Taco BellWelcome to another edition of “Uncle Bing Says So”, the weblog where your friendly Uncle Bing talks about whatever is on his mind that day.

 So, I went to Taco Bell for lunch today. There’s nothing too unusual about that, of course. As we ate, we watched the people come and go. Out in the parking lot, we saw a tow truck back up to a nice Subaru Outback and, in less than three minutes, hook it up and tow it away.

“Oh well,” I thought, “that’s what the scofflaw gets.” You see, this Taco Bell is right across the street from a major university and they seem to have a problem with students parking in the lot all day while they attend classes. There are plenty of signs saying that the parking lot is for Taco Bell customers only. I figured that some employee called the tow company to have some poor student’s car towed away after it had sat in the lot for a few hours.

But no. Less than a minute after the truck leaves, a women comes out of the bagel store across the fence, coffee in hand, and walks over to the spot where her car used to be. She looks bewildered, so I step outside to tell her that her car has just been towed. She said, “But I was only in there for five minutes! That’s bull poop!” (I cleaned up her language a bit for the more sensitive readers out there. You’re welcome.).

 It seems that the Taco Bell has also had problems with customers of that bagel store parking in their lot. A few moments later, an employee of Taco Bell noticed that we were watching all of this and came over to explain that this tow company is rather aggressive in enforcing the rules and that it costs the driver $250 to get their car back. She says that all friends and family of the employees know full well not to never park there unless they come into the restaurant.

The woman who had her car towed is given the phone number of the tow company and she storms off in an angry huff.

We sit there for a while and chat about stuff, watching the parking lot to see how many other people park illegally. We saw several more people do exactly the same thing. They’d park in the Taco Bell lot, get a bagel and coffee, and be gone in less than five minutes. But, the tow truck was nowhere to be seen; presumably he was dropping off the first car at the impound lot.

About a half hour later, however, the same tow truck was back and he backed into a parking space where he could watch the whole lot. It took less than ten minutes before an unsuspecting driver of a jeep pulled into the lot, parked, hopped the fence with his girlfriend, and disappeared into the bagel shop. We knew what was coming next.

Sure enough, as soon as the door closed behind them, the tow truck driver backed up to the jeep, attached the tow bar, and drove away with the vehicle. This time it took him less than one minute. “Gone in 60 Seconds,” you might say.

As expected, the couple returned three minutes later, with coffee in hand, to find an empty spot where their car had been. They were not happy.

I kind of have mixed emotions about this situation. Obviously, Taco Bell needs to keep its parking spaces open for its customers. And, they have put up large and very clear signs in each spot warning people that they will be towed. So, people that ignore the signs can’t say that they didn’t see them or weren’t warned. They have no one to blame but themselves. I don’t really feel sorry for them.

On the other hand, I was disgusted by the predatory practices of the towing company. Apparently, the guy sits there all day every day and steals a car after waiting less than ten minutes. With a cycle time of about half an hour, that’s probably about 20 cars towed from that lot every day for an easy income of $5,000. They could even rotate two trucks through that lot and make double that amount. That seems like shooting fish in a barrel and feels rather unsportsmanlike.

But, I was also quite impressed with the company. Maybe I’m in the wrong line of business. This seems like a lot of easy money.

What do you readers think of this? Which side of the issue do you sympathize with and why?

And you all can thank me now for saving you a $250 towing charge the next time you think about parking illegally because you just need to pop into a store for five minutes to pick something up. Don’t you dare take the risk!