Driver says company towed car, raised price to $560 to get it back

CHARLOTTE — Michael Green parked at Island Tobacco and Vape on J.W. Clay Boulevard. The signs are clear: The lot is for UPS and vape store customers only.

Green was a vape customer, but he ran across the street first to grab lunch. He had his lunch, walked back to the parking lot, and went into the vape store.

Somewhere in there, he noticed his car gone.

“I was surprised that it happened so quickly,” he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke.

In fairness, Green now realizes he probably should have gone into the vape store first -- before getting lunch -- because it probably looked like he was just using its lot. Either way, Green met the tow company -- Trust Towing and Recovery -- in the parking lot.

“They said I could pay $450 in cash and I didn’t feel comfortable doing that,” he said. “So I said, ‘No, let’s go to the ... back to your towing lot. I’ll pay in credit card just so there’s a record of it.’”

He says that’s what they did, but that then there was another surprise.

“They increased the price to [$]560,” he said. “There’s so many people that wouldn’t be able to cough up that amount of money.”

“I didn’t feel comfortable. I just decided to pay it and see what my options were after that,” he added.

Stoogenke tried to get the vape store’s and the tow company’s sides of the story since Nov. 8. He even delivered letters to each company in person. But neither responded in time for this report.

In case it happens to you, here are your options if you’re faced with the same situation:

  • If you don’t feel safe, call police.
  • You can file a police report later. Even if officers don’t think it’s criminal, if they see a bad pattern, they will confront a towing company or the business that hires it.
  • Even if you’re a customer -- so you’re allowed to park in a certain lot -- think twice about keeping your car there while you run other errands.
  • Make sure you know what the current towing rules say.

Here are some of the main rules:

  • There have to be signs on the property warning you about towing.
  • They have to be easy to read.
  • The tow company has to accept cash and two major credit cards.
  • It has to have someone on-call who can release your vehicle within 45 minutes.
  • You’re entitled to retrieve your personal property from the vehicle.

To read Charlotte’s full towing ordinance, click here.

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