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CompUSA - Ala Moana Blvd. Honolulu, HI / Aggressive bad neighbor towing practices!

1 United States Review updated:



Here's my story: On Friday, my daughter, a college senior home on spring break, went to COMP USA at Ala Moana in her rental car to purchase ear buds to use with her IPOD for her flight back to DC later that afternoon. She arrived at the store before it opened, and so with some time on her hands, headed across the street to get a cuppa joe and something for breakfast.

Another woman, Lily, who is a Chinese immigrant from Taiwan, also did the same thing. She was there to buy school and computer supplies for her son who attends UH and hopes to become a doctor. Lily is a cook in a Waikiki restaurant and speaks broken English. She's middle-aged, about 5 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds. She arrived before the store opened, too, and so went to the Vietnamese sandwich shop across the street to get something to eat before the store opened.

I live in Manoa where we enjoy a GOOD NEIGHBOR policy for parking as a common courtesy for area businesses. We shop at Safeway, stop at the bank or the ATM, hop across the street to Starbucks, or head down to Manoa Valley Theatre all without fear that our cars will be towed. My daughter was clearly unsuspecting of CompUSA's aggressive tow policy at their Ala Moana Street Store when she slipped across the street for coffee.

When Lily and my daughter returned to shop when the store had opened, their cars were GONE. Towed by an unscrupulous bully who runs 24-7 Towing in Waipahu. (More about him later.) They were told they would have to go to WAIPAHU, nearly 20 miles away, to claim their cars and would not be able to do so until NOON! We were later told by the police that the noon pickup policy is against the law. If they are actively towing, they must be open for car pick up. This was not the case at 24-7Towing.

Lily made a big scene in the store. She raised the roof. Understandably. She had come to spend money and instead had the unlucky circumstance to be towed for the privilege. She had no way to get Waipahu--and a cab ride would be more than $100. The store manager called the police when she complained loudly about their BAD NEIGHBOR AGGRESSIVE TOW POLICY inside the store. The manager didn't want the other customers to hear about the towing incident. The police officer arrived and escorted the little woman out of the store, where she joined my crying daughter who awaited me at curbside for a ride.

I can assure you, Lily was no menace or threat to society. And she did not deserve to have her car towed or to be publicly humiliated by the uncaring COMP USA store manager who accepts no responsibility for his BAD NEIGHBOR AGGRESSIVE TOW POLICY. I wonder if he gets a kick- back for every car he refers to 24-7 Towing? 24-7 Towing charges you $195 (CASH ONLY) to get your car back, but the police officer suggested to us that this unscrupulous company often tries to get more. (That's nearly three-day's wages for poor Lily the cook.) Seeing my daughter's obvious distress, the officer called the tow company himself and informed them that were required to be open before noon and reiterated the agreed-upon price to the tow company over the phone so that my daughter and Lily would not be cheated yet again. 24-7 Towing has a reputation for bad business practices as we would later learn from the second police officer to come to our aid in Waipahu. Yes... Our sad story gets worse.

I picked up my distraught daughter (who did not make a scene in the store, but stood crying at the curb) and as a good Samaritan offered the little Chinese lady a ride to Waipahu, too. On the 40-minute ride to Waipahu we learned about her young ambitious son and the computer supplies she had hoped to buy for him that morning. Now she would have to use the cash to pay to the tow service instead. She lamented that she would not have the money to buy groceries and would have to go without food for the rest of the week. As it turns out, her spontaneous trip to the sandwich store before COMP USA opened was the most expensive Vietnamese sandwich she has ever eaten.

We did not have the cash in hand to get the car out of hock and had to detour to a bank to get some money.

We only thought we were having a bad day until we got to 24-7 Towing. The officer at COMP USA had called from the store to tell him he had to have the compound open, but when we arrived, there was only a locked gate with an obnoxious sign advising people they were being videotaped to be later used in court, and a phone number. We called the phone number and were told we would have to wait 30 more minutes for the owner to get there. He knew 45 minutes earlier that we were coming and the police officer at COMP USA had advised him to have the office opened, and still, he had not opened the tow compound.

