So Much for Carpooling (My Saga With Don’s and The City)

Here’s a little story I’ve got to tell about my little red Saab you know so well-

It started way back in history with a legal park-job, Don’s Towing and Me, Mike V.

The story begins Tuesday last- January 21st.

My little red Saab from the year nineteen ninety has nearly two hundred fifty thousand miles on it.

I’ve maintained it meticulously and spent a couple thousand dollars on preventative maintenance over the three years that I’ve had it-

Recently, I encountered an all-too-common problem with older Saab’s- you see, when the temperature outside dips below freezing, the car has a problem starting.

So with the cold snap we had last week, I left her parked at the corner of Second and Harris streets- in a legal spot, of course, and carpooled to work in York for the remainder of the week.

Tuesday afternoon, I received a voicemail from one of Harrisburg’s finest- dutifully informing me that my car had been struck, the perpetrator left the scene, the impact of the hit pushed the rear-end of my car about four feet into traffic and that they issued me a PARKING TICKET and Don’s Towing removed my vehicle at about 4:30 that afternoon.

After catching up with the officer who left me the message, I called Don’s to find out how much this debacle would cost me- considering my car is nearly twenty years old with over two hundred thousand miles on it, I only opted for the basic liability insurance. Meaning that none of this would be covered. (Not even the tow)

Don’s was closed for the day- but the friendly (sarcasm) guy who answered the phone told me I could get my car back in the morning when they opened again. The guy who answered was apparently the security guard.

Bright and early Wednesday morning, I was on the phone with Don’s Towing on Cameron Street. Here’s how the conversation went:

(Italic Bold is Don’s, Plain Italic is Me)


Yeah, hi. Um, my car got towed there yesterday afternoon after a hit-and-run and I just need to know how much it will cost to get it out? 

Sure, which car is it? 

Red Saab, plate number RNDTBLE- 

Okay…let’s see here, tow charge, city fee of fifteen dollars…two days storage…that’ll be…(clicking of a calculator in the background) that’ll be a hundred and fifty- and it’s gotta be cash when you come in and you’ll also need a tow-slip from the city. 

Pardon me? Did you say a hundred and fifty bucks? How…what…how does that add up? (the frustration in my voice becoming more and more clear)

Well, it’s sixty five dollars for the tow, a fifteen dollar city-fee that the city gets and thirty five dollars a night for storage…

Wait, wait..two days storage? This happened about eighteen hours ago! It hasn’t been two days! And it wasn’t even my fault! My car was parked legally on the street and was hit by someone who drove away! How the hell can this cost me a hundred a fifty dollars? 

Sir, that’s what it costs. You can take up your problems with The City if you don’t like it. (at this point, the woman begins speaking to someone in the office saying “this guy’s moaning and whining about what it costs…do you wanna talk to him?)

(A man, presumably Don himself, now takes over the conversation)

You just added twenty five bucks to your bill for getting the boss on the phone! Now you owe one seventy five! You wanna keep complaining? I can make it more! 

What?! Are…are you kidding me!? You’re telling ME that, because my car was the victim of a hit-and-run that YOU’RE going to charge me one hundred and fifty…no, now you’re going to charge me ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE dollars? Are you serious?!

Sure am. Keep whining and I’ll raise it even more! 

Keep what?! Oh, I’m gonna do more than THAT!

End conversation.

I took the trip to the police department and picked up my tow-slip- which The City charges five dollars for- and made my way to Don’s to remove my car.

Knowing that going in there with a chip on my shoulder would only make things worse, I spoke not a word. I handed Don himself a hundred fifty dollars along with my tow slip and got my license plate back (I guess they take the plate off to prevent people from taking their cars back)

So here’s the summary of this. The city “earned” five dollars for a tow slip, the city “earned” fifteen dollars from Don’s towing as some sort of surcharge, and Don’s towing earned one hundred thirty dollars for towing and “storing” my car for eighteen hours.

At the end of the day, I wound up having to call Triple A to tow my car to my mechanic in Lemoyne- and once my mechanic checked things out – he told me that, combined with the body damage and starter problem I was having, it’d cost me around five hundred bucks to repair. Which is more than I was willing to put back into my car.

So after another call to Triple A, I found that I had reached my limit of service calls (4) and they couldn’t tow my car from my mechanic back to my apartment.

So I called Midtown Towing- who picked up my car and towed it back here for a mere fifty bucks.

End of story? Not really.

What this brings to light, in my humble opinion, is that the towing business conducted between Don’s and The City of Harrisburg is worked in a CRIMINAL manner- literally shaking people down for their money- regardless of who’s at fault.

So at the end of the day, Don’s profited, The City profited, some dick got away with hitting my car and not stopping- and I’m left holding the bag.

Thanks again, Harrisburg. You really know how to make a guy feel welcome.


  1. terrydot1012 says:

    Yet another reason I do not drive.

    That’s just unbelieveable. I don’t even think I could get this level of corruption out of Philadelphia.

    This can’t possibly be legal.

  2. jsschell says:

    12 years ago, when I first lived here, my mother came to help me me move in. She spent the night & in the morning I noticed a tow guy in the parking lot behind the house hooking up her car. It was Don’s. She was parked in the space allotted to my house. The guy wouldn’t unhook her car until she gave him $20 to NOT tow it away. When my landlord told me my house came with 1 parking space he had failed to mention I had to register the plate numbers & car makes of the cars that would be parking there regularly, up to 3 three cars. My mother was pissed of course, I gave her $20 to replace what she spent, but she only came 1 other time to visit me after that.
    The city has quite a racket going with Don’s (the crook)…only one of the reasons why I left in the first place & will be leaving again as soon as possible.

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  5. axxis says:

    I as hit by these jerks about a couple of years ago. Thy should not be allowed to continue to be in the towing business. They are the dirtiest and most disgusting firm in the city of Harrisburg.