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Drivers complain of 'sneaky' towing on Hillsborough Street

Posted September 28, 2009

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— Hillsborough Street in Raleigh is known for a lot of things, but ample parking is not one of them. Ongoing construction has made the fight for spaces tougher.

Hillsborough Street business owners said they hire tow companies to protect their limited parking spots. However, some drivers say "sneaky" towing has become a problem.

According to Raleigh police, 383 out of 1,540 non-consensual tows across the city from Aug. 1 through Sept. 27 came from the Hillsborough Street area.

Drivers complain of 'sneaky' towing Drivers complain of 'sneaky' towing

Dan Mall, property manager for Raleigh Hillsborough LLC, said his company provides towing as a service for the business tenants in the building. They put up visible signs and try to be as fair as possible, he said. However, they can’t let people park without limits, especially if they don’t frequent the businesses.

A man with Atlantic Coast Towing and Recovery, who has a contract with Raleigh Hillsborough LLC, said it's a matter of property rights.

"Would you want someone to park in your driveway and leave?" said the man, who declined to give his name.

Driver Erin Bergstrom said she learned the hard way that it’s important to read the posted warning signs closely.

“No, I didn't really pay attention. (I) just pulled into the parking lot. I just assumed it was for both of the restaurants,” she said.

What Bergstrom didn’t realize is that she was being watched by a spotter who monitors the lots. Once a driver leaves the property or goes to a business not invested in the designated spaces, the tow truck driver gets a call, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

Kevin Sandes calls the practice predatory. He spent $100 to get this truck back.

“This was just really sneaky and not right,” he said. “I know there are signs in there saying, ‘If you leave this property, you'll be towed,’ but what's ‘this property’?”

As long as the warning signs are clearly posted, property owners have every right to tow. People often park and go somewhere else, such as students who go to class for hours, according to several business owners.

But it's a balance for businesses. Most owners declined to comment to WRAL and said they didn’t want to be seen as the bad guy.

Jason Moon, who owns Blush, a women's clothing and accessory store, said towing is important to prevent parking abuse. However, he said he believes it has gotten too aggressive. He and other business owners complain that construction has already cut sales by 40 to 50 percent.

“This towing situation is scaring customers away,” he said.

Attorney Michael Strickland filed suit when his client was towed from behind Dunkin' Donuts, despite showing a purchase receipt. The property owner settled and replaced the tow company. Still, Strickland said he believes there's too much financial incentive to tow quickly.

“It's money in their pocket, and one false move and they'll tow you,” Strickland said. “If they get a reputation for abusive towing, people aren't going to want to be there.”


This story is closed for comments.

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  • MakoII Sep 29, 2009

    Never met a toe truck that didn't rob you blind.

    Not one. They charged 100 bucks to service you back in the early 90's.

    They're still charging that. Nice to know it hasn't gone up.

    Nice to know they've been ripping people off for decades!

  • bubbba Sep 29, 2009

    I have a parking lot near Glenwood Ave. restaurant and bars.
    I have never put up signs saying NO PARKING. I let people park in my lot every night free. The issues most of you dont realize is every morning before my store opens I pick up beer bottle, food, condoms, and once a tampon some nice woman left at the front door. I feel like putting up a sign and towing too and charging double if you left trash.. My trucks are damaged and loading ramps stolen twice. You people need to realize sometimes being nice does not pay. Americans are fat trash.
    Go to Sweden and try and find a piece of trash lying by the roadside.You cant.

  • Travised Sep 29, 2009

    Towing companies are snakes. We had permission from the spot holders (management) to park there. All of a sudden we see a truck there starting to back up. we sent 3 people out from almost 20 stories up. elevator and stairs. We made it out to the car, sent one person IN the car and another in front of the truck. He refused to drop the car, insisted we were in violation and would not drop the car unless we paid him. I stood in front of the truck until my friend got in the car to delay him.

    He ended up calling the police to the scene. That was fine with us. Officer could not force him to drop it, but we complied and followed him to the lot and paid before the clock turned to the following day. Management did NOT reimburse us (boy were we mad!) for the cost.

    Warning other drivers about the potential tow is NO violation. The tow company may be mad, but they can't do anything to you. It's their loss for not having the trucks lined up to grab the cars.

  • lakjrt Sep 29, 2009


  • Frank Downtown Sep 29, 2009

    There are over four parking decks for long term parking. Street parking is only for the short term (less than two hours). Park in the deck all day for $6 (less than the cost of most drinks at a bar).

  • Capitals Fan Sep 29, 2009

    Waaa, Waaa, I got towed for parking illegally. How does this happen. I mean I read the sign, did it anyway and now I have to pay for it? I am not responsible for my own actions; someone else (like a "predatory towing company") is to blame. Waa Waa

  • h2onymph31 Sep 29, 2009

    I wish this story had highlighted where people CAN park instead of emphasizing the negative. There is a pay lot between Chamberlain Street and Logan Court off Hillsborough Street. For a nominal charge, one can park there rather easily and conveniently. I understand this one lot may not accommodate everyone, but it is a City of Raleigh-provided service that we should aim to take advantage of. I work on Hillsborough St and this parking and construction situation is incredibly frustrating for all. However, there are possibilities and solutions out there for those that will open their eyes and minds.

  • cary1969 Sep 29, 2009

    acuranut, there is no need to argue with a cretin...thanks for your services.

  • acuranut Sep 29, 2009

    mr mako appently you did not read the first sentence of my post. i basically said i do not do private property impounds. it is a segment of the industry that my employer and i choose not to participate in. those highly trained firemen you speak of.. are those the same ones who ruined a perfectly good million dollar piece of taxpayer owned property on dawson street a few months ago? a good law enforcement officer or firefighter knows the value of a highly trained and qualified wrecker operator. and no, i dont wear shiny armor. i wear a reflective uniform as to lessen my chance of being killed on the side of 40 or us1 in the middle of the day or night. and maybe you should ask the countless people who's car i have unlocked for free because their baby or dog was inside. or the countless others i have donated my services for, simply because they coud not afford it. ask them what i should have been wearing. your comments were disrespectful and insulting.

  • MakoII Sep 29, 2009


    Have it all to yourself then. I'm glad you think your dirty fishbowl is beautifully clean. Someone has to live in it!