Monday, December 17, 2012

Timely Reminder About Tow-Away Parking

With all the holiday shopping, it's a good time for brush-up on parking in privately owned lots.  A reader writes:

My mother-in-law was running errands and stopped at Walgreen's on Clark and Wilson, purchased a few things, then ran across the street to pick up dry cleaning.  In under ten minutes she was back in the Walgreen's/Staples/US Cellular parking lot and could not locate her car.

The nice folks at the US Cellular store told her that it was not stolen, but the consumer-friendly folks at Walgreen's contract with the towing company "Rendered Service Inc." at 2119 Rascher Ave.  The deal is, a customer of one of these fine establishments steps off the shopping plaza property, and a gentleman stationed and waiting in an on-site car gets on his walkie-talkie and immediately calls Rendered Service.

I went to pick her up, and brought her to Rendered Services (we found it by following another tow truck from the Walgreen's parking lot).  The cost?  $198.  And they were doing BRISK business.  Four people in front of us, and three more tow trucks delivering vehicles while we were in line to get her car.

So, happy holidays.  Save yourself a few hard-earned dollars and avoid this exceptionally predatory corner of Uptown.

This is completely legal, but quite Grinch-like.  Yup, it's legal, but to tow a customer -- your customer -- who has just patronized your business, and who obviously will be back after picking up dry cleaning, just steps away?  If that happened to me, Walgreen's -- all Walgreen's -- would lose a customer for life.

In addition to the lot at Wilson/Clark, we are aware that similar policies are in place at the strip mall on Broadway and Gunnison and at the old KFC at  Broadway and Buena.

If you need to park for the dry cleaner's at Wilson and Clark, it's owned by the Rayan Family, and you can park in the lot behind Rayan Liquors, just across the street.


  1. That lot across from the post office is notorious for that too. I was waiting for stuff to dry at that laundromat and the guy all but shut his car door and a tow truck zoomed in. It was 9:00 at night, the lot was 75% empty. He parked on the outer edge, maybe just dropping of a letter.

    Anyway, I needed that laundromat now and then for bulk items but no longer do and never patronized any other business in that strip mall. If that's how they conduct business, they don't get mine.

  2. That parking lot is notorious for towing. The Tow truck lurks in the alley between Staples / Walgreens like a cat waiting to pounce. When they spot someone leave the premise, they zip into action. I clocked them one time and they had a car towed in less than 2 minutes.

  3. It is good that we remind each other about this especially when everybody has a lot on their mind for the holidays.
    You're right about that mall across from the post office on Broadway. I had laundry in the dryer, went to the dollar store then to the Post Office to mail a letter and got towed. Told the owners of the stores and they couldn't do anything.

  4. It is a tough balance for businesses, as without parking enforcement their lots can fill up with non-customers and then businesses lose customers that can't find parking spaces.

    When I shop at the Aldi on Broadway and want to run next door to the Target without moving my car, I always check with the Aldi security guard to let him know what I am planning to do and confirm it is ok. They always say ok and I have never had a problem. I suspect following the same procedure at this Walgreen's store might have worked.

  5. What if there are two of you and one goes inside Walgreens and the other goes across the street but the "watcher" doesn't realize that someone has gone inside Walgreens, (or that someone is still inside Walgreens). Has anyone ever successfully contested the towing company in such an example?

  6. This is true of ANY private parking lot in the least any lot which has a Towing sign posted. I don't take a chance doing it anywhere...and yes I learned it the hard way years ago.

  7. Al Lux, I was trying to find a story from probably about 8 years ago or so, when the management there decided that instead of towing the cars, they would Boot them. This proved to be illegal, and rather illogical, since the idea behind the towing is that you want the parking available for your customers. Booting the car, does the complete opposite. It made the news after someone brought this up. There were a bunch of stories that came out of the woodwork regarding the precise situation that you mentioned. (One person going into Wag's, while another went across the street, and was towed.) Which was also illegal. Unfortunately, trying to reason with Tow services, is about as productive as yelling at a brick wall.

  8. Thanks for this reminder! Same thing happened to me at Walgreen's on Broadway and Waveland. Bought stuff at Walgreen's, went to my car, got a bag of clothing out of the back and walked the 1/2 block west to Brown Elephant to drop off donations. In the time I gave the bag to the guy at the counter, filled out a receipt, and walked back, my car was gone. Lincoln Towing, $225. I have never set foot in a Walgreen's since.

    There's a difference between a store ensuring space for patrons to park and predatory "watchdogs" who call in the yank-and-grab.

  9. I agree with Ed on this - I found out the hard way (it was 9 1/2 minutes between leaving my car, returning and finding it gone, taking a taxi to the tow shop and paying my fine - in the Erehwon/West Elm parking lot on North Ave).

    I've just lumped it in as another shady practice of the city of Chicago (yes it's done through the businesses, but Chicago is the only city where I've heard of/seen such extreme practices). I'm still baffled that this city has such high sales tax, ridiculous fees (city stickers/"wheel tax", etc), and these seemingly unscrupulous ways of generating revenue, but it somehow is still near the top of the budget-crisis cities.

    ...but that's for another discussion. Just realize towing like this happens all over the city not just in a few select locations.

  10. T Johnny said...

    "management there decided that instead of towing the cars, they would Boot them. This proved to be illegal "

    I don't think it is . I know of at least a half dozen lots that boot cars all the time . Dunkin Donuts on clark/belmont makes a killing booting cars .

  11. As Ed stated, I believe this to be true of most private lots in the City, not just Walgreens. This happened to my sister at a Dunkin Donuts in Lincoln Park years ago. I can see both sides of the argument here.

  12. My guess is that the woman put the things she bought in the car, then walked out of the lot to do her errands. There's no way some guy in a towtruck is keeping a spreadsheet of who got out of which car, so he can track them from the door of Walgreens to somewhere else. In other words, if you patronize Walgreens and then want to do a quick errand, carry your Walgreens bag with you to the errand. The guy will just mark you as a pedestrian customer and keep looking for his real prey.

    I think Walgreens has a right to keep non-Walgreens customers from parking there, and so if you're a Walgreens customer who wants to do an errand at the same time, you need to make sure you don't look like a parking poacher.

    And for those of you who are defending poaching, well, you're just knuckleheads.