It’s a Friday night. I park my car downtown, at a McDonald’s (at about 10pm), and walk across the street to a cafe.
I’m out with my friends–laughing, eating, and having a good time. We leave the cafe and walk back to the parking lot where our cars were parked.
All three of our cars are gone.
Downtown is notorious for towing cars as soon as restaurants or stores close. Me, being a teenage girl who rarely parks anywhere downtown, had absolutely no idea that my car was going to be towed.
My first reaction is panic. This has never happened to me before. The three of us are completely dumbfounded. Upon closer inspection, we see the sign outside of the parking lot– “TOWING ENFORCED 24 HOURS A DAY”.
My second reaction is to laugh. I couldn’t believe it. We were all laughing hysterically, until we realized that we were going to have to pay a fine to retrieve our cars. Luckily, we had a ride to the impound lot where our cars were taken.
By this time, it was around 1 a.m. I was tired, angry, and about to be short one hundred dollars.
After this incident, I decided to look more into car towing.
Car towing originated in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 1916, the tow truck was invented by Ernest Holmes when he was forced to pull a car out of a creek. So, originally, tow trucks were invented to help people.
Today, cars are towed for multiple reasons. The City of Raleigh will tow a vehicle for: 1) parking in a signed tow away zone, 2) parking in a travel lane, 3) parking in a restricted area, or 4) failing to pay parking fines.
Predatory towing has also become an issue in downtown Raleigh. This means that a person’s car is towed without their consent. It is legal, but unfortunate and somewhat annoying.
This type of towing is mostly in reference to the agreement between businesses and tow companies to tow any cars that aren’t customers of their establishment. Some tow companies have spotters who look for violations, alert the tow trucks, and get the cars towed. They are paid to call in a tow truck as soon as the owner of the vehicle leaves the parking lot.
Enraged citizens have made complaints about predatory towing and gotten a few laws around towing changed– for example, tow lots have to accept credit cards and can’t charge people more than one hundred dollars to retrieve cars from the tow lot. Although these laws have been changed, predatory towing still exists.
It’s not rare that crazy things happen at the tow lot when people try to retrieve their cars. The towing employee we talked to told us that he’s had people beg, bribe, and threaten him in order to get their cars. He’s been held at gunpoint and dealt with yelling customers. In the end, however, people always have to pay the full fee to get their cars out.
So let this serve as a warning– be careful where you park. The tow trucks will not hesitate to take your car– and no amount of begging, swearing, or threatening will make them give it back.