Beware of where you park in the cities these days. City governments need revenue and will gladly extract it from unsuspecting citizens through systems designed to entrap you.
Not being a resident of the city of Philadelphia and rarely driving to the city, I was unknowingly caught in one such scam quite recently. It cost me $205. The $5 part likely being the last scam in the process.
I parked my car to have lunch with my kids (now all young adults). Two were in town visiting. One from New York and the other from Los Angeles. Great lunch at a place called The Lift on 13th St. between Callowhill and Spring Garden Sts. While I ate, my car was being towed. Nice dessert huh?
It was parked in front of a red car inside the white line. I was careful when I parked to make
sure none of it was in the X’d out box. Unbeknownst to me at the time, in my haste to meet my offspring, I missed a few things.
What I didn’t notice was the faded white line on the sidewalk and the fenced in, overgrown, pad locked and abandoned and obviously unused parking lot to my right with the signs on it. This was my mistake to the tune of $205 as it turned out.
What I did notice was the empty space where I parked my car. I panicked and called two of my daughters. Neither answered. I called my son-in-law and fortunately he did.
I told him I thought my car was stolen. He asked me if it was towed. Hadn’t thought of that. That is when I noticed the sign on the fence of the abandoned and unused parking lot. It had a number to call on it.
While I was on the phone with him, I also noticed another car being towed on the next block up by Lew Blum Towing. Now, it all suddenly fit. Apparently, this is an all day endeavor. No rest for the wicked as the saying goes.
I took photo’s and called the number on the sign. A dull sounding voice answered. I said, “I think you guys towed my car.”
He asked for the type of car which I described. The response was, “Yeah, we got it. $205 cash to pick it up.”
I extracted the address. (It was on the sign which I didn’t notice until after I hung up.)
My son-in-law arrived a few minutes later. He took me to a local bank where I drew out the cash. We went up to 40th and Girard. Drove around for a bit looking for a parking lot. Not seeing any we scouted around a bit and noticed a tow truck parked on a side street. Then, we spotted this door. Whoda thunk?
When you open the door. You walk into a run-down, very narrow, and claustriphobically small dark room with a thick window and a slot at the bottom with two pad-locked doors. One with the Lew Blum proclamation “Parking Lot and Driveway Enforcement Specialists” on it. Gee, a new specialty- scamming citizens out of money. Nice way to make a living huh? (Pics are a bit blurry but you get the picture I think.)
The other was locked and marked Private facing you as you enter.
No one was present but I heard a TV on and voices. Couldn’t see into the room. Knocked on the window. No one answered. TV was too loud I guess. I noticed 2 unmarked bell buttons. Pushed the lower one figuring the other must be to the upstairs. A young black man eventually appeared. He asked me for a photo license and my keys. I reluctantly gave him both after some minimal resistance or obviously would not have gotten my car.
I asked him why $205 when the sign says $175 and $25 daily storage fee. He said it was a 20% city tax. 20%? Uh, dude 20% of $200 is $40 and of $175 is $35. Uh, how does that equal $5 ya friggin moron? (Basic math apparently wasn’t his strong suit.) I ran through that in my head and didn’t say anything. I figured it was his self-imposed tip.
I told him that all I had was $20 for the extra $5 and asked him if he had any change. He said, “No, but there is a store on the corner you can get it from.” My waiting son-in-law fortunately had $5 so I didn’t have to go to the store which would probably have tried to make me buy something to get change was my speculation since it is likely a regular request.
He left and after a little wait came back with my keys and license. He took the money and gave me the license back. I asked him where the car would be. He replied, “Open the garage door next door and the keys will be on the dashboard.
I went out the door and noticed a steel garage door to the right of the door. I tried to open it but it was solidly shut. A local black man in his 50’s I guessed was coming up the street. He passed and mentioned something about the friggin scam. He obviously knew what was going on. Most street locals do and can give you the real scoop on more than you might think. It’s the middle class working stiff’s that end up the butt of most of these kind of spider’s nets.
The steel door rolled open after some delay. There was my car in front of another steel door. Just enough space between the steel doors to park your car and return to the safety of their scam center. Well, at least they were polite enough to leave the door open for me. Valet parking however is quite costly in the city these days however.
Very little human interaction. Just the exchange of your cash for your car. Is it even on the books? Who knows. Does Lew even declare it all? It’s all done in cash.
I did get a receipt which had the official Lew Blum Towing Co. Inc on it along with “Parking Lot Enforcement“, “Driveway Enforcement“. (See shot above for the official Lew Blum reception area.) Obviously, the City government and Lew Blum work together cooperatively since I watched another car parked in front of a fire hydrant being towed while I waited for my ride. But hey, it’s for the good of the citizens of course. Just ask honest Lew he’ll tell ya for sure.
After all, Lew’s website claims he makes most of his money from: “property owners, management companies and vehicles that need roadside assistance.” Sure Lew, and snakes really do have legs don’t they?
Notice the totals. $175 is along side “Service at Scene” (A questionable claim to say the least. You call towing someone’s car while they eat in a local restaurant service? For whom I wonder? Not for the private citizen obviously.) and $25 is alongside “Total Storage Charges” (They tow my car and then charge me $25 to store it for a couple of hours at the most. Part of the legalized theft scam obviously.)
The $5 so-called 20% city tax (Guess math wasn’t this dude’s major in school.) wasn’t beside any column. Just part of the total. Nice huh?
Cities are hurting for revenue. City and State debts just like our Federal Government which has a national debt sitting at $17.6 Trillion and growing exponentially higher at a greater rate of increase. Local taxes are growing and they are all crying poor. Banks are getting Billion$ bailouts amounting to Trillions. The ultra rich engineer tax breaks and put their money into Foundations to avoid taxes. (Which they use to direct that money into where they want it to go and keep it away from the hands of government. Tax exempt Foundations arose about the same time that the income tax began in 1913 BTW. How coincidental huh?)
Then, you have parasites like Lew protecting the property rights of abandoned, overgrown and pad locked parking lots. Real important work you know. A true service to human kind and our cities.
Meanwhile, a short block up, he was towing a car parked in front of a fire hydrant. Is that private property now Lew? Obviously not!
Who funds the city I wonder? I work in the city and pay city wage taxes amounting to thousands of $ a year? Now I pay Lew for something that impacted absolutely no one but the one caught in the web. (And Lew’s pocket’s too along with my scammed $5 tip.)
You really have to stay alert these days. Watch yourself on highways where the local and State police are waiting to spring a fine for not coming to a complete stop at that stop sign or for the tail end of your car in their arbitrary zone when the light turns red etc. And parking? Well, they’ll get you either way in the cities these days. If you pay for outrageous public parking (in many cases) they get a cut.
If you get scammed by not being fully aware of your choice, you get burnt like I did. Either way you are making up for their short falls and feeding a local parasite as well too.
The ultra rich aren’t. They have the money to pay for the rules to be constructed in their favor.
Below are some links to other articles on scams associated with or in the cities. If you have any others let me know and I’ll post them to inform others.
Meanwhile, as the old Amish grandfather said to the character Harrison Ford played, John Book, in Witness:
“You be careful out among them English.” Oh, and watch out from them Lew Blum signs too while you are at it.
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