MEMPHIS, Tenn. — John Marek says he and his girlfriend were enjoying a meal at R.P. Tracks this spring when he ran outside to flag down the driver from PB&J towing her car away.
Marek says his girlfriend’s car was parked in front of a barber shop nearby.
“I tried to catch the guy and was trying to wave down the driver when he threatened to run me over and took his car straight towards me.”
Marek got the car, but it cost him.
“I ended up paying the guy $120, no receipt. I thought the whole thing was kind of strange.”
Strange, the former city attorney says, because he quickly realized, PB&J had likely broken the law.
“It was at that point that I noticed there was no signage at the parking lot, in the entryways as required by law, and there was no signage in front of the spot we’d parked in front of.”
Marek filed a complaint with the City of Memphis Permits Office in March, including pictures from the parking lot.
He and his girlfriend attended an administrative hearing Tuesday to present the complaint to the head of the permits office Aubrey Howard.
Howard heard a total of eight complaints against PB&J. Not all of the complainants were present.
Through open records, WREG obtained a copy of Marek’s complaint and several others in addition to the eight presented at Tuesday’s meeting.
Some, like Marek’s, are related to signs not being posted in parking lots. Other complaints were related to PB&J not properly reporting the tow before conducting it.
PB&J also runs a separate booting company, Risk Management. It’s facing complaints too. For example, drivers complained about employees not wearing proper identification as required by a booting ordinance passed last year.
Marek said, “When you don`t have proper signage and you violate the ordinance and you’re targeting primarily poor people and college students, yeah, that’s predatory towing in my book.”
PB&J’s owner Patrick Lawrence dodged WREG’s camera, while employee Issac Herron called the booting and towing ordinances “flawed.”
Herron, who did most of the talking during the hearing, objected to most of the complaints.
“We object to the complaints because the complainants were not there, the persons who allegedly filed these complaints were not there, in order to present a more accurate version.”
Herron says PB&J is far from predatory. In fact he says they’re being picked on.
“We’re targeted mainly because city officials have given this impression that we’re somehow operating outside what we should be doing, and we’re not.”
Herron says it’s not their responsibility to post signs.
“The law requires that of the property owners. It doesn’t require that of the booting companies, of the towing companies.”
PB&J signs are now posted in the parking lot Marek was nearly towed from this spring.
His complaint and photos indicate that wasn’t the case earlier, and for that, he says, PB&J should be held responsible.
“We have an ordinance in place,” Marek said. “I just want to see tow truck companies across the city actually follow them.”
Howard says he’ll make a decision after reviewing transcripts of Tuesday’s hearing. That should take less than a week. If the complaints are found to be true, PB&J could face fines, or harsher penalties.