Monday, October 25, 2010
Help Me Howard: I-95 Towing
Have you ever had your car towed? Hopefully it was your choice and it turned out great. But we hear from many people who tell us their towing experiences were less than wonderful. The latest: a guy whose simple little tow cost him $500 till he called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Jean Verrier was on I-95 when his car ran out of gas.
Jean Verrier: "Two minutes later, this guy pulled up behind me."
It was a tow truck driver who offered to tow him.
Jean Verrier: "I said, 'How much do you charge per miles?' He said, 'I charge you $5 per mile.' I said, 'I just want you to take me to the nearest gas station, and I'll pump some gas, and I'll be on the road to go home."
Like many people, Jean wasn't aware, but if he had waited a couple of minutes, the state-funded road rangers would have pulled up and put some gas in his car for free.
Jean Verrier: "I didn't know about it."
So the tow truck driver hooked up to Jean's car. Then Jean says he handed him a blank receipt to sign.
Jean Verrier: "I said, 'I'm not going to sign it, man.' He said, 'Hey, man. Just sign it, in case a cop stops us, they don't say that the car was a stolen car or whatever. You just have to sign it.'"
After the tow truck driver promised the bill would be about $100, Jean signed it and was towed seven miles to a gas station where Jean filled up his car, then turned to the tow truck driver to pay him.
Jean Verrier: "He said, 'Hey, here's your total.' It was $490, but eventually they jacked the price up to $500."
The driver did charge $5 a mile, along with a few other things.
Jean Verrier: "$125 for regular hookups. He charged me $180 for waiting. I don't know what he was waiting on. He charged me $150 for labor. He charged me $10 for fuel. I pumped the gas with my own money."
Needless to say, Jean was outraged. The truck driver was not impressed.
Jean Verrier: "He said, 'If you're not going to pay, I'm going to take the car with me to the tow yard, and you're going to have to pay more money.'"
Jean called the cops. They told him that it was a civil matter.
Jean Verrier: "The cops said, 'Pay him his money and call Channel 7.'"
Jean paid the driver $500 to unhook his car from the tow truck then called us, disgusted at his interstate towing experience.
Jean Verrier: "I feel like they should have came to me and pulled out a gun and said, 'Hey, give me all your money.' I got robbed. Period."
Well Howard, is charging $500 for a seven-mile tow robbery? Or because Jean allowed it, just business?
Howard Finkelstein: "What happened in this case is wrong on so many levels. First of all, solicitation. In other words, pulling up and offering to tow without being called is a crime. As for the price, because Jean was told it would be about $100 dollars and it was $500, that's an unlawful and deceptive trade practice."
When we called the tow company owner, he said they were not soliciting, that Jean called them. Jean says that is not true. He also told us Jean agreed to all the charges. Jean says that's not true. The tow company owner then told us they have been in business for a long time and don't have any complaints. He then gave Jean back a check for $340, meaning Jean paid $160 for the tow.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you break down on the Turnpike or I-95, just dial *FHP. A trooper will either call a tow truck from their police rotation system to tow you or if you just need gas or a tire change, they will call a road ranger to come do it for free."
Jean learned a great lesson, and even better: he got $340 back from an interesting towing experience.
Jean Verrier: "I'm so happy. I wouldn't get this money without 7 News. I didn't have to do anything, but just e-mail. I want to thank channel 7. Thank you."
Patrick Fraser: "Now Howard said if a tow truck driver solicits on the interstate or Turnpike, it's a crime. But I have never heard of anyone ever being charged. The reason? As one fellow told me, a tow truck driver will wave at a broken-down driver. If they wave back, he can claim they motioned for him to pull over. Best thing? Hit *FHP. It can save you a lot of money."
A situation left you a wreck? Ready to haul the mess away? Contact us. We will give you a lift at a price everyone can afford: free.CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com