HOUSTON -- A Heights woman is convinced she s been had by a towing trap at a popular strip mall in Montrose.

Kristen Graham said she parked in the lot in the 1600 block of Westheimer on Saturday to get her nails done.

Before going into the nail salon, she ran across the street to shop at Buffalo Exchange.

According to Graham, 20 minutes later, her car was gone.

A tow truck is actually waiting around the corner for someone to park, Graham said. They re making a lot of money.

Graham said the towing signs in the lot she parked in are very easy to miss.

She points to the fact that one faces a busy Westheimer and is partially obstructed by a pole. The other is posted on a wall all the way down on the other end of the lot.

I looked around, and I was like, this looks perfectly fine. There was about 90 percent of the parking lot completely empty, Graham said.

Some employees who work in the area claim this is nothing new.

Debra Sanchez, who is a secretary at a law firm next door, said she s witnessed employees from Fast Tow Company waiting and watching.

As soon as someone parks here, and they cross the street, within three minutes, they re here to tow their car, Sanchez said.

Sanchez said she tries to stop the tows from happening when she can. She claims even those who catch the tow truck in action still have to pay to not get towed.

It s awful. It s like they re preying on you to park here. They re taking advantage of it. Who can afford a $300-$400 bill, Sanchez said.

Jeanette Rash, owner of Fast Tow Company, is standing being her employee s actions. She said the towing is in response to complaints from businesses who want to keep their lot open for their customers.

Rash released a brief written statement. It said in part:

This strip center has a huge problem in that other businesses don t have sufficient parking so their customers park and take the spaces of the businesses in the strip center so their customers have no place to park .

The owner of the property continues to get complaints from his businesses and loses businesses who cannot service their customers. We try very hard to only tow those who are not shopping at their own property. The store owners call us when the parking gets full or if they see someone walk off the property.

Marvin, who works at one of those businesses, isn t so sure of that. He believes the company is making a huge profit at the expense of drivers.

As soon as people put their feet out of the parking lot, they tow, Marvin said. Every Friday and Saturday, at least 25 cars are towed.

Graham now questions how many people are being forced to foot the bill. She paid a tab of more than $220 to get her car back.

The company said it did an investigation on Grahams claims and found she was in the wrong. If Graham wants to fight the case further, she can file for a tow hearing through Harris County.

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