Imagine the following scenario: You are with your family on a beautiful Sunday morning looking for parking in a busy tourist area to enjoy a nice family brunch at a local eatery. After a couple of hours of eating, visiting and enjoying family time, you walk back towards the parking stall you parked only to find your vehicle is not there. You look around thinking that, perhaps, you’ve parked in another area. After walking the entire parking lot you come to the shocking conclusion that your vehicle is not there. And it is then that you notice the California Vehicle Code 22658: CUSTOMER PARKING ONLY. VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED sign that is posted in sporadic spots of the parking lot. You call the tow truck company’s phone number listed on the sign, ask about your vehicle and are informed, “yes sir, we just picked that up about an hour ago. If you pick it up today it will be $372.00 but if you wait until tomorrow and come before the 24 hours is up it will only be $252.00. What would you like to do?” When you ask why the rate is over a hundred dollars less if you wait until the following day you are told the higher amount is a weekend rate and they are higher than weekday rates.
The normal reaction to this situation is shock, anger and frustration, not only for the rates, but for the unexpected out of pocket expense; especially if you do not have the full amount to get your vehicle out. Many will spout threats of lawsuits and bodily harm. While the second threat could land you in jail if actions are put to the words, the first threat will merely cause your blood pressure to increase when you find out the business was within their legal rights to have your vehicle towed if you were not a patron of their establishment. As for the rates, while there is no ‘limit’ as to what a company can charge, the companies do appear to keep their rates competitive while still remaining ridiculously expensive by every day expense standards. If, however, you strongly believe that your vehicle was towed in error or unjustly and can prove it (for example: eating at a restaurant who had your vehicle towed and you have proof of the receipt with date and time stamp on it), it is suggested you speak to the manager on duty to handle the mistake for you by way of calling the tow truck company to have your vehicle released (which they will not do without being paid for the hookup fee, at the minimum). If they refuse to cooperate and pay for the costs, you can always choose to contact a lawyer and discuss your options in a legal capacity.
Words of advice would be to pay attention to the surrounding property signs. If they say ‘customers only’ and threaten to tow any violators, you can be assured they will do so. If you arrogantly think no one will see you or know when you parked, etc., again, let me give you some words of advice. Many businesses have people watching out, specifically, for parking violators. Now some of you may claim ‘entrapment’ but good luck proving that and keep in mind, that regardless if they have someone that sits all day to watch and catch, if you are in violation of their parking rules per the posted signs, you are still, legally responsible for all tow fees.
For more information on the California Vehicle Code 22658: Removal From Private Property (http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc22658.htm). Most tow truck companies, such as Western Towing – San Diego http://www.westerntowing.com are affiliated with the California Tow Truck Association http://ctta.com and the Towing and Recovery Association of America http://www.towserver.net.