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Restaurants and customers complain 'predatory towing' unfair and driving away business

Local restaurant managers and owners say the 'predatory towing' is bad for business. (WBMA){p}{/p}
Local restaurant managers and owners say the 'predatory towing' is bad for business. (WBMA)

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Downtown Birmingham is thriving post-COVID. But nothing ruins a night out like having your car towed. And after a recent shooting at a tow lot, we're hearing from viewers upset by what they call 'predatory towing.'

We spent several hours downtown mostly around the Second Ave. N area and within an hour we saw vehicles getting towed. We asked the crews what was the issue and were told 'they didn't pay to park.'

The tow crews work fast, hooking up a car in minutes. There are signs telling drivers the lots are tow zones.

Local restaurants warn their customers with their own signs to follow parking instructions precisely or they will be towed. But some complain they paid to park and still got towed by Parking Enforcement Systems.

"I had paid $12.70," said Kiara Harris. She showed us the proof on her parking app. On her new car she still had the dealer tag. "For the park mobile app I typed in dealer tag and in the notes put Tameron Honda," explained Harris.

Harris said she had no idea that since she didn't have a regular tag that put her at risk for towing. She believes there should be some type of warning on the app if they won't accept your information.

"I will never park in one of these lots again," said Harris. It will be street parking only at night for her which is free and no towing. Valet services say cars are towed all the time by unsuspecting drivers.

Jeff Williams says he was only seven minutes late to get is car and it was gone. "They wait and know the time on the meter. As soon as it hits they gotcha; they are ready hook your car up," remarked Williams.

The cost to get his vehicle back was $165, a costly mistake. "That was ridiculous, I was so angry," said Williams.

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SEE ALSO: Deadly shooting at tow company parking lot

Other drivers we talked to were towed while they enjoyed a downtown concert. They told us the pay to park machine wouldn't work. A Parking Enforcement employee said if you can't pay properly, don't park.

In an email to ABC3340 News, Kelsi Nuttle claims Parking Enforcement illegally impounded her car, threatened her, her boyfriend, and 10 year old daughter with a gun. She said police were called.

Hunter Henry emailed saying the payment machine wasn't working so he used the parking app, but still got towed.

Local restaurant managers and owners say the 'predatory towing' is bad for business.

We tried calling Parking Enforcement Systems and got no response.

In 2016, ABC3340 News profiled similar complaints.

We did reach a manager of one of the lots that contracts with the tow company. The manager said they don't make any money off tows and as long as you pay properly you will not get towed.

Bottom line always follow the directions on the signs very carefully, like putting your receipt on the dashboard. Assume every lot is pay to park. If you don't understand something on the rules, find street parking or take your business elsewhere.

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We checked with city hall and the police department about the complaints. In an email response we were told many complaints are civil in nature. The city does not intervene in those. If there is a criminal element, police will respond. You can also call the Business Compliance Unit at city hall.

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