On April Fool's Day, Beach Towing Service punked Karl Willman. The unemployed college student pulled into the parking lot of the CVS Pharmacy at 1421 Alton Road around 7:45 p.m. He parked his 2005 gray Honda Element, got out and walked next door to Lime Fresh Mexican Grill to grab a bite to eat. Willman finished his meal and went inside the CVS where he purchased milk.
By then, about an hour had elapsed since Willman's arrival. When he stepped onto the parking lot he realized his car had vanished. He immidietely noticed Beach Towing trucks hauling out two more cars. "When I called Beach Towing, they said I had to pay $185 to get my car back," Willman fumed.
Beach Towing is one of only two truck operators that are allowed to hitch vehicles in the City of Miami Beach, which collects a service fee from each automobile Beach Towing and Tremont Towing hauls away. Beach Towing charged Willman $150 for a hook-up charge, another $30 for a weekend fee, and $5 for five miles of towing, even though the car was transported four-tenths of a mile to Beach Towing's lot on Dade Boulevard, Willman claims. He was forced to pay in cash, he added.
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"After forking over the money and getting my car back I decided to find out what a normal towing fee would be," Willman continues. So he called up Beach Towing posing as if his car had broken down and that he needed a tow from the Miami Beach Convention Center five miles south to his apartment building.
The attendant "said it would cost me only $50!" Willman said. "So why did I have to pay three times that amount? Getting a raw deal like this is really a bummer!"
On April 2, New Times contacted Beach Towing, requesting an estimate on towing a vehicle from 6th Street and Collins Ave to a residence in the Shenandoah neighborhood of Miami, about ten miles away. "That'll cost you about a Buck and a quarter," the attendant replied. And he meant $1.25 with the decimal point moved over two spaces to the right. Beach Towing officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Meanwhile, Willman has filed a complaint, one of eleven against Beach Towing since March of last year, with the Miami-Dade County Consumer Services Department. --Francisco Alvarado