Josh Rebiskie of Denver wasn’t particularly happy with the way his car was being towed in June. A landscaper, Rebiskie said he’d backed his Toyota RAV4 into a snowbank in gusting winds. The gate to his driveway was down. And that night, like with many other times before, he was sleep-deprived after a long day.
So Rebiskie said he agreed to get his car back the next morning. By then, he’d already seen the lot attendant with his finger on the tow truck’s horn. This time, he decided, was not the time to just walk away.
“He asked if there was anything I needed,” Rebiskie said. “I told him. I showed him my sign.”
The attendant hosed down his bushes with suds to wash it all off, Rebiskie said. Rebiskie said he then heard his door clang shut and his wife screaming for him to come out. He came out to find the lot attendant now atop his Toyota, moving it by the rack, keeping oncoming traffic a safe distance away. Rebiskie said the attendant pointed to where cars where parked behind his vehicle and flashed a menacing grin when Rebiskie asked him if he’d honked the horn while honking the horn.
“He said, ‘You need to follow orders,’ ” Rebiskie said. “I said, ‘It’s illegal, they can’t move this car, you need to move the car.’ ”
On his return, Rebiskie said he’d discovered a back gate to his driveway open and snow piling up on the ground. He felt there was a good chance something else had happened as well, if he let it stay in his car overnight. He grabbed his smart phone and jotted down his complaint on a slip of paper. He paid cash, he said, hoping the matter would end there.
The next day, his wife discovered that the lot attendant had not only refused to close the gate — he had also increased the weight on his Toyota. He’d also locked the car in the pole-like wooden trailer that’s used to towing a vehicle. Rebiskie was not happy. He filed his second complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees roadside assistance.
He sent his postcards to about 50 organizations and individuals along the Front Range — prosecutors, police departments, the police chief — and eventually got his money back from Old Town Auto Dismount.
The only problem, Rebiskie said, was that the attendant “is off the clock every night.”
This week, the company came forward with their bad day history, offering to repay Rebiskie an additional $1,000. The company “is trying to clear their name,” said Neal Rice, president of the company, which now employs nine full-time attendants.
“We definitely took it personally,” he said, when Rebiskie brought the violations to light. “These guys feel particularly predatory.”
Rice said he’s been the victim of tow-truck drivers in Colorado before, including one who he said assaulted him for a $1.50 spilled cup of coffee.
“We took a little bit of time to do a fact-finding tour with the neighborhood,” Rice said. “We know there’s problems. We want to get those problems fixed.”
The Denver Post reached out to a number of the area’s tow companies and law enforcement agencies, and so far has not been able to reach anyone who had complaints about any of them.
Rice said he is trying to take some of the shaming out of drivers’ dealings with the companies. In a December 2017 email, Rice told his employees to deny requests for service after a ride-hailing or taxi company returned the customer’s car unsecured after taking them by surprise. He also reminded them that it’s illegal for towing companies to use “gratuitous harassment, impoundment, and/or harassment.”
But Rebiskie said he still believes the dispatch center employees should have followed through with their night-time promise.
“I’m glad they’re giving us a refund,” he said. “But they should have taken immediate steps to fix their mess and take what they agreed to before going home.”