Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ernie’s Towing benefits from the bad luck of others

Be careful where you park; it could really cost you

%28Eduardo+Llanquileo%2F+Creative+Commons%2F+Flickr%29
(Eduardo Llanquileo/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

(Eduardo Llanquileo/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

(Eduardo Llanquileo/ Creative Commons/ Flickr)

By Claire Wixted, Collegian Contributor

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Three weeks ago, I was involved in a minor car accident in an Amherst center intersection. The police arrived, and the private company Ernie’s Towing, based in Amherst and Northampton, all bright and shiny in their aggressive red truck, showed up almost immediately after, even though I have AAA and could have called for a truck myself. I can’t say for certain if the Amherst police favor Ernie’s, but the towing company does seem to have a large presence. Nobody was hurt in the collision, but Ernie’s stood to gain from our misfortune.

I was waiting out of the cold in the vestibule of a bank near the intersection, watching my car, which had lost a headlight and bumper and certainly needed towing, get hitched up to Ernie’s truck. Two young men, representatives of Ernie’s, came in and handed me their business card. “Here’s the address of where your vehicle will be,” they said. “You can come after seven a.m. tomorrow to pick up your personal belongings.” My car was handled with care and our short interaction was respectful. The niceties stop there.

It cost hundreds of dollars to tow my car away from the scene of an accident that I didn’t cause. My car needed to be towed and since I was forced to rely on Ernie’s, they were able to name their price. Then, as my car had to sit in their lot for the next week, it racked up a bill as they charged me $35 a day just to have it parked there. Don’t have time to get your stuff out of the car during a busy work week? Can’t find a ride there Monday through Friday? You’ll have to pay $75 for the privilege of gaining access to your own vehicle on a Saturday.

I’m not the only one who thinks Ernie’s is running an unfair business where they profit off of the bad luck of others. They have a slew of one-star reviews on Yelp, and Andy P. writes, “Steer clear of these insidious crooks! What a scam operation they have going.” Caonima B. calls them a “bunch of gangsters with the police.”

I’ve encountered Ernie’s once before when I was driving with my friend and he got pulled over for a slight traffic violation. My friend was out of luck that day, because when the officer came to speak to us, he noticed that the car’s inspection was expired. The car would have to be towed.

Within minutes, that bright red truck was there. We didn’t call; the police must have. My friend owed Ernie’s $250.

Ernie’s seems to scout out cars to be towed. In Yelp reviews, people have reported having their cars illegally towed, and having to pay over $100 to retrieve the vehicle anyway. Another person had their new car, clearly marked “sold” and “in transit” towed from their apartment, late at night, while plenty of other spaces were open, because they just brought the car home and couldn’t get a parking permit that day. Towing cars at abandon is an indecent and uncaring money-making method.

Tow companies are a necessary part of a driving society. They are there when people get stranded, broken down, off the sides of roads and they are there when an accident, like mine, needs to be cleared away from the scene. The issue with Ernie’s is that they are, as stated by Hanna G. on Yelp, “Tow-happy henchmen.” Ernie’s makes a truckload of money off of unfortunate people who did not choose to use their business.

Claire Wixted is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

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