner or operator of the vehicle unless such private towing carrier receives a request from a law enforcement agency or the express written permission from the owner of the property or the agent of the owner, who has complied with requirements of this section. The owner or the ownerâ€™s agent shall either sign each towing order or authorize the tow by a written contract which is valid for a specific length of time. The private towing carrier may not act as the agent of the owner. A copy of the written contract shall be made readily available to the law enforcement agency upon request and include the ownerâ€™s or ownerâ€™s agent name and current telephone numbers.
(Code 1967, Â§ 33A-5; Ord. No. 2006.77, 1-4-07)
I am posting this for three reasons:
1) I need to release these thoughts in order to move on from them, as the Dhammapada states:
“He abused me, mistreated me, defeated me, robbed me.”
Harboring such thoughts keeps hatred alive.
“He abused me, mistreated me, defeated me, robbed me.”
Releasing such thoughts banishes hatred for all time.
2) I want to let others know about this scam and hope that it helps them avoid it. Start by not going to Tempe until they change their laws.
3) I want to see if any lawyers think that my Issues are valid and what steps may be taken.
With love from PHOENIX, peace out!