South Auckland wheel clamping called 'threatening' and 'over the top'
A wheel clamping company is being accused of "predatory" and "cowboy" behaviour in south Auckland.
Elite Parking Services has become notorious for clamping cars within seconds of someone stepping off the private car parks they patrol in Manukau and Otahuhu.
In multiple cases, shoppers complained Elite applied a clamp while their children were in the back seat or while their car engine was still running.
The Elite clamper then charges $200 in cash or says he will call his "brother" to tow their car for $450.
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Otahuhu Business Association has had 24 complaints in the past six weeks from people who felt threatened by an Elite employee.
The association's town manager Richette Rodger said some shoppers were so upset they were now avoiding visiting Otahuhu altogether.
Manukau Business Association general manager Kerry Burridge said they had many similar complaints about Elite's "over the top" tactics.
But an unrepentant Elite Parking Services spokesman said drivers should take extra care to read the fine print on carpark signs where clampers were operating.
"This signage meets or exceeds all NZTA recommendations and Industry Standards. It has been found to be sufficient to inform any reasonable person of the parking conditions, enforcement methods, and costs through dozens of Disputes Tribunal hearings," the spokesman said.
"It is your responsibility to ensure you respect that privilege by following the signposted restrictions. If you do not, you may find yourself liable for the costs of enforcing those restrictions."
One woman who had a run-in with an Elite clamper in Otahuhu, Lizz Manea, described the man as a bully.
She parked in the Food 4 Less carpark next door to Domino's as her three daughters, brother and mother waited in the car for her to pick up pizza.
But she said as soon as she stepped in to Domino's her brother followed her and said there was a man demanding money.
"I went back to my car, I wasn't five seconds in Domino's he'd clamped my car and said to me 'nah bro give me some money I want money now'.
"He just clamped it like he was scoping me out. My whole family was in the car. He was being an egg, he was trying to intimidate me and my family."
Manea called police but she said they were unable to intervene.
The man swore and "threatened" her in front of her daughters, aged between four and nine, she said.
"I was pretty mad about it. It's just how he approached it, he wouldn't show me his ID or nothing. I said I don't even know if you're the right person to clamp a car. Nothing about him was professional.
"He said pass me $200 now. I said I don't have $200, I was crying, I said I've only got $100 for my kids. Then after about 40 minutes he said $100 will do.
"I handed him the money I just wanted the situation over my kids were crying at the back."
Elite Parking Services deny anything untoward happened.
"On the day in question the employee was in full uniform wearing a lanyard with a photo, his first name and his identification number".
"He followed procedure and filled out an invoice and billing agreement."
The spokesman said it treated any complaints about individual staff as an employment issue which could not be discussed publicly.
"The company will not discuss any individual within it's employ publicly and all disciplinary action as part of the employee's employment contract are covered under the privacy act."
Food For Less owner Nilesh Prakash, where Manea parked before going into Domino's, said he has not had any complaints over clamping and defended hiring Elite Parking - which have operated outside his business for the past four months.
SEVEN CARS CLAMPED IN HALF AN HOUR
But Otahuhu Business Association's Richette Rodger said she was concerned about the method of an Elite clamper pouncing on cars as soon as the driver was one step away from the car park.
One morning she said she watched an Elite staff member clamp seven cars in half an hour.
"He just waits there until the person has gone literally one footstep out and boom. I was watching all these people they were all panicking, scared, upset, it was just that real intimidating behaviour."
Rodger said it was up to private businesses whether they wanted to employ clampers but she was opposed to Elite's "heavy handed" approach.
"And $200 is a horrific amount of money, in any area, regardless of whether you're in a low socioeconomic area or not. I think the practices of parking up in the morning and waiting for cars is predatory."
Businesses in Manukau and Otahuhu said they witnessed similar issues.
One business owner who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution described the behaviour of an Elite clamper as "overbearing" and "intimidating".
"He's waiting for them to leave and as soon as they set foot off the carpark he'll clamp them. It's real cowboy stuff," the man said.
Otahuhu Police inspector Uraia Vakaruru said in a statement "police have had multiple calls for service for complaints against this particular parking enforcement company, including reports in the Counties Manukau and West Auckland areas in recent months.
"We are also aware a large amount of social media commentary in relation to the way they conduct business.
"We have previously spoken to company management about the way they conduct their business and are continuing to encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation, where they feel their safety is at risk, to call police."