WRAL Investigates

Wilson towing company draws complaints over aggressive tactics

Posted November 9, 2010
Updated November 10, 2010

WRAL Investigates

— For years, WRAL News has heard complaints about predatory towing in the state. Lawmakers have too, so they passed a law last year to crack down on aggressive towers.

WRAL's investigative team recently witnessed a Wilson towing company in action and questions whether that law goes far enough.

Does towing a car in less than 40 seconds seem predatory? How about drivers who say they were threatened with an additional fee if they asked for their cars to be released? In Wilson, at least, that's all still legal.

Curtis Boyd contacted WRAL recently after what he felt was an unprofessional run-in with Auto Solutions Towing and Recovery, a company hired to tow cars from Narron and Holdford law firm's privately owned parking lot.

“As soon as you pull in, he (the tow truck driver) comes and gets you,” Boyd said. “He told me, ‘I cannot take it down (off the tow truck.)’ The only way I can get it (is) I have to go to the service up here and pick it up, and I immediately called police. He explained it to me, being that I did call police, (that) it’s going to be an extra $50 on top of it for labor for holding him up by calling police.”

Boyd paid $235 to get his SUV back – $150 for towing, $35 for storage and $50 for “labor" – and he is not alone when it comes to complaints about Auto Solutions.

WRAL's investigative team went to Wilson to see Auto Solutions in action. Within 40 seconds of parking his car and crossing the street, the Auto Solutions tow truck swooped in on Brian Williams' car. Then, seconds after his car went up, the passenger side door opened. Tanesha Wright was in the car, which was still running.

“I was sitting in the car. How can you tow a running car with someone in it?” Wright said. “(I was) like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’ I just felt a little movement, and I was getting towed away.”

Williams returned before the car was gone and asked the tow truck operator to release his vehicle. The response was a familiar one.

“He told me that he was not trying to hear that, and I have to pay him $150. And if I keep talking to him that he was going to jump up to add another $50,” Williams said.

Towing company’s practice draws ire Towing company’s practice draws ire

WRAL watched Auto Solutions nab two more vehicles with the same lightning response, less than a minute. In one case, two people were still in a car when the tower started hooking it up. They were out when the car was towed.

WRAL's investigative producer, Randall Kerr, approached the tow truck driver and asked about the aggressive approach.

“We are allowed to hook it by law, sir,” the tow truck driver said. “It’s a private parking lot. There’s signs, so I’d rather not comment on anything else.”

Several vehicle owners have filed complaints with Wilson police about Auto Solutions. For now, police say no laws are being broken. However, police did drop Auto Solutions from its wrecker rotation over concerns about the company's aggressive approach.

A state law addressing predatory towing includes language about signage, how far someone can be towed and the operation of storage lots.

Some cities have more stringent towing regulations, such as Raleigh, where there's no storage fee for the first 24 hours. Also, no additional fees can be charged, like the so-called "labor" fee charged by Auto Solutions, and towers must release a vehicle if the owner shows up and charge no more than half the towing fee.

A Wilson city spokesman says the municipality needs permission from the state to change its ordinances.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • goldeagle Nov 12, 2010

    Don't get too excited about the occupied vehicle defense. If the towing company has to call the cops to get you out, you may be looking at a parking ticket as well. The cops are there to enforce the laws and protect the citizens. But a reckless tow truck operator is a hazard to the public safety.

  • wewoods Nov 11, 2010

    It happens in Raleigh too. Downtown where a lot of nightlife happens. Only the towing Co. (which is not even a block away...)will wait for 3-4 cars to park there then they send 3-4 trucks to get them all at once! Most places here are well signed though...

    It is illegal to tow a vehicle being occupied so just sit in it or when the truck pulls up, move the car. If its running and your occupying the vehicle and they STILL tow you? Even a bad lawyer would have a field day with that...

    Agreed josephlawrence43. I'd consider it assault and probably most every lawyer, judge, and police office would too.

  • josephlawrence43 Nov 11, 2010

    Really simple here---park someplace you're not supposed to, solid grounds for towing. However, touching my vehicle with an intent to tow it while the motor is running and my wife is sitting inside--solid grounds to get shot. Semper Fi.

  • keneds Nov 11, 2010

    must not be many good ol boys and rednecks in Wilson, if so there would have been a shooting for sure. Most people dont think off the wall like I do. I would like to see another tow truck come and hook to the first tow truck while he was hooking up the car to be towed... guess thats why I'm not a tow truck driver...lol

  • Qwerty27807 Nov 10, 2010

    With all the wanna'be gang-bangers running around Wilson these days, that is a brave towing company that puts their families at risk to grab a sleazy buck.

    The law may be on your side, but it won't always be AT your side.

    Enforce the parking ban, but look into your heart and think if *bullying* people and the insane fees is worth the anger it provokes. Someone may decide to avenge themselves.

    This law firm is getting off too easy as well, since the towing company is just their agent in this.

  • saywhaaaaat Nov 10, 2010

    Thank you for explaining it to these people (beachboater)...I guess some folks just don't get it. PEOPLE! If you want to park somewhere for free you can go and do it somewhere else...And pleeeease keep this law firm OUT OF YOUR mouths. The firm isn't a falt that people do not know how to read signs.

  • goldeagle Nov 10, 2010

    It sounds to me like an appropriate response to the parking situation is for the Wilson town government to take inventory of their parking situation. How many people need to park downtown, now and in the foreseeable future? How many spots are available? Are the people that are parking illegally parking there because the legal spots are unavailable or for some reason simply less desirable? How does mass transit fit into the plan?

    Then look around, see what property is for sale (or could reasonably be condemned), and build themselves a parking deck.
    At $750 in fifteen or so minutes, the town may be spending enough on towing to pay for that parking deck. Or at least an empty lot.

  • bmg379 Nov 10, 2010

    It is too bad raleigh did away with this,people park in fire lanes in shopping centers all the time,they need to be towed immediatly

  • bmg379 Nov 10, 2010

    good luck trying to get a tow co to tow cars in front of your yard or dviveway,they usually want you to pay

  • beachboater Nov 10, 2010

    Set up this scenario. You neighbor is out of town. But his teenagers stay home and have a BIG party. His "guests" park in your drive way. Would you call to have them towed? Probably not, but what if you go next door and ask that the car be moved, they tell you to go jump in a lake. What do you do then? What do you do when you have an emergency and someone is blocking you in your driveway? You probably don't have no parking or trespassing signs in your yard.

    The law firm bought the land. I would guess a pretty good price that close to the courthouse. They purchased the land for their staff and clients to park. The put signs plainly stating no parking except for staff and clients.

    Now, a client comes in for an appointment and can't park. Do you think that is fair? I don't. I think the towing company is doing what they are asked to do and I think the law firm is certainly entitled to the use of their own property.

    Do you want someone parking on your property? Oh, but it w