“I was in there for only five minutes,” you lament. Helpless, you watch as your plea short-circuits any semblance of sympathy from the expressionless cashier, who coldly replies, “That’ll be $150.00. Cash.”
“Most of their anxiety is being caught and having to get their car back, they feel somewhat violated. You have to understand that,” says Danny Jones, general manager of All-Safe Towing & Recovery, about owners whose cars he and his stepson and lead driver, Patrick Pavone, have towed over the years. The family-owned business is responsible for removing 95 percent of illegally parked cars throughout Asheville…80 lots and 3,000 parking spaces in all.
Towing illegally parked vehicles, from 15-passenger vans to scooters, is no drive in the park. “We’ve been shot at. We’ve had our trucks shot up — windows shot out, tires blown out,” says Jones. “About 10 percent of the drivers have threatened to beat me up. I had one guy — had his car up in the air — pulled out a tire iron, came around the front of my truck and said, ‘Get out,'” says Pavone.
The worst offenders, according to Jones, are doctors. “We had a group of doctors who said that if we ever came through an emergency room, they’d leave. One thoracic surgeon said that if I ever came into an ER and he was there, I wouldn’t walk out. The thing that bothered me most is if he said that to me, he’s thought of it before and it was probably not the first time he said it — it came off too quick. That ate me up,” says Jones.
Jones points out that when it comes to defying logic, some of All-Safe’s most well-heeled offenders do the dumbest thing — they try to get away without paying. “I was lifting up this doctor’s $80,000 Land Rover. He comes around, jumps in, starts it up and tries to drive off. Crushes both his rear quarter panels. Another time, we were towing a brand new Mercedes SUV and the guy drags it off the rack, drives it through a fence. There was a truck load of Mercedes parts lying in the parking lot. He actually destroyed it — probably $10,000 worth of damage to avoid the $125 towing fee.”
In true Asheville fashion, Jones and Pavone try to accommodate those needy souls who really have an understandable reason for parking where they do. “We had an older driver who was obviously confused as to where he was. We’ve had folks that you could tell have no money, no way; helped repair something on the car so they could get it out. Handicapped folks. Mothers who are downtown with three or four screaming kids. We love kids.”