A local business gives Floyd County a black eye

Like anyone who loves their community and hates to see it get a bad rep, I cringe when I read columns like my friend Dan Casey's piece in today's Roanoke Times.

Dan tells the story of Cuc Cao, a Vietnamese woman who got ripped off twice: First by Hyundai Finance Company and again by Larry's Towing & Recovery in Floyd County.

Larry's is one of those towing companies that makes money off repossessing cars. In these hard economic times, the repo business is booming.

Cao's daughter got behind on her payments for a 2006 Hyundai Tibron because of an illness in the family so the finance company repossessed the car and it was picked up by Larry's Towing & Recovery.

Cao stepped in and paid off the loan, including a $412 "repossession fee."

But that wasn't the end of the story. When Cao tried to reclaim the car, Larry's wanted an additional $1,590 in "storage" charges. The "storage" charges were for parking the car in a field for 44 days plus a $50 "redemption" fee. That breaks down to $32 and change a day.

Let's see: $1,440 for a month and a half's rent for keeping a car in a lot off Alum Ridge Road in Floyd County. Hell, around here, you can rent a farm with a two-bedroom house for less. You can rent a car-sized storage unit for under $100 a month.

According to Accusearch, a repo firm that works in the New York and New Jersey Area, Larry's storage fees are higher than the $25 they charge in the New York City metro area, which one of the highest costs of living in the nation. Some cities and counties in Virginia set limits on what a repo company can charge. Floyd County does not.

In many cases, repo companies also collect a storage fee from the bank or finance company that holds the lein on the car so they are collecting twice.

What makes the matter worse was the attitude at Larry's when Casey tried to get to the bottom of the story.  An employee wouldn't give her full name. She promised to have the company's attorneys contact the Times but no one ever did. Her response was that "we've done all that we can do."

Larry's has suffered its own tragedies. The owner is paralyzed from the neck down from a wreck but that is no excuse for the sky-high storage charges assessed against Cao.

Cao, who fled Vietnam in 1981 and survived life in concentration camps before settling in Roanoke, earned a college degree and was honored as one of the city's "moms of the year" in 1994. Her children graduated from North Cross School and one later earned a master's degree and works for the Department of Defense in Hawaii.

She deserved better treatment in her adopted country and she deserves both an apology and at least a partial refund from Larry's Towing & Recovery Service.

Like anyone who loves their community and hates to see it get a bad rep, I cringe when I read columns like my friend Dan Casey’s piece in today’s Roanoke Times.

Dan tells the story of Cuc Cao, a Vietnamese woman who got ripped off twice: First by Hyundai Finance Company and again by Larry’s Towing & Recovery in Floyd County.

Larry’s is one of those towing companies that makes money off repossessing cars. In these hard economic times, the repo business is booming.

Cao’s daughter got behind on her payments for a 2006 Hyundai Tibron because of an illness in the family so the finance company repossessed the car and it was picked up by Larry’s Towing & Recovery.

Cao stepped in and paid off the loan, including a $412 "repossession fee."

But that wasn’t the end of the story. When Cao tried to reclaim the car, Larry’s wanted an additional $1,590 in "storage" charges. The "storage" charges were for parking the car in a field for 44 days plus a $50 "redemption" fee. That breaks down to $32 and change a day.

Let’s see: $1,440 for a month and a half’s rent for keeping a car in a lot off Alum Ridge Road in Floyd County. Hell, around here, you can rent a farm with a two-bedroom house for less. You can rent a car-sized storage unit for under $100 a month.

According to Accusearch, a repo firm that works in the New York and New Jersey Area, Larry’s storage fees are higher than the $25 they charge in the New York City metro area, which one of the highest costs of living in the nation. Some cities and counties in Virginia set limits on what a repo company can charge. Floyd County does not.

In many cases, repo companies also collect a storage fee from the bank or finance company that holds the lein on the car so they are collecting twice.

What makes the matter worse was the attitude at Larry’s when Casey tried to get to the bottom of the story.  An employee wouldn’t give her full name. She promised to have the company’s attorneys contact the Times but no one ever did. Her response was that "we’ve done all that we can do."

Larry’s has suffered its own tragedies. The owner is paralyzed from the neck down from a wreck but that is no excuse for the sky-high storage charges assessed against Cao.

Cao, who fled Vietnam in 1981 and survived life in concentration camps before settling in Roanoke, earned a college degree and was honored as one of the city’s "moms of the year" in 1994. Her children graduated from North Cross School and one later earned a master’s degree and works for the Department of Defense in Hawaii.

She deserved better treatment in her adopted country and she deserves both an apology and at least a partial refund from Larry’s Towing & Recovery Service.

