ANDERSONVILLE — As state regulators continue to weigh whether to yank Lincoln Towing Service's license — claiming the firm frequently moved cars without authorization — a Chicago author said the notorious company grabbed her car while she celebrated the publication of her book.
Cheryl Reed, a former Chicago journalist who is now a professor at Syracuse University in New York, celebrated the launch of her debut novel, "Poison Girls," at Women and Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St., on Sept. 15 with a reading and a reception.
After the party ended around 11:30 p.m., Reed and her husband went to retrieve their car from the lot behind the bookstore where owner Sarah Hollenbeck told them to park.
But their car was gone — and Reed said she quickly realized that it had been grabbed by the firm immortalized by songwriter Steve Goodman as the "Lincoln Park Pirates" in the 1970s.
"I have never, ever experienced something so vile as to deal with Lincoln Towing," Reed wrote in a complaint to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which has been hearing evidence against the Uptown firm. "They were rude from the moment I called. In fact, they hung up on me three times. Even though I explained to the operator that I was the guest speaker, and my photo and my name were plastered on the front of the store, it didn't matter. The store was closed, he said. I told him that I had permission from the owner. He said it didn't matter."
Hollenbeck submitted a letter to state officials as part of Reed's complaint stating that Reed was at an event at the bookstore, and had permission to park in the store's lot.
Reed and her husband called police and walked the four blocks to Lincoln Towing's headquarters where they stood in a long line with others whose wheels had been towed. Officers told the couple there was not much they could do to help.
Reed said the tow truck driver lied about when he hauled away her car, listing the time of the tow as 12:02 a.m. However, Reed said she was on the phone with the firm at 11:38 p.m., as documented by a picture her husband snapped.
"Why did they lie if they followed the rules?" Reed asked.
Reed pleaded with Lincoln Towing's night manager to return her car and waive the fee. Ultimately, she paid $218 to get her car back.
"He said, 'You are never getting this money back,' Reed said in an interview with DNAinfo. "They were all horrible people who treated me like crap. It was an awful experience."
Attorney Allen Perl, who represents Lincoln Towing, which is owned by Protective Parking Service Corp., said he would investigate Reed's complaint and speak to the employees involved.
"We tow a lot of cars," Perl said. "The last thing we want to do is cause a problem. If we made a mistake, we will own up to it. We will figure out what happened."
Reed's complaint is similar to several of the 166 complaints against Lincoln Towing the state has investigated since July, according to the agency. The cases ranged from allegedly overcharging drivers and moving authorized cars to having improper invoicing and signs.
Lincoln Towing was ticketed in 28 of those cases, while 47 were closed and 92 are pending, the agency said.
Administrative Law Judge Latrice Kirkland-Montaque could recommend to the Illinois Commerce Commission board that the license of the company be revoked after a lengthy hearing process concludes. No date for the next hearing in the case has been set, Perl said.