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SPEAK OUT: Is Towing from County Parking Lots a Problem?

ABC7 highlights the issue of towing in Montgomery County.

With Montgomery County feeling the parking crunch, have you been towed after parking in a lot and “walking off” to a different establishment? Or worse, have you seen your car unfairly towed from the lot of the business in which you were shopping?

ABC7 recently highlighted the issue of towing in Montgomery County—30,000 cars last year alone, according to ABC7—and spoke with a family who says their car was unfairly towed. Towing is the No. 1 complaint fielded by the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection, according to the report.

“We really are in crisis mode in Montgomery County with respect to non-consensual towing,” Eric Friedman, Office of Consumer Protection director, told ABC7. “They’re just hiding, waiting for someone to walk away or do something wrong, then they swoop in like a hawk and get their car.”

But enforcing parking policies can provide a safeguard for the business community, merchants say. In Bethesda, where parking is especially scarce following the , a major surface parking lot that’s being redeveloped into a parking garage, business owners say they have to be vigilant when it comes to their parking spaces.

“You have to be aggressive," Tim Merkel, of , told ABC7. “Otherwise, your lot is filled up with customers that aren’t coming into your establishment.”

Do you think towing in Montgomery County is an issue, and if so, what should be done about it? Has your car been towed? Tell us in the comments.


