When Tow Truck Drivers Attack, Part II!

Boing Boing has posted an update to their story over the weekend about tow truck drivers in Los Angeles.

More after the jump.

It turns out Xeni knows Scott Shulman, so I called him and asked him for the details. He kindly shared his story with me.

About a year ago, Scott and his wife were driving around the Venice area of Los Angeles on a Sunday morning when he got a frantic phone call from his daughter. She told him that she had driven to a mini-mall to shop at her favorite pet store, located in the mini-mall. She’d parked in the mini-mall lot. (Scott told me that there were only one or two other cars in the lot at the time, and that the lot has about 100 parking spaces. So the lot was almost empty.)

After parking, Scott’s daughter walked to the ATM, which was adjacent to the mini-mall. After a 90-second stop at the ATM to get cash to spend at the pet store, she returned to the parking lot to find that her car was hitched to a tow truck. The driver had been hiding around the corner, waiting for an opportunity like this.

Scott’s daughter pleaded with the tow truck driver to speak with her father on the phone, and the driver finally agreed. He said he’d “drop the car” if Scott came immediately with $200, cash only. “I’m ready to pull out,” he warned. Scott was about four miles away and he told the driver to wait, and he drove as quickly as he could to the mini-mall.

“When I got there,” says Scott, “the first thing I did was block him in with my car. I told him, ‘I’m not moving until you drop my daughter’s car.'” The driver was unhappy about this, and warned Scott that he’d called another tow truck to haul away Scott’s car unless he moved his car out of the way immediately. Scott told the driver that he was going to call the Sheriff, which he did.

Twenty minutes later, says Scott, two “very nice” deputies arrived and assessed the situation. They told Scott that they’d had a lot of trouble with this particular towing company, but could not order the driver to drop the car, because the lot was private property.

Around this time, the owner of the towing company showed up. He, too, refused to drop the car, even when the owner of the pet store came out and requested that they drop it.

By now, Scott’s daughter’s car had been held captive for an hour and a half. The deputies told Scott that they would happily appear in court to testify on his behalf against the towing company, and that Scott would very likely win a quadruple damages judgment (about $800). At this point, the tow truck driver angrily called it quits and dropped the car.

That week, Scott called the West Hollywood City Council and learned that towing companies are required by law to accept credit cards, even though most of them insist on cash (imagine how many people would dispute the credit charges from a towing company!) and that they cannot charge more than the police garage charges (around $130).

Lesson? Do everything you legally can to keep the tow truck driver from driving away with your car. You just might win.

11 thoughts on “When Tow Truck Drivers Attack, Part II!”

  1. As I read these posts I realize my blood is boiling at the memory of one of the very first things that happened to me in LA years ago. Mine doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad as the one above, but I was TowJacked near Pink’s at 1am following a spaceland show. The driver told me to go to an ATM down on la brea. I ran to the ATM, stumbled and scraped the hell out of my arms and face, and came back to rescue my car for something like $80-100. Sheer piracy.

    It took me years to recoup that unplanned-for cost via illegally-downloaded music. One act of piracy begets another. So if the RIAA should come after me, the first person I’m pointing the finger at is YOU, mister TowTruckLurkerDriver. You are ultimately to blame for the rampant music downloading epidemic in America, and we all know it.

  2. Out by Cal State Northridge all the private parking lots use a company called TNTowing that lurks just outside the lots waiting for students to park in one of the lots due to the overcrowded parking lots on campus and tow the cars. There was even a few articles about it in the newspaper, but there was nothing the school could do but tell students to not park in private lots.

    Luckily I never did that… one time however, I was parked outside the Whiskey A-Go-Go and the tow-truck driver was nice enough to drop my car. Thank Goodness.

  3. “Your honor, I only raped her for 15 seconds!”
    “I only sold crack to one man who just happened to be an undercover cop! Not fair!”

    Come on, illegal is illegal. Sure it’s predatory to have a tow truck camped out and waiting, and to charge exorbitant prices for the tow, but I still can’t muster much sympathy for the illegal parkers only for the fact that they were towed.

  4. Oh, but I have read that a good thing to do if you see your car being towed is to get in your car. Legal reasons involving towing something with a person in it. I have not actually tried this. (Because I usually park where I’m allowed to. What a concept.) Any comment on the validity of this tactic?

  5. I heard a story about a group who parked their car in the CircuitCity parking lot on Sunset in Silver Lake while they went to Tiki Ti across the street. One of the party, a young woman, was too drunk/ tired to hang out at the bar and went to the car to sleep. A tow truck came along and towed the car with her inside of it. She woke up and freaked out as they were driving down Sunset to the impound lot. The towing company was very aplogetic though, and didn’t charge them for the tow.

  6. This is pretty much the oldest story EVER. KNBC did a ton of investigations into tow truck “bandits” last year. The LAPD is doing sting operations of its own. The stories have actually led to some federal legislation.

  7. I have just been reading some of the thoughts posted on your website regarding tow truck drivers.I have been a towie for some 20 odd years and I will be the first to tell you that our industry has its fair share of sharks that pray on the public,but then what industry doesn’t?

    I have found over the years that around 75% of the people I have towed from a private car park know they are doing the wrong thing,but do it anyway even if it is well signed. It’s almost like being done for speeding, why get angry at the police for something you did? Because you got caught, that’s why.

    Don’t judge us all by the few who are crooked… there are those of us in the industry that love what we do and would do just about anything to ensure customer satisfaction.

  8. many of the victims are towed from legal parking places, as happened to me last night. here are the laws for towing in los angeles:


    1. You were towed and less than one hour had elapsed from the time your car was parked until it was towed.
    2. the sign was obstructed and not in clear plain view.
    3. You patronized the business, and was properly parked.
    4. The towing company refused to accept a credit card, demanding cash only.
    5. You were not given a copy of the written authorization for the tow.

    I have also read that tow companies are not allowed to charge more than police garages.

    now lets ask that last poster how many times he/she has waited an hour to tow a car. or how many times a written authorization was given. hmm interesting. yea i’m sure they love what they do.

    i was towed from a legal parking space, as have several people I know. funny right? i’m taking my case to small claims court–I advise this to anyone that is a victim of this crime.

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