Towing Exchange

(Photo: Karen Apricot)

Fellow blogger Daniel Hamermesh recently explained the virtues of exchange as a painter helped him break into his Berlin apartment. My exchange example is not as glamorous. Shopping at the local co-op in Cambridge, I heard over the public-address system, “If you are the owner of a gray Subaru Outback, you are being towed!” I leaped over a low chain and made a break for the parking lot, as a mother nearby offered to watch my daughters (ages 1 and 4). The Subaru was hooked up and about to be hoisted onto the tow truck. In view of my timely arrival, the tow-truck operator offered two options: Pick up the car later that day in Somerville for $200, or pay $50 (cash) and he’d unhook the car now. An offer I couldn’t refuse. Everybody gained, yet I am still furious!


Everybody except the towing company. I'm sure it was an "under the table" deal.


Why are you furious? If your car was being towed for a legitimate reason, then you saved a lot of time, money and hassle. You should be grateful that the co-op was kind enough to make the announcement.


And that the tow truck guy was willing to unhook you for $50. Sure seems like that fifty is going straight into his pocket, and the tow company is going to get an explanation of "it was moved by the time I got there" from him.

Doug M

This seems slightly illegal or at the least very shady.

Why were you being towed in the first place?


I am sorry to say that this is not a happy ending on all levels. Not everybody gained. Unlike Mr. Hamermesh's exchange, this particular one signals the beginning of a bribing culture, which is a very big problem in several other countries.

And, it's not a coincidence that said countries are mostly poor countries.


Parking tickets seem to be the major source of income for the city of Somerville. I lived there for one year and got three tickets - without even owning a car. I've owned a car in the UK for fifteen years and got one ticket in that time...


City of Cambridge was where he was, Somerville was the tow lot.


If you will forgive the possible offense I would like to ask what we learnt here about the comparative value of your children and your car? You left your children with a stranger: a high risk move that you would probably not take under normal circumstances, to 'rescue' your (presumably illegally parked) car from a tow: an outcome that at worst seems to cost $200 plus a phone call or taxi ride.

I'm sure under normal circumstances you would refuse this exchange.

Another thought: could the store announcer and tow driver be in on this together? If you had not been informed the tow driver would get his usual pay for the tow, probably less than $50 (even after commission to the announcer).

Mike Hunter

This was my 1st thought. No offense; but, would you accept a deal from someone in which he offered you $200 + cab fare in exchange for leaving your children with a stranger?


The risk that a stranger in a public place with children of her own is going to kidnap your children is inherently lower than if someone OFFERS YOU MONEY FOR THEM.

Legal Parker

You parked illegally and nevertheless got off without paying the full fine -- why are you angry? Sounds like a misplaced entitlement attitude to me. ("I should be allowed to park wherever I want and complain when I get caught.")


I have to wonder if $10 or so of that $50 you paid the driver made it's way into the pocket of anyone at the co-op. Not a bad deal for making what looks like a compassionate announcement.


I almost forgot - did the tow truck driver use algebra to come up with the $50 number?

Steve Nations

I'd like to add to the chorus of questions: were you in fact parked illegally, and in a tow zone? And if so, why are you furious? (Or, who are you furious at -- yourself?)

Caleb B

Who has $50 cash on them?

Eric M. Jones.

Don't you have one of those "Clergy" signs on your car?