Updated: See “Towing Scam. The Day After.”
After a GREAT night at Ignite Phoenix #4, many participants went to La Bocca for some after hours networking.
Several of us parked in a vacant lot at the southeast corner of 7th & Mill, only to walk out to find our cars had been towed.
Here’s the [sarcasm on] big giant warning sign [sarcasm off] that parking there will result in towing.
Yep, it’s stuck on the back of an electrical box at the far end of the vacant lot at 701 S. Mill Street in Tempe (southeast corner of Mill & 7th St).
The lot is owned by “Tempe Mill LLC”, deeded on Nov 7, 1996 (per the Maricopa County Assessors public site).
According to the Nevada Secretary of State public site, Tempe Mill LLC is a Limited Liability Company registered in Nevada to a Dean Y. Kajioka, Esq. (source).
When I parked there, there were 5 or 6 other cars parked along the northern edge of the lot. Several cabs were also there, idling with the drivers in their cabs. I assume waiting for fares.
When I left La Bocca and got to the corner, a tow truck from Expresstowing was in the process of towing a car (that I later found belonged to Steve Belt who gets photo credits too) and one other car was parked next to Steve’s. Every other car was gone – hauled away by Monster Impound & Recovery.
There were several people milling about. One guy said one of the tow truck drivers has sprayed mace or pepper spray on him when he attempted to take a picture of the tow truck. He called the Tempe Police, who arrived very quickly.
More people whose cars had been towed began to arrive. A very nice family visiting from Mississippi also had there car towed. They had two small children with them and asked (quite politely I might add) if there was any way they could recover their car seats.
The tow truck drivers, two of the rudest and cockiest people I’ve encountered in a long time, told them the impound lot didn’t open until 9:00am (though the teeny tiny sign clearly says vehicles will be released at 8:00am).
The taxpayers in Tempe now get to pay for some police-arranged service to come pick up this family and get them some car seats.
The smart-ass tow truck driver told me, “Try suing us. People have been trying to for eight years”.
I called the number listed on the sign to try to recover my car tonight and was treated to one of the nastiest, rudest “ladies” I’ve ever encountered. She wouldn’t give me the impound lot address, and would only say I could call back at 9:00am tomorrow for information.
Here’s what REALLY chaps me:
Guess who the last car left in the lot belonged to? I can’t say for sure who owned the car, but I can state unequivocally that one of the tow truck drivers unlocked the drivers door, got in, started the car and drove off.
So Monster apparently parks a car in the lot, baiting people to park there, then hauls them away. All for a tidy $140 fee (so I’m told. Guess I’ll find out for sure tomorrow. Update: cost was $135. Cash only, which I didn’t have. They gave me two weeks to pay noting at that point it would be turned over to collections where the fees would “at least triple” this amount).
One car owner told me he’d been parked there less than 30 minutes when his car was towed.
I asked one of the Tempe Police officers if this, “happens every night” and his response was, “Yeah, pretty much.” They also said there was nothing they could do as this was private property and was “properly marked”.
Tempe City Code section 32-6 “Notice to public of right to tow” states:
(a) The owner or person in possession of any private parking area shall be deemed to have given consent to unrestricted parking by the general public in such parking area unless such parking area is posted with signs as prescribed by this section which are clearly visible and readable from a distance of fifty (50) feet away and at all points of entry.
(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.
I haven’t measured the sign (yet) but something tells me it’s going to be 12 x 18 inches and mounted five feet high. “Clearly visible and readable from a distance of fifty feet away” is highly suspect. I didn’t see the sign until the cocky tow truck driver pointed it out. Apparently none of the other seven people towed (nor their passengers) did either.
So maybe it’s “legal”. I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer like the guy that managers the LLC that owns the vacant lot. If they didn’t want people parking there, it would be an insignificant cost to post far more obvious signage, or here’s an idea – string a chain across the entry to the lot.
But wait, if you did that the towing company wouldn’t be able to park a car there. And you wouldn’t be able to charge people $140 a pop to retrieve their vehicles.
And all this after the Mayor of Tempe, Hugh Hallman, gives an impassioned plea at the opening of Ignite Phoenix to change the name to Ignite Tempe.
UPDATE: Interesting. Tempe Changes Rules on Towing to Prevent Companies From Scamming Drivers. So towing scams around Mill Ave are a known issue to the Tempe City Council…