Lee Anne Blank, LMT June 12, 2012 at 03:05 AM
I was towed from Staples lot on Layhill and Georgia. I had to go to Catholic u to pick up a book so parked and went to the metro. Came back to get the toner cartridges from my trunk to recycle at staples and my car was gone. Lot had no more than twenty cars in it. It cost me $22 for taxi to Rockville and $150 for impound lot. I bought $300 in toner that day but from Office Depot not Staples.
Bethesda Guy10 June 12, 2012 at 12:35 PM
It's easy enough to fool the average tow truck driver. Most are lazy and stupid or they would not be tow truck drivers. Park and then go in the store for the space. Wait a few minutes and leave to go on to your final destination. Go to staples first for instance but don't go back to your car befor leaving the premises. The Tow truck driver needs to see you go to the store. Also if you see your car being towed get in as quick as possible and lock your self in. It's illegal for them to toe the car with a person in it.
bbs June 12, 2012 at 12:46 PM
How about parking at private property space, such as my townhous development, I was towed because my front tire was touching the white line, the space next to it was my own reserved spot, cost me a day of work 150.00 in fees, who makes these rules???
art slesinger June 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The only way to get MoCo and Planning to stop over developing neighborhoods like Bethesda is to vote, both at the ballot box and with your feet. I stay away from Bethesda because it is crowded beyond any rational standard for customer convenience. White Flint is next and until voters replace the Council with some people with more vision, the problem will get worse.
Jeff Hawkins June 12, 2012 at 03:48 PM
MoCo is the proverbial "honeypot" for the tow truck driving business. Lot's of cars, lot's of money (some folks), overcrowding and not enough parking. It's a predatory business to say the least. I believe as of now, the average citizen has no recourse and until the citizens do.......nothing will change. Personally I have not shopped in the Bethesda, Silver Spring area in decades. If you can, as Mr. Slesinger suggests.........stay away from those types of areas. You and your car and your wallet will be happier.
Bethesda Guy10 June 12, 2012 at 05:07 PM
I always leave my steering wheel pointed so the wheels are hard to one direction or another usually so if my car were to be towed it would hit the car next to me. Although a skilled tow truck driver can maneuver the car out of the spot even then, it requires much more work and usually 2 people. Again tow truck drivers are usually lazy and stupid so they move on to a car that is easier to grab.
Bethesda Guy10 June 12, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Oh, I've hit a nerve, you a tow truck driver Frank. I should be more specific, I've met lots of nice tow truck drivers that AAA contracts with. But then there is Frank's towing in Arlington. Hey, you're not that Frank are you?
Michael Shapiro June 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
A town house development has absolutely nothing to do with towing from a public or commercial lot. If you were towed from such a space, your gripe is with either the owner of the development (if rental units) or the Association Board (if you are dealing with a condo type development). You need to know why you are griping.
Michael Shapiro June 12, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Thanks, Frank, I had not actually thought of it as theft, but your characterism of the act is on point.
Bethesda Guy10 June 13, 2012 at 12:04 AM
In some cases I would agree but when a lot is completely empty for a business that is not open and a car is towed it makes no sense, and is merely profiteering. If I park at Strosniders and go there AND CVS it makes no sense to re-park. Getting towed for a tire being on line is just a tow truck company making a buck not performing some service of anti parking lot theft. The punishment does not fit the crime for towing. $150 to get a car unimpounded and the HUGE headache. Tickets are a better alternative but private lots need a better way to enforce walk offs. I use meters and private lots respectfully to avoid tickets and towing but I'm always paranoid that some tow truck driver will just grab my car for some minor infraction like running to CVS after bein at Strosniders or parking on a line or going 2 minutes past 2 hours. Towing is a scam and there needs to be a better way.
Michael Shapiro June 13, 2012 at 12:27 AM
You're nit picking. If you break the rules, you've committed a violation. By the way, if you really want to see horrific towing company horrors, look up some of Mike Royko's columns on Lincoln Towing (I think in the Sun-Times, but my memory can get a little fuzzy back that far).
Bora Mici June 13, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Does any of this money make it back toward street and transport improvements because it should.
Things June 13, 2012 at 04:06 AM
As someone already pointed out, many of you are confusing county lots with private ones. I'm pretty sure that Strosniders lot is not a county lot. Neither is the CVS lot. If they tow you then your complaint is with the private sector - the store or lot operator - not the county. But while we're on the subject of parking = theft - how often does that Mercedes dealership park its trailer on Arlington for the whole day, blocking traffic for miles. Isn't that theft of a public resource - the right of way on a street - for private gain?
Michael Shapiro June 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Thank you. I was just about to bring that up, but, thought that it was not really about parking lots & towing. Those trucks pull up regularly, stop, and unload. They are in a no parking/no stopping zone. Not only is what they do illegal, it is a traffic block, and a safety hazard. Why isn't the county doing something about that problem. Surely multiple people have reported these repeated violations to the county police.
christine June 13, 2012 at 09:01 PM
I parked in the CVS lot on Wisconsin Ave in Bethesda ( next to the auto dealership) I ran across the street to pick up something ( maybe 15mins) came back and did 45mins shopping in CVS . Not only was my car towed all the way out to Rockville I had to take a metro and then a taxi and pay 130.00 plus the 25.00 cab ride as the wrong address was given to me. I am sure my car was towed while I was in the CVS. The manager was nothing short of rude and nasty " really not his problem" I will never go back into that CVS again.
Fred June 14, 2012 at 02:09 PM
The Connor building surface lot on Woodmont is a notorious tow zone. Here's a "fun" thing you can do...walk up to a car in that lot, any car (not your own car), pretend like your about to unlock it and get it, then act as if you've changed your mind and walk across the street to Starbucks.
LB June 14, 2012 at 05:26 PM
"It's illegal for them to toe the car with a person in it." That would be tow not toe. I would have let it go if it were a typo. Homophone - words that sounds the same but are spelled different with different meanings. Who is stupid now big shot Bethesda Guy?
