Stop that tow truck!

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I've had a one-woman boycott going on since around this time last summer. I know I'm missing out on some cool stores and restaurants, but that's too damn bad because I'm not going to risk being towed just so I can get a drink or find a cute gift.

In good news, Charlotte's City Council plans to discuss the city's aggressive and seemingly predatory towing practices at tonight's city council meeting. That's good, because until something changes, I'm avoiding the city's few infamous tow-happy parking lots — and all of the businesses surrounding them. Like you, I don't have time for another schedule-shattering towing experience.

When I was towed, all I did was make the mistake of stopping by the Starbucks on East Boulevard. It was a hot day, like today, so I parked in the back of the empty parking lot, beneath a tree. Sure, I noticed there were a lot of signs in the parking lot, but there were no signs where I parked. (And, I must admit, I'm a little sign blind, ask anyone who's witnessed me setting off alarms while opening doors with giant, red "don't open this door" signs.)

Anyway. I was inside Starbucks for, maybe, 30 minutes. When I left, the parking lot was even emptier than when I arrived, notably because my car was no where to be found ... and that's when I noticed the big "we hate customers" signs all over Starbucks' parking lot. Since then, I've only been back to patronize East Boulevard businesses once — and that's because a friend made me go.

My sign blindness cost me around $150 that day, counting the taxi fare to get me to the tow lot — with a short side trip to my bank, since the towing company only accepts cash. (I don't know about you, but I live in a debit card world.)

It sucked, and the unexpected bill stung my budget. But what are you going to do? I have to have my car.

Since then, I've learned I'm not the only one who's been picked on by Charlotte's tow trucks. It's not Starbucks' fault, though. The company towing everyone at that location is called "Key Man." They hire United Towing to be their heavy.

So far, I've yet to find anyone who knows what the hell Key Man does — Google says they're in the business of "office and desk space rental" — or why they require an empty parking lot to do business. Meanwhile, Starbucks leases 12 parking spaces — 12, that's all. So, drink your latte at your own risk.

Read more about what's on the City Council's mind, as far as towing issues are concerned, at The Charlotte Observer.

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