Getting the boot! City council finally looks into regulations for booting companies

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —  Our cameras were rolling as a man removed a boot from a car in a parking lot across from the VA hospital several months ago.

WREG had gotten a complaint about drivers being booted in that particular lot.

We asked, “Is there anything you can talk to us about?

The man, who didn’t identify himself said, “I boot cars that don’t pay, if they don’t pay, they get a boot.”

However, it doesn’t seem quite that simple.

Yet, it’s become quite common for residents and visitors alike to get booted all the time in downtown Memphis.

Recently,  a tourist told WREG he returned to a bright green notice and a boot on his car, despite having paid someone who appeared to be a parking attendant near AutoZone Park.

The man also told WREG it seemed odd that the booting company requested $150, cash only, yet they were willing to bargain for $75.

“Just frustrating over a $3 parking or whatever it was,” said Lynne McIngvale.

McIngvale frequently drove her 83-year-old husband from Batesville, Mississippi to Memphis for doctor’s appointments at the VA last fall.

On one particular day, she says she dropped him off, and tried several times, using cash and a card to put money in the machine.

“When I went to put the money in, it told me, that my slot was not available.”

A slot she says was clearly open because she parked in it.

Confused, and frustrated, McIngvale says she headed toward the hospital because she’d left her ill husband out front.

She assumed the machine would indicate she attempted to pay, especially since she’d used a credit card.

“When we went and got through with our appointment, I came out and went back to get the car and there was a big boot, a big metal brace around it!”

McIngvale ended up paying $125 in cash to get the boot removed.

Others have similar stories.

Veteran Ed King told WREG, “The last time I was here, I put money in the thing and I still got booted and I had a ticket and all.”

King says they didn’t charge him, but it was still a hassle.

That booting company employee WREG  spoke with explained, “It’s a pay here sign. If they paid, it’s in the system, but if it doesn’t show up in the system, it’s nothing we can do about it, if they get a boot.”

He said he couldn’t answer any other questions.

“Anything else you have questions about, just call my boss and he’ll let you know.”

WREG tried but didn’t hear back from the company by air time.

That “boss” though, also owns PB&J towing, which is another company WREG has exposed for its problems.

And while they may not have answered NewsChannel 3, they’ll be forced to deal with the city and the possibility of new rules.

“It was the wild, wild West around Memphis, whether it was 201 Poplar, whether it’s in this area,” said City Councilman Martavius Jones about booting practices.

Unlike towing, there’s currently no oversight or regulations for booting in Memphis.

Jones recently introduced an ordinance to change that.

“Let’s just say I’m parking some place and I run in for five minutes, I can’t come back and have my car immobilized but yet have to pay $250.”

In addition to time frames, Jones says the proposal sets maximum fees, and requires companies to register.

“This is going to apply to every employee that has the ability to immobilize a vehicle.”

McIngvale’s husband has since passed away, but she wanted to share her story, thinking of all the others making the same trip she did.

“Well, something needs to be done.”

The city council is scheduled to vote on the booting ordinance Tuesday, June 11.

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