Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Anchorage Towing Under Fire For Alleged Predatory Towing Practices, Placed No Parking Sign On Occupied Slot After The Fact And Towed Vehicle

A local tow operation is now under fire for alleged predatory towing practices. Anchorage Towing is accused of placing a No Parking sign on a spot where a vehicle was parked, then towing the vehicle. The owner of the parking spot, Brown Bag Sandwich Company, says they didn't request the tow, and that there's never been a No Parking sign there.

KTVA Channel 11 has the story. Just before 10 p.m. on Saturday March 9th, 2013, Melissa Wolf parked her black Jeep Liberty in the alley just next to the Brown Bag Sandwich Shop near 4th and D Street. Wolf said there were no signs saying she couldn't park in the alley, and was not blocking access to a nearby dumpster, but when she came back around midnight, there was a truck from Anchorage Towing hooking up her car. A No Parking sign had suddenly been placed on the spot, and when Wolf asked the tow truck operator to unhook her car, the operator said it was too late, and she would have to give him $400 to unhook. Wolf also noticed other No Parking signs stored in the tow truck. When all was said and done, Wolf and a friend with her were left downtown at midnight, with no ride home. She had to recover the vehicle on Sunday. She intends to go to small claims court to recover her money.

The owner of Anchorage Towing said off-camera that an employee of Brown Bag requested the tow. But Brown Bag said they never asked for a tow, and that no signs have ever been in the alley. The owners also filed a report with Anchorage police, and, after officers took photographs of the scene, the owners removed the sign themselves. There's also a witness who corroborated Wolf's story; a woman on the third floor of an adjacent building had her window open and told Wolf that she had watched the tow truck operator install the sign with bolts, and then take a picture of Wolf's car. And it appears this type of behavior by Anchorage Towing may not be a fluke; other accounts have been posted on the newly-formed "People who have been screwed over by Anchorage Towing Facebook page". Wolf posted a copy of the invoice HERE.

I decided to check the Better Business Bureau rating on Anchorage Towing. They are not a member of the BBB, and the BBB gave them a letter grade of "F" as of March 13th, based on length of time in business and the company's failure to respond to one complaint filed against them. The BBB cites 16 different factors which can lower the grade assessed for a business.

Anchorage Towing has a website and a brand-new Facebook page, but do not publish their reaction to this incident at either source. Chapter 9.54 of the Anchorage Municipal Code outlines towing procedures, and AMC 9.54.020 addresses parking in private areas (if that link doesn't get you there, use this link and scroll down).

KTVA previously did an investigative report on high towing fees in Anchorage. In this report, Aurora Towing was under the spotlight. In the case of Aurora, they were storing vehicles seized for a DUI at only $3 a day, but were charging $28 per day for storage in other infractions. Mayor Dan Sullivan called for a comprehensive review of the towing ordinance involving the public, the industry, and the assembly, while Assemblyman Paul Honeman said he's working on legislation to require tow rates to be more consistent.

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