BEWARE THE HOOK
The woman came running out of the deli as if her hair were on fire. “What are you doing?” she screamed at the truck operator who was clearly getting ready to tow her van. “You parked in an illegal space, ma’am,” he replied.
A look of horror spread over the woman’s face as she read the sign over the parking spot on Miller Avenue in Bethesda: “Sandy Spring Bank customer parking only.” She had missed by one the space allotted to Vace’s gourmet Italian deli.
The matter was settled in moments. She paid the operator of the Auburn Towing truck $50 and he unleashed her van. She left and he returned his truck to its secluded spot around the corner. He then went to his lookout position to wait for another victim. I walked up for a chat.
He told me the woman was lucky. Had he moved her van even a foot he would have charged her $100. If he had towed it back to Auburn’s Rockville lot, the cost would have been $175.
What Auburn and other companies are doing is called “predatory towing.” As sneaky as it seems, it’s perfectly legal and is, in fact, regulated by the county. Sandy Spring has a contact with Auburn to make sure poachers don’t use the four spaces they have for customers. The Auburn truck doesn’t set up camp there every day, but on the days they do come to Bethesda they do good business. The truck driver told me if a motorist parks in one of the bank’s spaces and fails to go directly into the bank, he will have it hooked up to his truck in less than a minute. Ka-ching.
Here’s the odd part. Right on Wisconsin Avenue, only a few feet from the bank and deli were are two perfectly legal metered spaces. Less than half a block away is an enormous public parking lot. If the woman driving the van had been willing to walk just a short distance she could have saved herself a lot of aggravation, not to mention 50 bucks.
If you come to downtown Bethesda, allow time to hunt for a legal parking space. The Auburn truck may be lurking. A word to the wise is a Core Value.