According to the Independent Florida Alligator, tow truck drivers in Gainesville are constantly being verbally attacked by locals. The article goes on to report how they are just doing their job and the students are not taking responsibility for their actions. I would agree… if these truck drivers weren’t breaking into people’s cars. Is that legal? I highly doubt it. Is it ethical? No. Do these drivers serve a real community purpose or are they just in it for themselves?
The truth of the matter is that you have no recourse in matters regarding the tow truck companies. They can tow your car — and have many times — based on their own arbitrary sense of right and wrong. They bid for the right to have access to a particular parking lot, including offering to pay for kegs for fraternities and offering apartment complex management deeply discounted auto repair privledges for the right to “roam towing” access, which simply means that they can drive to the complex whenever the mood strikes them and tow cars, regardless if anyone has called due to a problem. It is solely for the purpose of revenue generation. They are not providing any service.
I have seen these tow truck drivers in action and have been disgusted by their attitudes and actions. I remember riding with an aquaintance of mine to the lot to pick up a towed car and hearing the tow truck driver brag how the car owner tried to make towing more difficult by turning the steering wheel when they parked but “we got it anyway”, obviously making an attempt to further agitate the victim. I’ve also witnessed them breaking into cars with a “slim jim” to turn the wheels. Understand that police officers aren’t allowed to carry those kind of devices to assist people… so why would some less-than-common tow truck driver be allowed to break into someone’s car to move it?
My girlfriend’s uncle drives a wrecker and he’s a great guy. We’ve had a discussion about this and he was as disgusted as I was. I know he’s up all night helping people with real emergencies and doing honest work while creeps like Stan’s Towing roams the neighborhoods looking for cars to steal. Another thing to note is that they require cash for you to retrieve your car. And, naturally, they have an ATM on site that charges a processing fee of at LEAST five dollars… and I’m willing to bet an all-cash business has ways of making that money disappear, too. Someone PLEASE audit these people!!!
UPDATE: Here’s the Florida State Statute regarding towing. Apparantly, it’s LEGAL for them to break into your car?!!! According to the statute, the drivers must perform “reasonable care” to the vehicles or they are liable for them. What?! All they have to say is “I never broke the doorlocks. They were like that before!” It’s insane!