24-7 Towing is located on a dead-end street in a rundown neighborhood side street in Waipahu. It is not a place, as a woman, you feel especially safe, even in broad daylight. We locked ourselves in the car and waited. Lily and my daughter chatted in Chinese. When the owner drove up, we got out, showed him our money and our picture IDs and asked him to please get our cars. We were not rude or unruly. He was apparently angry that he had to come in early. He went inside the gate, locked it with a heavy padlock, and gruffly told us we had to wait outside while he did the paperwork. We waited and waited. He never returned. We called him and asked for our cars and to please come to the gate. He hung up on us. That's when we called the Waipahu police station (not 911) to explain our situation and to ask for help.

My daughter had a flight to catch and needed to return the rental car. We had told the 24-7 Towing guy this information, too. We didn't have time to waste. We called more than once to the police station to explain and complain that we couldn't get our cars. The police then tried calling the tow company and instructed them to open up and give us our cars back. The three of us waited some more inside our locked car with our cell phones. I honked once to see if we could get him to come back to the gate to talk to us. He never came. In our next phone call to the Waipahu police station, we requested an officer to come to the scene. We needed their help. This was going nowhere. The officer said he could not dispatch an officer to the scene from his station and we needed to place a call to the emergency 911 line. So we called 911. Twice. To get an officer to come help us get our cars back.

The officer showed up and the 24-7 Tow company employee finally came outside. He verbally abused us in front of the officer and told us we had been unruly and trouble makers. Every other word out of his mouth was an insult to us. The man washing his car at the apartment next the compound told us he would be our witness if we needed, and that we had not ever been unruly in the whole time we had sat in our car. The police officer told us the 24-7 Tow company has a long history of bad business practices, and had recently been in a physical altercation because the owner is so rude to the customers that come to get their cars. The officer also confirmed with the tower, without us even asking him to, that he was only to charge us $195 and not a dollar more. The officer told us his rude behavior had gotten him assaulted just recently and they had history of complaints about him. After observing how we were being treated, the officer told the tow guy "a jerk and an a**-hole" in front of us. I thought it a well-deserved description. We all agreed. Even the neighbor washing his car. The towing employee then took Lily's money and let her get her car. It was a 5-minute transaction that he had made us wait over an hour to complete.

But he reserved his most obnoxious behavior for my young daughter (who is 5' 3" and weighs under 125 pounds). He refused to give her the car because it was a rental, and by law he did not have to release it to anyone but the registered owner. He told us he would accept a fax from the rental company but then refused to allow us to go get the contract from the rental car and refused to bring us the contract from the car. We turned to the officer and literally begged him to help us get our car back. I begged the officer to help us. The officer said he was within his rights to refuse to give us the car, but that he was really being an "a**hole and a jerk" and he could now understand why the guy had been beaten before. He explained politely and apologetically that legally, there was nothing he could do for us. The tow guy was really relishing his power trip and continued to hurl insults at us and abuse us verbally. I asked the officer what I could do about this and he recommended we file reports with the Better Business Bureau.

We asked the officer to please stay with us because we were now afraid to be alone in this neighborhood with this obviously aggressive and abusive person. He stayed while we called the car company. The car company called the 24-7 Towing person while we waited on the line to see if he would accept a fax from Thrifty, which is a common practice when tow companies nab rental cars. The 24-7 towing company man refused. The Thrifty sales person called the towing guy, "a real jerk." Thrifty had to dispatch a driver with authorization to come to the compound to get the car and told us to wait for him to arrive.

We were afraid to stay at the tow yard alone, and left to wait safely inside a local Jack-in-the-Box. We waited another 40 minutes for Daniel to arrive. We told him we were too scared to wait at the tow yard and could he meet us down the street. He did. We gave him the $195. He got the car and drove it off the tow yard and down the street to where we waited. Daniel was a big bruiser of a guy and he didn't take any lip from "the jerk." He handed us our keys and the change and wished us on our way.

The whole ordeal took us nearly 3 hours- it was almost noon before we finally got our car. We had left the COMP USA store at about 9:15 a.m. We were both very visibly shaken and distraught. My daughter cried and cried. I got angrier and angrier. I decided to write this message and send it to as many friends on the internet as possible. I called the assistant store manager and complained bitterly. I got the name of Ken Elton who is the manager. I will be calling him on Monday. I got the name of the Division Manager Louie Santos and intend to contact him on Monday to complain as well. I will demand that they change towing practices and their towing service. I seriously doubt my calls will have any effect as COMP USA, because by their very aggressive tow practices, they have already illustrated that customer service and convenience is clearly NOT A PRIORITY with them. I just want them to know the kind of people they are snagging with their AGGRESSIVE TOW PRACTICES. And I question why any REPUTABLE company would want to do business with the likes of those losers at 24-7 Towing. If they do continue their AGGRESSIVE BAD NEIGHBOR TOWING PRACTICES, then I seriously recommend they choose a better-run business closer to their downtown site that doesn't charge usury prices.


