Driven to brink
By Luis Feliu
Pensioners Harry Glencorse and Vince Mandarino won't be patronising the Palm Beach Hotel any more - not after their cars were towed away from the hotel car park and they were forced to pay $250 each to retrieve them.
And they're not the only angry local residents who were given the rude shock. Others have complained to police, the media and politicians about the joint operation between the hotel and Ashmore towing company Queensland Parking Technology (QPT) which has caught out a number of unsuspecting locals and Gold Coast visitors in the past five months.
Mr Glencorse and Mr Mandarino claim the system, in place to try and prevent motorists who are not patrons of the pub or the TAB from parking at the venue, was tantamount to entrapment.
Mr Glencorse said he recently drove into the parking lot behind the hotel but before going into the pub, a friend called to him from across the road and he went over for a brief chat before returning to the hotel a short time later using a different route.
"When I later went back to the car park my car had gone," the Elanora pensioner said.
"I approached a chap there and told him someone's taken my car - he told me it had been towed away and gave me a mobile number to ring to get it back.
"I was then told (by the towing company) that if I didn't have the $250 I wouldn't get it back and even when I explained I was a pensioner he said 'too bad'."
Mr Glencorse said he had explained to the hotel manager but the manager simply pointed to a sign at the car park entrance and said the issue was out of his hands while a representative from the towing company informed Mr Glencorse he had been photographed leaving the parking area before his car was towed.
"Police told me they had received a lot of complaints but there was nothing they could do about it because it was a private car park," Mr Glencorse said.
"They (towing company staff) sit there like vultures and watch you as you park, and take photos, then the other guy with the mobile rings the tow truck.
"It's a licence to print money ... I always try and do the right thing but this is not right ... why can't they tell you 'look don't leave your car here or else it will get towed away'."
Mr Mandarino, of Palm Beach, said he was caught out recently when he parked his car at the hotel after dropping his wife off to play the pokies, walked a few metres away to make a dental appointment before returning to the hotel a short time later.
It was then that he noticed his car was missing and he learnt that he too had been followed across the road and been photographed before his car was towed to Ashmore.
"Why don't they tell people if they park there they must go into the pub? The sign there is not good enough, people don't stop to read it because there's too much writing and it is too small to read - you need five minutes to read it, how can you stop to read it if a car's behind you?" Mr Mandarino said.
"A lot of people won't be going to that pub anymore - no bloody way.
"They're so quick - within 10 minutes they've shifted a couple of cars - I've saved a few people from it by warning them when they park."
The hotel's duty manager Ray Swift said he could understand the two pensioners' anger and had received complaints from other people caught unaware.
"But the biggest problem here is there's not enough parking in Palm Beach and we're trying to look after our patrons," Mr Swift said.
He said hotel management had tried to "educate" locals about the consequences of parking there if they were not a hotel or TAB patron by putting a staff member at the front car park gate from 8am to 10am to advise people but he admitted the system may have "fallen down" with the two pensioners.
Mr Swift said the towing company operated between 10am and 1pm and were instructed to take photos of people parking their cars and not entering the hotel.
"They're given 20 minutes of grace to do what they have to before their cars are towed away," he said.