Booting complaints continue, despite new law

Memphis, Tenn. -- October 1st marks one year since a booting ordinance went into effect in Memphis.

A WREG investigation reveals new rules haven't completely reigned in rogue companies and ridiculous fees.

Bright yellow signs with bold red writing posted in a parking lot across from the Memphis VA make it clear, drivers will find a boot on their car if they park without paying.

The company in charge is also listed on the sign. Additional signage shows people can even text to pay.

It's looks much different from a year ago.

It's the the same parking lot where veterans and spouses said they were paying but still getting the boot.

"I came out and went back to get the car and there was a big boot, a big metal brace around it," said one woman.

Complaints like this about aggressive practices and outrageous fees led the Memphis City Council to pass a booting ordiance.

The ordinance was passed in July, but October first marks one year since the rules went into effect.

Aubrey Howard is the city's Permits Administrator.

"The company should have a license to do booting."

According to the ordinance, employees who boot must have a permit as well. They're also required to wear identification.

The maximum booting fee is $50.

Companies must accept multiple forms of payment including checks, cash or credit cards and provide a receipt to customers.

Howard continued, "The booting company must put a sticker on the car, that identifies the company, the time it was booted, and why it was booted."

However, a News Channel 3 investigation uncovered complaints revealing some companies still aren't following the rules.

Through an open records request, WREG found 12 formal, booting complaints filed with the city since the ordinance went into effect.

Of the 12, half were about PB&J's booting company, and the others, with the exception of one, were complaints against Secure Assets.

One customer sent a picture to the city showing a machine taped up.

He said he assumed it was broken, but minutes later came back to a boot.

In his complaint he wrote, "It's a racket, it's a shame and something needs to be done about this."

He accused the company of preying on poor people and said they shouldn't be "bamboozled."

Another complainant submitted pictures and receipts, he said, that showed his car was booted while he was buying a parking ticket.  Even the time stamps for the parking ticket and the boot are the same.

One driver said in an emailed complaint after he was booted a guy showed up in a beat up unmarked car asking, "You got the cash?"

WREG asked Howard about such a transaction and he replied, "Well, that`s illegal. That`s clearly illegal."

Howard says since the booting ordinance was put into place, it's also been amended to clarify some things. He also told News Channel 3 they're currently in the process of updating the wrecker ordinance which would allow the city to get tougher on violators.

Before heading to the courthouse Thursday, Derrious Hudson said he made sure he paid to park and got a ticket to prove it.

"I had one friend come down and he paid, you know, same thing like I just did, paid somebody to park, they had on a little parking t-shirt, showing that I guess they`re established or whatever, whatnot, come to find out, it was just a random person off the street."

Hudson says his friend's car was booted.

This incident he says, happened about a month ago and it cost way more than $50 to remove the boot.

Hudson replied, "One twenty-five, $175, somewhere up in there."

Also according to the regulations WREG found online, companies are supposed to respond to removal requests within 30 minutes. If it takes more than an hour, the boot is supposed to be removed free of charge.

The rules also state if the owner attempts to retrieve the vehicle before booting occurs, "there shall be no fee."

Memphis City Councilman Martavious Jones was a big proponent of the booting ordinance. He recently told WREG he'd like to get more information about complaints this year, compared to the previous year.

He said if there were only 12 complaints since October, that could be a sign the ordinance is indeed working.

Some of the booting complaints uncovered by WREG were part of a recent hearing related to PB&J Towing.

So far, a ruling hasn't been issued related to those complaints.

Drivers who have a complaint about illegal booting should call 901-636-6711.