Lily, my daughter and I made a pact on our drive out to Waipahu to never, NEVER, walk into a COMP USA store again. As long as I live, I will never shop with COMP USA. We encourage all of you who believe in GOOD NEIGHBOR PARKING POLICIES to do the same.

Nobody deserves to have an experience like that because they left their car in a lot to buy a sandwich or a cup of coffee before the store was even open for business.

Both Lily and my daughter "broke the parking lot law" by parking at COMP USA and leaving the premises. That's true and COMP USA was certainly within their rights to have the cars towed. There were signs clearly posted, just like there is at Safeway in Manoa. The perpetrators both clearly intended to return when the store was open to make their purchases and leave, and were not all-day parkers trying to avoid parking fees, whom I suspect is the target of COMP USA's AGGRESSIVE BAD NEIGHBOR PARKING POLICIES.

Instead they are snagging unwitting customers trying to kill a little time before the store opens for business.

24-7 Towing absolutely deserves to be run out of business for their rude, abusive, intimidating and unscrupulous business practices. People who know me know I am not easily intimidated. But this man was mean. Mean and ugly and verbally abusive to the 3 of us when had no cause to be, except spite. I ask again. What kind of customer service oriented company would want to be in a business partnership with the likes of this horrible man?

Please pass this along to everyone in your email lists.

It's important. And please don't shop at COMP USA anymore. Take your business elsewhere!

This letter was faxed to Ken Elton and Louie Santos on March 19 AT 8:48 AM.

March 19, 2007

Mr. Ken Elton
604 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

cc; Louie Santos, Division Manager
COMP USA Headquarters
14951 N Dallas Parkway
Dallas, TX 73254

Dear Mr. Elton:

Attached is the unfortunate account my daughter and I experienced on Friday, March 16, 2007 as a result of your company's overly aggressive towing practices. Lily Chou was another unfortunate recipient of your overly aggressive towing practices that morning. I demand you reimburse us for the cost of the towing fees at $195 for each car, and gas money of $15 for the 30+-mile trip to Waipahu and back.

I also demand that you cancel your towing contract with 24-7 Towing for their unscrupulous towing practices and complete lack of customer service skills. They are not following the law by having their offices open when they are actively towing, a requirement the police officer pointed out to us and to them by phone. Making customers wait until NOON to get their cars is UNACCEPTABLE. My email to Star-Bulletin editor Richard Borrecca (see attached) suggests that 24-7 Towing may not even be a legitimate business entity. Kakua Line Editor June Watanabe whom I contacted also suggests the towing charges are usury and far more than should be reasonably charged.

I have already begun to distribute this horrible story via the internet and have posted the account on FACEBOOK which was distributed to an additional 400+ recipients most of which are computer supply-using college students. It was distributed to all the members of the Pearl Harbor Rotary Club. (See attached email responses.) I do not intend to stop with my campaign against COMP USA until you refund the money to Lily Chou discontinue your tow service with 24-7 Towing. The Rotary Club has offered to send it out nationally for a national boycott of COMP USA (see attached email).

I intend to alert the local Media, members of the House of Representatives, members of the State Senate, all Hawaii Rotarians, Tourism offices, Consumer Protection Agencies, Better Business Bureaus, and every other avenue and source of consumer complaints available to me. I will not stop until you comply with my requests to stop doing business with that disreputable towing company, which bullies and verbally abuses tiny Chinese immigrants and college students. I will not stop until you refund the out-of-pocket expenses to Lily Chou. I will not stop.

I look forward to hearing from you today. I am available to pick up our reimbursement checks at noon today. Please call me when they are ready for pick up.

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  • No
      28th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    "Both Lily and my daughter "broke the parking lot law" by parking at COMP USA and leaving the premises. That's true and COMP USA was certainly within their rights to have the cars towed. There were signs clearly posted, just like there is at Safeway in Manoa."

    Right there says it all. End of discussion.

