Viral Predatory Towing Story Quickly Finds Sympathizers
Witnesses say towing company installed “No Parking” sign after driver was already parked
ANCHORAGE - Melissa Wolf’s story hit Facebook over the weekend. After a friend posted about her car getting towed downtown on Saturday, March 9, Wolf said the post “kinda went viral amongst my friends.” But that same post connected her to witnesses who are now speaking up against what Wolf called “predatory towing.”
Just before 10 p.m. on Saturday, Wolf and her friend parked her black Jeep Liberty in the alley just next to the Brown Bag Sandwich Shop near 4th and D Street. Wolf said there were no signs saying she couldn't park in the alley, but when she came back around midnight, things had changed.
“I actually saw my car getting pulled from the spot,” Wolf said Tuesday. “I went over to the driver and said, ‘That's my car, can I have it?’ and he said, ‘Nope, it's too late.’”
Wolf said the tow truck was with Anchorage Towing, and as she tried to get her car back, she noticed a passenger “holding the red ‘No Parking’ signs… in his lap,” she said. “He had several of them in the back of his tow.” That’s when she noticed the “No Parking” sign above her Jeep, a sign she knew hadn’t been there before.
The owner of Anchorage Towing declined to be interviewed Tuesday, but said that an employee at the Brown Bag had requested the car be moved. The owners of the Brown Bag said Tuesday that they have never asked for a tow, and that no signs have ever been in the alley. The owners filed a report with Anchorage police, and, after officers took photographs of the scene, the owners removed the sign themselves.
Wolf said the tow driver wanted $400, and without the cash on hand—she claimed her purse was locked in the car—the vehicle went to the impound lot. She and her friend were left downtown, at midnight, with no ride home. She had to recover the vehicle the next day.
But then witnesses started coming forward.
“When I came out of the Brown Bag [on Saturday night], a woman on the third floor had her window open and shouted down to me and said she had watched them install the sign with bolts, and then take a picture of my car,” Wolf said. Once her story went up online, more witnesses reached out to her with the full story.
“We saw the Anchorage Towing Company hang a sign in place, and then tow the vehicle, so they put the boot on and everything, then hung a sign, took a picture of the sign, and then towed the car,” another witness to the event said. Wanting to only be identified by her first name, “Melissa” didn’t know Wolf before the incident. But what she saw spurred her to reach out through Craigslist.
“I did post an ad on Craigslist, to try to get in touch with the owner of the vehicle and let her know that I did see what happened, and that the sign was not there,” Melissa said. Wolf’s friend’s post on Facebook eventually connected Melissa and Wolf, who have exchanged information and contacted additional witnesses.
As to why she reached out, Melissa said, “It's just so wrong the way [the tow companies] go about it! It's not like she saw the sign and made a conscious choice to park there anyway: There was no sign; they posted a sign, and then towed her, and then charged her for it.”
“That's stealing,” Melissa said.
In the end, Wolf had to pay to get her car back. But she said the social media momentum is pushing her to seek recompense.
“I plan to go to small claims court,” Wolf said. “It’s not good for the city to have people breaking the law… [and] I don't have $400 to just donate to a business,” she said.
“I feel that other people have had this happen to them, I'd say dozens,” she said. “And if you feel like someone broke the law, you should not take it.”