ConsumerWatch: Heeding Posted Signs At SF Mall Results In A Towing

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Stonestown parking sign

A sign in the parking lot of Stonestown Galleria mall in San Francisco. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Next time you park in a private lot consider you may be towed even though you’ve abided by the posted signs. Two San Francisco siblings recently learned that the hard way at Stonestown Galleria mall.

When Bryan Chang drove his sister, Jenni Chang, to Stonestown Mall he thought he was doing her a favor. “I had like a 12-hour clinical shift and I was tired and I was, like, ‘Bryan, can you please drive me to the mall?'” said Jenni.

While she went inside the mall to shop, Bryan walked two extra blocks to get to his class at San Francisco State University. But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

The parking signs at Stonestown Mall say the lot is reserved for patrons while shopping only, and that’s what Jenni was doing, but still her car was towed from the private lot.

A Stonestown representative said, “even though (she) went to the mall, (she) should have been the operator of the vehicle.” It did not matter how much she spent at the mall because she was not the driver of the car, her brother was.

There are no posted signs, nor any online information, that indicates a Stonestown patron also has to be the driver of the car in order to avoid being towed.

“I was sitting in the food court waiting for him,” said Jenni.  “He goes, ‘Jen, the car’s gone.’  I’m, like, ‘what do you mean the car’s gone?’”

Stonestown often tows cars because of a chronic problem with students using its lots, but Jenni was not one of them. According to Jenni, after entering the mall, she never left until her brother told her the car was missing.

“I was in the mall, the sign says for patrons of the mall,” said Jenni. “I even have receipts showing I was in the mall at the time they decided to tow. I was shopping,” she said.

According to Jenni, a mall representative defended the action by insisting she had to be the driver of the vehicle in order to be considered a patron of the mall.

“This just seems really wrong to me,” said Jenni. “What if that person is handicapped or elderly, do they have to be driving in order to be considered a patron?” she said.

Robert Chang, Jenni and Bryan’s father, said he was shocked by Stonestown’s actions and has encouraged his children to fight the tow and stand up for what’s right.

“Where is the posted policy that says the patron has to be the operator of the vehicle, he asked.

According to a Stonestown spokesperson, that policy doesn’t exsist.  Representitives refused to reconsider the tow or provide a statement for this story.  The Department of Justice is now investigating whether the policy is a violation of the American’s With Disabilities Act.

The Changs are planning to sue the mall in small claims court. Legal experts believe they ate entitled to twice the cost of the tow.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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