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Predatory Booting

This time last year, the city passed an ordinance to crack down on "predatory towing." But the same rules for towing do not apply to wheel locking or "booting." That booting has stirred up quite a fuss at a parking lot behind a Starbucks on East Boulevard. The city ordinance passed last year says that if the owner of the vehicle returns to the car while it is being towed, the towing company must release the vehicle free of charge. But that rule does not apply to booting. The boot can stay and only comes off when you pay $50. This is what's occurring at a parking lot behind a Starbucks on East Boulevard in Charlotte. So here's the layout. There are two buildings there. One is the Starbucks and the other is the Key Man office building. The owners of the Key Man building own the parking lot that services both businesses. If a Starbucks customer parks in a spot not designated for Starbucks, their vehicle is getting the boot, courtesy of United Towing. The owners of the Key Man building have contracted with that company to monitor the spaces. As a result, the Better Business Bureau has had 5 complaints about United Towing since the ordinance was passed. These have been from upset car owners who parked in that lot, says Tom Bartholomy, Charlotte's bureau president. "We're not saying what they're doing is necessarily wrong or evil or insidious," says Bartholomy. "It's just that there's a loophole in this ordinance that the city council thought they had crafted, but something else is now afoot." United Towing now has an F rating from the bureau, because it has not responded to those 5 complaints. United Towing owner Tim Harding says he's working within the rules of the law. "I'm not doing anything illegal," says Harding. "I'm doing something that's legal. I'm abiding by their rules-they changed the rules." Besides, Harding says, there are signs clearly posted there. He says he doesn't have anyone standing by watching for illegal parking. His trucks just patrol the lot randomly. Pressed further, he wouldn't say how often he patrols or how many vehicles per day get booted.