You probably always feel like “it’s total bullcrap” any time your car gets towed, but on this one particular Philadelphia street auto-impounding might actually be a scam.
A local ABC station is currently investigating George Smith Towing for allegedly hiding their “don’t park here” sign on South Broad Street, South Philadelphia, waiting for somebody to park in front of it, then revealing the sign and towing the car away.
People come back and see the sign, but not their car, and can’t get the car back until they pay George Smith’s impound fees.
Some cursory research revealed that George Smith Towing was cited by the city of Philadelphia Controller’s office four times for having excessive towing fees in 2009. Here’s video of a George Smith truck casually ravaging an Audi in 2013. A 2014 Philly.com news story implicated the company in another suspiciously illegitimate-seeming mass impound in 2014. Hell, I even found some random dude bitching about George Smith Towing on his art blog.
In regards to this latest incident, local residents have captured video that claims to show the tow company leaving their own vehicle in the space ahead of their “trap” spot to make extraction of these allegedly extorted cars easier.
Chris Norman, who apparently lives across the street and video’d George Smith towing vehicles on South Broad Street told ABC: “Same spot. All day long. The sign lays down. Somebody pulls up and parks, suddenly the sign is back up again. The car gets towed, the sign goes down again and it happens over and over again.”
ABC correspondent Christie Ileto put the company on blast, and seems to have been collecting even more evidence against the outfit since her video (above) went live.
Not only does the Better Business Bureau give George Smith Towing an “F” thanks to dozens of unanswered complaints logged over the past two years, but the tow company also has an impressive backlog of surprisingly non-profane Yelp reviews.
We’ve reached out to Philadelphia’s City Representative’s office and police department for comments on the situation. I’ll make an update if they come back with more information.
I tried to contact George Smith Towing as well, but the phone rang off the hook and I haven’t been able to find an e-mail address. Now I really hope you don’t have to call them to find out how to get your car back.
Philadelphia’s parking enforcement department does not list George Smith’s address as one of their four official impound lots, leading me to wonder if the city contracts with the company to tow over-ticketed or illegally parked cars.
I suppose private organizations can use any towing service they please, but the relationship between the actual owners of this spot on South Broad and the George Smith towing company remains unclear. It seems like the tow truck drivers have access to the fenced-off area where the sign is allegedly hidden and displayed.
The video clips certainly make the situation look shady as hell. And now that accusations against the company are spreading on the news, George Smith would be wise to get to as many of those news outlets as they can with proof of their legitimacy in the matter.
We will be following the story to see where it goes.
If you work with George Smith Towing and have another side of the story to tell, my e-mail’s below and I read all the comments I can.