whouseknecht (whouseknecht) wrote in bad_service,
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Car towing scam at Rite-Aid #3825

My wife & I are recovering from what looks to me to be a car-towing scam at one of our Philadelphia-area Rite-Aid stores.

At around 2 PM today, my wife fabricdragon and I drove down to the Italian Market to do some shopping. She was in need of some Krazy Glue®, and I was in need of some grated Romano cheese. To this end, we went and parked at the Rite-Aid at 801 South 9th Street, which has off-street parking.

Now, this store has prominently posted signs stating that parking is for customers only, and all others will be towed. No problem. She took the keys and went into the store, while I went off to Claudio's for my grated Romano.

According to my wife, she went in, found the glue, and then proceeded to peruse their cosmetics. They were having a sale on Revlon, and she was adding things to her basket, comparing them, putting some back, etc. Evidently, while she was going over different nail polishes, she heard one store employee remark to another that either "no one's in the store" or "no one else is in the store". She called to get their attention, but when they didn't respond she assumed they weren't talking about her, and went back to her shopping. (N.B.: she was in plain sight; it is inconceivable that they neither saw nor heard her).

At about 2:20 PM, 15 minutes after I'd left, I returned to our car with my purchases and noted that she must still be in the store. While standing next to our car, I called her on my cell phone to verify this, and she asked me to come in to assist her with making some decisions about the cosmetics. As I was about to tell her that I was on my way in, I turned around to go in and saw a tow truck backed up to our car with the towing "forks" in position around our rear wheels! According to my wife, the last words she heard from me were "What the hell are you doing!?" and then I hung up.

I had indeed asked the tow truck driver, "What the hell are you doing!? My wife is in the store!" He replied that I'd "have to take that up with the store" and "they made an announcement". I told him that he was not towing my car, and headed for the store entrance. Just as I got there, I saw my wife running frantically up to the checkout counter, evidently throw something down, and then run outside.

She yelled at the tow driver that she was shopping in there. I told her that he'd said that we'd have to take it up with the store, and to go back in and get a manager. When she complained at the register about this, the clerk said, "We were about to make an announcement."(!) Being upset, she had raised her voice and was told that "yelling isn't helping anything", "you're being rude", and "just continue your shopping".

Now, my bad: I yelled at the tow driver to get his truck the hell away from my car. I probably shouldn't have yelled at him, as he hadn't done anything to deserve it (other than to try to tow my car). The tow driver just laughed and set about moving his truck away (without our car).

My wife came out of the store, muttering about never shopping there again. After we got in the car and were trying to pull out of the lot, we saw a store employee standing there looking at the back of our car. We had the distinct impression that he was taking down our license plate information. Seeing this, we paused near the front door to get the "call us for any problems" number they had posted, then left.

The first time my wife tried to call that number, no one answered. The second time, she was put through to customer service. The fellow she spoke with said they would have a hard time figuring out what store was involved, despite our giving them the intersection about 100' from the parking lot entrance; also, "they probably saw your husband walk away and so weren't going to page in the store"; and, "sorry about that".

Once we got home, we looked up the store # and she called them again. This time, the customer service representative was a bit more understanding, to wit: "Oh my god! No! They did what!?" My wife managed to give this person the same details as the first one, and was assured that it would be investigated. My wife told them that we had better not get any complaint or notice about a ticket from this incident, or we would take legal action.

Now, Corporate Rite-Aid came across with helpful responses (at least, the second time); the store itself did not. It's now 4 hours after the incident, and we haven't heard anything from them. We're giving it until tomorrow, and then will complain further.

PARANOID SPECULATION FOLLOWS
This behavior suggests that perhaps this store is running a towing scam with the tow truck service: spot a suspicious car (how this is defined is unclear), call the tow service, get it hitched up, and then make an announcement. (We've also considered that the tow driver might have been prowling for business in or near the lot, saw me walk off but did not see my wife enter the store, and moved in for the tow). If the tow is hooked up, they might be able to extort a fee from the hapless customer to get it detached. If no one responds in time, the vehicle is towed, and the owner is then stuck having to fork over more than $200 to get their vehicle back. Either way, the store management might get some of the fees kicked back for being such a good customer. In this town, I wouldn't be surprised.
END SPECULATION

Needless to say, we are never shopping at that store again and, unless we hear something ameliorative from Corporate (not monetary; we just want an apology), never at any other Rite-Aid, ever.
Tags: scams
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