Whistleblower 9: Customers Say Towing Company Taking Advantage Of Confusion
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
The Starbucks on East Boulevard in Dilworth is a busy place.
Cars come and go all day, but not all of them are leaving with their owners.
Faster than customers can order a double latte, some are being towed for parking illegally. Whistleblower 9 watched as a truck from United Towing backed up, lifted and left with a car in 20 seconds.
Heather Smith had to pay $120 to get her car back and she had to get a ride to pick it up.
“I told them I apologize. I said, ‘If I pay over the phone, can they come back?’ They told me no,” she said.
She and other drivers contacted Whistleblower 9 to say they think the “no parking” signs at the Starbucks are too confusing and don't clearly indicate which spots are in the tow-away zone.
“There is not a clear enough divider to show where Starbucks (parking) ends and this parking lot begins,” said customer Sarah Tallmam.
Whistleblower 9 also saw a man putting boots on cars and charging $50 to take them off.
One man said he couldn't believe he got booted for parking illegally.
“I cannot see any signs at all where I parked my car,” he said.
The entire lot is owned by the owners of the Key Man office building. Starbucks leases 12 parking spots for its customers. All the others are for Key Man tenants with special window stickers.
The manager at the Key Man building said it has 100 tenants and needs to protect all the remaining parking spots for her customers. She said there is adequate signage to let people know that if they park there, they will get towed.
Key Man tenant Melissa Frangiosa agrees.
“When I leave to pick up my daughter and come back, if it weren't for the restricted parking I would have nowhere to park,” she said.
A city ordinance states that signs must be posted at each entrance warning drivers they will be towed.
The lot has those signs, but it also has signs inviting Starbucks customers to park.
Still, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and City Council member Patsy Kinsey said the lot has adequate signage and that drivers just need to pay better attention.
“What I see out here, I think, is clearly worded and people can see it,” Kinsey said.
But some drivers still think they're being preyed on for profit.
“Though it technically may be legally right, it's morally wrong,” said driver Lisa Berk.
The manager at the Key Man building said the owners don't make any money from towed cars. United Towing representatives said they had no comment.
Starbucks sent Whistleblower 9 a statement urging customers to only park in spots that have their sign displayed. It also put signs on their doors reminding customers they could get towed.