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14 Responses

  1. Even though it’s really Dan’s sloppy hack job on a business, Doug carried the ball and I still wonder what this story is about. Facts don’t seem important.

    I don’t know if it was a Floydian that joined the mudslinging suggesting I’m racist and made some comment that defines me as political of any kind.

    Protocol guy added some non substantiated allegations. I’m still thinking about subcontracting towing. What does that mean? He charges a fee to call a towing service the customer can call without his help? Anything else would be called a referral or recommendation.

    I did take the opportunity to educate myself, even if this discussion has not and will not apply to me. Most people that screw up, take their lumps and move on. I guess Doug has some Vietnam guilt and is now an advocate for discriminatory prices based on ethnic profiling and comparative life stories.

    There are some better comparisons that may become part of your life if you have a habit of parking illegally or get involved in impound due to a DUI or other suitable offense.

    How much does Floyd County or the Town of Floyd charge for daily storage? Do they own a wrecker and have a storage lot? How much is their “administrative fee”?

    Read the Blacksburg Code and you’ll see they don’t have either and they would have had an auction at 30 days.

    Read the Towing and Recovery Advisory board link. Another illusionary protection dedicated to collecting fees from towing services to play in the game.

    Read some Sheriff and other law enforcement sites along with Towing and Recovery business newsletters. You might see that Arlington, Va has regulated rates and it’s $50/day. This is not a number to be compared with farm houses or boat slips at the lake.

    Where’s the lemonade? Larry was cheaper than the Roanoke source Dan spoke to. I’ll bet many of us park in a field. Does pavement add value? I’m not driving over there to see if it’s behind locked chain link or other. I’ll bet it is. Why don’t the crack investigating reporters say so?

    Doug’s comment about many, blah blah, getting paid twice for storage was almost immediately the opposite in my research. What I read was that it’s almost universally true that storage fees are the recovery businesses’ problem and part of the game.

    The true color of Floyd, as represented by the host here, is that slanderous innuendo and his personal feelings are above any interest in relevant facts.

    I feel sorry for the guys, Larry and Doug.

  2. A knee-jerk reaction, as you call it, is emotion. Compassion is understanding the problems of fellow human beings. A big difference.

  3. As I’ve come to discover on my travels as an alien in my own country, empathy and irony are rare visitors in far too many minds and almost invariably in faces the same colour as mine.
    I wonder what Jeffrey would squeal if caught in the same circumstance . . . something on the lines of “You’re screwing me”? And he’d be right, but the selfish jerk seems unable to conjugate a fair thought in his head. I wonder if he takes that same mindset with him on a Sunday mornin’?

  4. on the towing industry. I own Protocol Automotive, and I subcontract my towing to another operator in the county. Three years ago, when the Towing and Recovery Board was in its inception phases, there were thousands of complaints each year on unscrupulous towing operators and so called “predatory towing” which anyone that has lived in Blacksburg will know about, and the company that is referred to.

    I have had one dealing with the above mentioned company, and it was related to a vehicle owned by a customer on our lot that had a repossession order given to Larry’s towing. However, the complaint that Ms. Cao has brought forth is one of many that have been making the way around the community, but at least she did something about it and brought it out in the open. I applaud her for doing that. Anyone else that feels they were taken advantage of is advised to report it to the towing board at 804-367-0714. Their website is http://www.btro.vi.virginia.gov

    If one is interested, there are a few other legal and ethical issues with this towing operation, some quick checks of the court records will likely yield ya’ll some interesting results.

    It is unfortunate that one company can create a bad image for the rest of the hard working, honest people in the same industry, but it happens often, especially in the towing/recovery and automotive business.

  5. While you dogging crooks who rip people off on towing and storage, add Harmon’s in Christiansburg to the list and you think the Floyd county guys are legally robbing people blind. Harmon’s towed a car that was in an accident in Ringer 4 miles to their crap storage lot behind their gas station next to Shuler’s. I called to get the car out, as we were fighting the person at faults insurance. Harman’s had the car for a month. They did a normal rollback pickup of the wrecked car, nothing different than one broke down on the road. They tell me I owe almost $500 for the towing and service fee whatever that is, and $50 yes $50 a day to store the car in basically a little junkyard behind the gas station. So for towing the vehicle about 4 miles and storing it for 30 days was in the neighborhood of $1900. What a sorry bunch of crooks. Anyone that has the option and need of a tow service should stay way clear of these crooks. That’s Harmon’s towing and recovery in Christiansburg Virginia. So 27 or even the New York 25 a day looks like a steal compared to Harmon’s. They must have gold for gas running in their tanks and diamonds for the gravel in the junkyard.

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