Omaha woman came to Kansas City to see the Royals play. She left with a $330 tow bill | Opinion

Briell Redd was enjoying her trip to Kansas City until her car was illegally towed. Days later, she was refunded in full. But Redd may never visit this city again. And who could blame her?

Unscrupulous towing companies face little to no consequences for breaking the law. We have written about these tactics before but motorists are still being preyed upon. Are you listening, Kansas City officials?

Redd, 22, lives in Omaha. She is a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She was here with her boyfriend over Labor Day weekend to take in a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium.

The couple enjoyed the visit so much, they decided to stay an extra night, Redd told me. On Sept. 3, she and her boyfriend rented a one-night stay at vacation rental home near the Delaware Lofts in Kansas City’s River Market.

“That entire night was wasted,” Redd said. “I am a little disappointed.”

Just after 4 p.m. that day, Redd arrived at the loft to check in, according to email correspondence she shared with me. Redd parked the black 2022 Chevy Equinox she drove in a private parking lot owned by Epoch Property Management. She didn’t pay the $5 fee it costs to park for one hour.

Why not? Because minutes before, the rental home’s property manager had given Redd instructions on how to enter the property to retrieve a green parking tag reserved for the loft’s designated parking space. Redd did what she was told to do. Her boyfriend joined her inside.

When they returned to the parking spot, the SUV was gone. With the parking pass in hand, Redd began to worry, she told me.

“I was so annoyed and nervous,” she said.

Hauled away for a $5 parking violation?

After Redd discovered the SUV missing, she notified police, but she was told there was no report of the vehicle being stolen. She called around and found out the vehicle had been removed from the premises around 4:30 p.m. by Autobot Towing of Independence.

But the tow happened closer to 4:20 p.m., Redd said. If true, doesn’t it seem predatory to remove someone’s vehicle within 15 to 20 minutes for a $5 parking violation?

None of us should be surprised. I have witnessed multiple towing companies repeatedly break the law by not following Kansas City ordinances.

Earlier this summer, I wrote about Autobot Towing’s questionable business practices. The company was skirting regulations and exploiting loopholes in city and state law, I wrote.

But was the removal of Redd’s SUV legal? No, according to Kansas City ordinances. I wanted to know from the owners why Redd’s vehicle was towed and how she qualified for a refund from Autobot. Others subjected to illegal practices would like to recoup their fees too.

A third-party vendor that patrols the lot summoned a tow truck to the scene, Autobot Towing manager Charles Cosgrove said through a text message. Redd’s vehicle was parked in a private lot, he said.

After speaking with parking patrol services, Cosgrove texted that they both agreed that the rental home should have provided Redd a parking permit upon arrival.

“I know we all have a job to do,” he wrote. “The residents who live there pay a significant amount of money for their parking space and it’s frustrating and unfair to them when they come home at night and don’t have a place to park because someone is illegally parked in their spot.

“However in this case I do empathize with her situation and I don’t believe that it was intentional. This is why I chose to refund her money.”

Redd did not have the parking tag on the SUV, but it should not have been towed to begin with. Here’s why: Under city ordinances regulating towing, a tow service operator must notify the Kansas City Police Department prior to removing a vehicle from private property to determine if the car is stolen. In this case, Autobot failed to contact the police.

Police not notified SUV had been taken

In an email, Kansas City Police Capt. Corey Carlisle confirmed there was no report of the tow, a clear violation of city law.

“I checked with records and they don’t see a 2022 Chevy Equinox on the Autobot tow list for 9/3,” Carlisle wrote.

Also, city ordinance requires a full-time employee of property management companies such as Epoch to be on site and sign off on each tow. Again, the law was disregarded here, according to Redd.

I asked Epoch officials about this, but messages to the company’s director of property management Ashleigh Lollar were not returned.

For hours, Redd tried but failed to retrieve the vehicle from Autobot. The SUV was leased by her father and he was the only one who could authorize the vehicle’s release, Redd was told by a rep for Autobot Towing. But Redd’s father was a 10-hour drive away. How could he approve the release, she asked the rep?

“I had to get notarized authorization to retrieve the car,” Redd said.

She paid a total of $332.90 to get the SUV back. She was charged a $265 tow fee. She was also docked $25 for the hook-up and a $30 per day storage fee.

For good measure, a 4% surcharge was tacked on because Redd used a credit card to settle up, which is also illegal. In Kansas City, a tow service operator cannot add extra fees because a customer uses a credit card to pay.

The SUV was finally released around 10:30 p.m. Redd was more than willing to pay whatever the cost.

“I did not want to be stuck in Kansas City another day,” she said.

Yes, Redd got her money back from Autobot. But the SUV she drove should have never been towed. Until Kansas City cracks down on some of these illegal towing practices, other residents and visitors to River Market will not be as fortunate.

How is that in the city’s best interests?