Parking lot confusion, complaints of overzealous towing company

A CVS customer had no idea that he just parked in an illegal spot until FOX 46 told him.

"It's very confusing," the customer said. "It's kind of hard to tell if you are illegally parked."

The confusion stems from the fact that the drive-through pharmacy for the CVS, located at the intersection of 6th and Graham Streets in uptown Charlotte, is actually located in a private parking lot owned by the architectural firm Perkins Eastman.

In front, there are only a few parking spots for CVS. Behind the drug store, in the same parking lot as its drive-through pharmacy, there are about a dozen spaces. 

This has created confusion, according to several customers and a CVS employee. 

While signs at the front and rear entrance, and in the lot, let customers know they will be towed or booted, FOX 46 found possible code violations. 

For instance, signs located at individual parking spaces do not say "towing enforced," as required. Some are completely covered by bushes. A few parking stoppers say "Perkins Eastman" in faded pink paint and not "clearly displayed," which is also required by city ordinance.

We sent photos to CMPD.

FOX 46 General Manager Kieran Clarke was picking up medicine for his wife on a Saturday when his car was booted. He says he was inside for just five minutes.

"It felt very predatory because his attitude was very aggressive," said Clarke, speaking about the tow company Wheel Blockers. "He informed me I was parking illegally in that parking lot and with major attitude told me I had to pay him either $100 in cash or $124 if I had a credit card. It felt like a shakedown."

Wheel Blockers has more than two dozen complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Most, the organization said, are for booting cars in spots not clearly labeled. 

A man who answered the phone number for Wheel Blockers declined to go on camera but said they are in compliance with the law and hired by Perkins Eastman to keep their private lot clear.

"We do a job," the man, who did not give his name, said. "We are in compliance."

He said people who park in marked spots "deserve" to be towed.

FOX 46 reached out to Perkins Eastman. A man who identified himself as David Segmiller, and said he was a manager, initially said the firm had no agreement, relationship or contract with Wheel Blockers. He later said he wasn't sure.

"They're doing their job frankly...they keep the lot clear for us and that's it," said Segmiller. "I don't think there's a story there."

Segmiller and Wheel Blockers both say the firm receives no money from the cars that are booted. A CVS employee said they get at least two complaints a week from pharmacy customers who come back to find a boot on their car and are forced to pay $100 cash to have it removed. 

The busiest days to get booted are on weekends and Saturdays, the CVS employee said, which is when Clarke got his boot. 

Segmiller says employees work on weekends and need the parking spots.

"Probably a necessary evil," said David Holder, the property manager for Perkins Eastman. "Because they're limited on the parking spaces. The parking is clearly marked. And, if you do it, you might as well expect to get booted."

As for the customer FOX 46 informed just parked in an illegal spot - he was quick to move.

"I'm getting ready to get back in my car," he said, hurrying back to his vehicle. "I don't want to pay a boot fee for no reason. So I'll look for somewhere else to park, I guess."