Mark Nadel is a Bank of Georgetown customer, so he felt comfortable parking his car in the bank’s parking lot on Sunday before he withdrew some cash from the ATM and stepped into the Whole Foods Market next door for some milk.
When he came out of the Friendship Heights store about 10 minutes later, his car was gone. He called the number on a sign in the lot and Rockville-based towing company Diversified Recovery Towing confirmed the company had towed his car.
One problem: When Nadel went to the bank manager the next day, he was told the bank had no contract with Diversified or any other towing company.
“He told me he didn’t care who parked there when they’re closed on the weekends,” Nadel said. “The bank manager was amazed that this happened.”
The bank manager called the towing company and Diversified agreed to refund Nadel the $168 charge. Nadel said he was told by a maintenance man on-site that Diversified towed cars from the lot without a contract all weekend. He went to the Chevy Chase Village listserv today to advise others who might have been towed.
An employee at Diversified’s office in Rockville said the company would not comment on the story.
Eric Friedman, director of Montgomery County’s Consumer Protection Office, said his office has heard about similar stories at the bank location (5410 Wisconsin Ave.). Friedman’s office has been leading the charge on preventing illegal and aggressive trespass towing.
Situations such as the one Nadel experienced on Sunday are common. Friedman said many complaints involve tows that are technically legal, but consist of a tow truck driver pouncing on a car as soon as a customer leaves the business the spot is reserved for. Often, that customer is in a business next door when his or her car is towed.
But in this case, the tow company didn’t have a contract from the business in question. The bank wasn’t even open.
“To me, it’s no different than if I parked my car on a city street and someone came and towed it away,” said Nadel, who took the Metro up to Rockville to retrieve his car.
“I was really pissed off,” Nadel said. “And I know other cars were towed away.”