Getting the boot: Drivers complain cars immobilized, even after they paid to park

(WSVN) - Some South Florida drivers are finding a costly surprise in pay-to-park lots — even after they paid to park.

7’s Brian Entin explains why cars are “getting the boot.”

They’re “yellow”… have some drivers seeing “red”… and shelling out “green” to remove them.

They are boots — and once locked around your tires — you’re going nowhere fast.

Gary Ross: “I think it’s terrible. I think it’s just a money-making game for them.”

Gary Ross paid at a machine to park in this private lot in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.

He says he returned before his time expired, but found his SUV’s front and back tires already immobilized by Premier Booting Services.

The reason — his receipt was not on his car’s dashboard.

Gary Ross: “When I called their office, I said, ‘Look, I got a paid ticket.’ She says, ‘It doesn’t matter. You didn’t have it in the window and you have to pay the $89 — or we don’t remove the boots.'”

Gary paid to remove the boots… and so did Fred Hatem.

Fred’s receipt fell off the dashboard — costing him $65.

Fred Hatem: “The sunroof was open for a little while and I had it up here, and when I got in the car, it had fallen down to the floor. They just made the argument they didn’t see it on the dashboard.”

Producer: “Did you try to say, ‘Look, I paid?'”

Fred Hatem: “I showed it to him — I paid!”

We watched, as Fred tried to plead his case to a Premier employee on Hollywood Beach without success.

The boots came off of Fred’s SUV, but only after he handed over his debit card.

Fred Hatem: “I feel a little violated. Thank God I can afford it. But I feel as though I’ve been taken advantage of, and there’s just something going on. For you guys to be here following this up — there must be many, many complaints.”

39 complaints in Broward.

27 in Miami-Dade.

66 complaints about Premier Booting Services made to consumer protection departments in both counties in the last two years…

Marlon Onias, May 2015: “It was a horrible feeling.”

…Back in 2015, 7News first reported on drivers “getting the boot” in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s also when the company’s president told our Carmel Cafiero this:

Andrew Beachler, May 2015: “So, now if somebody puts in their plate and they just didn’t display it — which they are supposed to display it — and they can come back and they can show that the ticket matches their plate, we remove the immobilization device for free.”

Listen to that one more time.

Andrew Beachler, May 2015: “…we remove the immobilization device for free.”

So what changed?

Premier’s president declined our latest on-camera interview request, but in a statement said, in part: “As with any parking facility, privately operated or municipally operated, rates, rules/regulations, and enforcement procedures change from one location to another and even sometimes per space.”

He said drivers should read the signs to make sure they’re following all the rules.

And added, “…We always try to do the right thing and we feel that vehicle immobilization is a much better solution than being towed.”

Brian Entin: “Adding to the confusion — depending on where they park, drivers are getting mixed signals. Here on Hollywood Beach, signs like this in the private lots state you must leave your receipt on your dashboard or get booted. But, just across the street is city parking, where signs say just the opposite.”

Hal King, City of Hollywood Parking Administrator: “I guarantee you it’s not how we run the city. I wouldn’t be working much longer if that’s what happened here.”

When drivers pay at machines, or by phone, they enter their license plate number.

So Hollywood’s Parking Administrator questions why a receipt is required.

Hal King: “This, unfortunately, for some reason is the way they want to run their business, and I don’t know if they are doing it because it’s more convenient for them, or if there’s some other reasoning behind it.”

Back in Wynwood, we did see a few boots come off cars without people having to pay.

And… Many cases were resolved by the company when they issued refunds to people — but only after they filed formal complaints.

Gary Ross: “I think they’re playing a game with this because they figure most people won’t get upset and complain — they’ll just pay the money and go on their way.”

The Miami Police Department tells 7News it’s investigating the complaints, but would not comment further.

The company offered refunds to both Gary and Fred.

We’ve got links to the county consumer protection departments below.

Miami-Dade Consumer Protection:
http://www.miamidade.gov/business/consumer-protection.asp

Broward Consumer Protection:
http://www.broward.org/Consumer/Complaints/Pages/FilingAComplaint.aspx

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