  • No
      28th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    "I demand you reimburse us for the cost of the towing fees at $195 for each car, and gas money of $15 for the 30 -mile trip to Waipahu and back."

    "I look forward to hearing from you today. I am available to pick up our reimbursement checks at noon today. Please call me when they are ready for pick up."

    Back it Up ~ Got a legitimate reason why they need to pay your daughter back the money? When yet she was the one at fault and not CompUSA.

    * Good Luck *

  • Co
      28th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    While I don't think CompUSA "owes" you a refund of the towing charge (as you wrote, CompUSA was within its right to have those cars towed), I do think it raises a significant issue for store management to consider.

    I'll bet 99% of those who are towed will claim that they had "just" run across the street for something and was "just about" to make a huge purchase at CompUSA. I'm sure the actual percentage of those telling the truth is much smaller. Is it worth (over)zealously enforcing the parking policy, given the risk of impacting actual customers who genuinely intended to shop at CompUSA? Personally, I don't think so.

    Good luck. This was very informative and I'm hoping CompUSA will reexamine its enforcement policy and their contract with that towing company.

  • Ti
      29th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    They don't owe anyone anything. All cause your daughter and the other lady didn't want to pay for street parking or for parking at Restraint Row, they got towed and have to pay for it. If they had followed the simple rules, they wouldn't have been towed.

    Perhaps your daughters distress wasn't because they towed her car, but just maybe because it was totally her fault and she realized that maybe one day she'd have to learn how to read and follow directions. That isn't COMP USA's fault.

  • As
      29th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    Hello. I am a COMP USA employee and I to include my views on this article.

    COMP USA is a privately owned company and also happens to own the parking lot that your daughter parked in(if that wasn't already obvious). How would you like it if a total stranger came into your garage and parked only to walk across the street for a venti mocha frappaccino?

  • Fr
      29th of Mar, 2007
    0 Votes

    Cry me a river. And the Oscar goes to Charlene...what a sob story. Your complaint is ridiculous as it is long and boring. The fact is, no matter how many people have read your complaint, no matter how many people boycott CompUSA, it will still stand. The Honolulu store is one of the top in the company and will not shut down from losing a few customers. Especially customers who only buy earbuds. What do you expect is going to happen in this boycott? CompUSA is the only computer store in town, where am I going to go? Bestbuy who's selection is not as great since their focus is on Home Electronics? Office Max or Office Depot who's focus is office supplies? Take my business to somewhere else...where? Where can I go on Oahu that wont eat up all my gas since I live in town? The funny thing is you want everyone to boycott this fine establishment, when in actuality...CompUSA is boycotting customers like Lily and your Daughter.

    It appears that you are more upset with the towing company rather than CompUSA. The store contracts them as well as the lot attendants. It is not CompUSA's fault that they are in Waipahu or that they treated you poorly or that he was "ugly". So why boycott CompUSA? I understand that you are upset and I would be too if I had a daughter that was going to college and couldn't read signs or follow directions. You want a reimbursement? I would go back to your daughters high school and demand the four years of tuition back because you would probably get more from that them then you will from CompUSA. It is not their fault that you are unhappy. The store hires the lot attendants to do what they do which is to catch people parking and going across the street. Your daughter and Lily did park there and maybe they were going to return when the store opened but I'm sure that the lot attendants didn't know that. They see what they see and they were just doing their job. Thats what the store pays them for. There are numerous signs all around the parking lot stating that parking is for "CompUSA customers only". Keyword ONLY. It doesn't state that the lot is for people to park and go get coffee and breakfast and then come back. You cant expect the lot attendants to know if they were really going to return or not. The lot attendants were practicing the "good neighbor" policy because they were protecting customers cars. I know people who have gotten there cars broken into in that parking lot during business hours. It has happened frequently to many people during the years it has been open. CompUSA management states that there were no break ins while the lot attendants were present. Sadly, they had to did get rid of the lot attendants due to various reasons and two days later a car was broken into again. With no lot attendants, free parking abusers and criminals are free to come and go as they please. With more illegal cars in the lot, there are more chances for these criminals to strike. We can thank you for your little yet loud complaints which in turn will boost the crime rate in Honolulu.

    It always sucks to be towed but majority of the time the driver is at fault. If I park on the street and my meter expires and I get towed, its my own fault. Rest assure I will not be sending out an email to all my friends and family to boycott the street.