LB June 14, 2012 at 05:36 PM
This post is funny! Stop parking illegally and you won't get towed. Why do you think you are so entitled? Who cares if the lot is empty. Lee Anne, the sign says you can't park there and walk off...you did, pay up, it is private property. Just because I have a driveway, does that mean anyone can park in it? I would tow you too! And Christine, you should have had your receipt and it should have been time stamped, you should have taken it to the towing company as proof. Did you? Pay up.
christine June 15, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I like the idea of the time stamped receipt ..they are such lovely people to deal with I bet they would be open to working something out.....NOT!!! The manger in CVS was as nasty as you can be without using foul language, In regards to my being 45mins in CVS he should ask the manager that was helping me find all my odds.and ends,.( by the way frank do you ever shop for make up ) . ...Yes that would be the same manager that turns around to confirm that my car had been towed and was then nasty. I returned every last item at CVS before I left for the impounding lot. I was not going to let CVS have my sale
MD June 15, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I wish they start towing in MV. There are numerous cars/trucks, ect that are primed for the picking. If you arent doing wrong, most likely wont get towed! Most companies dont want to get sued....
Derek Hale June 15, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Your issue with MV (if inside the boundries of Montgomery Village and not public streets) is with the HOA or the Condo Association which has specific rules about parking (hours, commercial vehicles, abandoned vehicles, vehicles that cannot move (flat tire, etc.). So you need to talk to your Board officers about this.
Joe Thomas June 17, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Mr. Bethesda expert guy. How is that you have met so many tow truck drivers? To form an opinion that they are all "lazy and stupid" you must either get towed a lot or break down a lot. Personally I think that you are full of it.
Sharon June 17, 2012 at 04:25 PM
To MD: Good luck, MD, with the suggestion that you take issue (and most issues) up with your HOA. They are in 'hiding' & normally don't like to get involved except pretty much @ election & reelection time. Then they comes out of the woodwork! Covenant regulations have been & are just something that look good 'on the books' & permits them to carry 'Corporation' status. And, if anyone comes back & disagrees & thinks I am just blowing off 'hot air', I have been here long enough to know the history. And for those who think making a community better if one is dissatisfied is "just move", I will wait for your check in the mail making up for the difference (depreciation of my home market value due to absent HOA in enforcing any regs, parking etc). You wanna be a sudden 'Sugar Daddy' & allow me to Move Out of Dodge, my mailbox is available to accommodate your generous contribution/your supplemental checks. Hummm!
Malcom J June 18, 2012 at 11:53 AM
There is actually a lot of parking in Bethesda. The one parking garage gets filled, but there are other garages in the area and more meter parking across Wisconsin that is rarely filled. At night there is the library's parking lot.
Malcom J June 18, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Moving the post office to be MUCH farther from the Metro and Business core and without any parking - THAT's a problem! Mattress Warehouse and Verizon are towing cars regularly.
Pete Claey July 12, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I agree with MD, start towing and enforcing the truck covenants in MV. I live in South Village and a former board member here drives his truck and parks it here every night. I believe that he is on the MVF board now. Mark Firley, why isn't he forced to resign? He isn't following the rules. Ask MV President Hydorn that question.
MS July 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Let me see if I read this right. You parked in Staples' lot (in Silver Spring) and took metro to DC? When you returned to Staples' lot you discovered that your car had been towed?
Concerned Resident November 18, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Parked in a legal space in the Hillandale Shopping Center on the side of Value Village. When my kids and I came out our van was gone and I was in a panic and thought my mini van was stolen. I went back in the store to find the police officer on duty. The store manager told me to call the tow company listed out on the signs. I said, "why would they tow me if I was parked legally?" He said they have had lots of issues with towing. I call and find out they towed me because my van was parked a little over the white line in the spot I was in. I spoke to the police on duty and he apologized and said they have had on going disputs with this tow company. He said he has watched them troll the parking lot. They were towing cars for expired tags but the police squashed that because the tow companies did not have the right equipment/jurisdiction to do checks. Just b/c a car does not have an up to date sicker on the tag does not mean they are expired. (per Montgomery Co police). I was a little over the white parking line but does that really justify towing? I was not taking up 2 spaces, was not parked sideways and was not parked in the middle of two spaces. The tow company said they were instructed by property management to tow for this reason (Duffie Management CO). REALLY, you got to be kidding me...cost me $150.00 and they had my van for maybe 2 hours -I beleive something is going on here...kickbacks...quick $ scam, just shady if you ask me...
Michael Shapiro November 19, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Contact the Management Co. My bet is that, if that was the only reason that you were towed and you were legitimately in the parking lot, the Management Company will go back to the towing company and make sure that they refund your money. After all, there are a number of towing services in MoCo and the threat of a management company firing their towing service is a very big stick. Also, since there was a moratorium on towing over the past few weeks because of a disconnect between state and county rules. If the posted signs didn't meet the new rules, it is quite possible that the tow, itself was a violation. Be very firm, but not over the top. Make a plan as to which way you want to go, in what order. You might even use a threat of small claims court. Good luck!
Becky Irvine March 11, 2013 at 09:53 PM
We are in a study at NIH with our 9 year old son, we were towed from the Connor Building when a family member came to visit us here. It is very stressful to be at NIH and a town you are not familiar with, we are warning people who go to NIH about the towing here and the Connor bldg. Very bad experience and very costly, something we really couldn't afford, $30 cab fare and $400 tow.

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