You could probably fill the Jackie Gleason Theater with the number of shoppers who have sworn they'll never return to South Beach. It's usually prompted by the same thing: Folks drive in, park a car, buy some gelato, maybe see a movie -- and return to find their wheels missing. Stolen? is the first thought. Then it's: Towed?! Of course. Towed.
If the drawer full of letters Riptide has received in the past year is any testament, this whole phenomenon of a tow-happy Miami Beach, while not new, seems to be getting worse. Dori Martin, our most recent angry letter author, blames the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce. The group has welcomed perhaps the two most loathed Beach businesses -- Tremont Towing and Beach Towing -- to enjoy the credibility and promotional benefits of the chamber's approval stamp. Pretty ironic, considering they are the companies that arguably scare away the most spenders. Martin writes, "I am not the first person, nor will I be the last, to never come back to Lincoln Road... Shame on you for allowing this to take place!"
Chamber spokeswoman Franchesca Ramsey counters, "We definitely sympathize with [Martin]... But I don't know that there's anything we can do." She says she has passed the complaint on to the director of tourism.
The chamber obviously can't enforce rules; that's the city's job. And fact is, every time a car is towed, a percentage of the fee goes to Miami Beach. So it's complicated.
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Still, since the chamber is such good buddies with the towing businesses, why not drop them a friendly little note? The suggested subject: "Chill out a bit, will ya?"