If you've ever been towed, you know it's usually not a pleasant experience. Some folks who were recently towed from outside the Long Leaf Mall Gold's Gym have a particularly frustrating story. Not only were they paying customers, annoyed to be towed while they were working out, but when they went to pick up their cars from the towing company, the women got charged more than the men. The Long Leaf shopping complex is under construction, because a new Harris Teeter is being built. The parking lot where gym members normally park is gone. To get to the gym, you literally have to drive behind the strip mall, back to the loading zone. "It's amongst dumpsters, it's very dark, and there was a whole cluster of cars, just parked all in a line, as normally, because there aren't particularly slotted spaces given that are marked out, so I just parked within that area,” said Malanie Coefield who got towed. Coefield came out of her exercise class that night to find her Jeep Liberty was gone. She was one of several people who'd been towed that night alone. Melanie and a fellow unlucky gym member rode together to earl's wrecker service, to retrieve their cars. "First of all I was shocked that we were being charged $135. Shocked. Couldn't believe that it would be that much. Then I come to find out because several of us at Gold's have been towed, as many as 30 that we know of, different prices are being charged. And apparently the men are being charged around $100, and the women are being charged more.” Brett Waress was towed from the same lot and said at the time, there weren’t clear "No Parking” signs posted. He took pictures of the make-shift parking lot that night, to show just how confusing it was. It was so dark, it would be hard for anyone to see the few no parking warnings that were painted on the pavement. "The shadiness of towing people from an unmarked area that doesn't say if you park here you'll be towed, kind of goes hand in hand with the shadiness of having your car taken from you, you have to show up with cash, and then it seems like they just made up a number for me and made up a number for the women that were being towed,” Waress said. The city of Wilmington regulates how much people can be charged if their cars are towed without their permission. The maximum allowed rate is $100, with a few exceptions. If a car has 4-wheel drive, or it's emergency brake on, it has to be put on a dolly, which can cost 35 dollars more. But Melanie doesn't have 4-wheel drive, and said she didn't use her emergency brake that night. Her receipt doesn't say anything about having to be put on a dolly. In fact, her receipt is identical to Brett's, except for the price they were charged. WWAY spoke with Earl at Earl's Wrecker Service to find out what's going on. He assured us that his employees would never charge women, or any customers, for services that weren't provided. Earl thinks the receipts were simply marked improperly, and the women's cars must have had to be dollied. Regardless, Earl has agreed to refund the $35 up-charge since it's unclear what the women were charged for. He said his employees will be more meticulous with their paperwork from here on out. He also said if a car has to be dollied, his drivers will take pictures so it's clear why the additional charge was necessary.
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