SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine running into a sandwich shop to grab a mustard packet and coming back to find a boot on your car that costs $75 to remove.

According to Travis Taylor, human resource manager of the Jimmy John’s at 605 E. 400 South, this scenario is all too familiar to customers of the sandwich chain.

He said signage in the lot adjacent to his is “really vague,” and many of his patrons end up complaining “because they are paying $80 for a sandwich.”

If passed, a bill discussed on Wednesday by the Utah Legislature’s Interim Transportation Committee would place signage requirements on private lots, such as the 4th South Market lot, in order to enforce parking through towing.

Signs posted at the lot warn that parking is reserved for customers of the 4th South Market only. However, the signs do not indicate which businesses in the strip mall are included.

A sign lists parking restrictions for the 4th South Market in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. The 4th South Market’s parking lot is adjacent to Jimmy John’s parking lot. | Kristin Murphy

Presenting an initial draft, Rep Cory Maloy, R- Lehi, told the committee the bill would create a uniform standard for towing signage across the state.

Currently, he said, “there’s no continuity to put into people’s minds, wherever they go in the state, that they could potentially be towed.” If enacted, the bill would prohibit towing from private property if the universal signage requirements are not met.

The bill would require all private lots with towing enforcement to post a 24- by 18-inch sign with an image of a truck towing a car at all of the lot’s entrances.  

Maloy said the goal of the bill is “to help reduce the number of people that get towed overall.” He pointed out that it would help crack down on “predatory towing,” or towing companies that “are aggressively going after opportunities to tow vehicles” in order to “pad their pockets.”

He said the bill would also protect towing and parking enforcement operators by acting as “an affirmative defense” in the case of car owners claiming they were unaware of the parking regulations.

“We have bad actors on both sides, and people on both sides who are trying to do their very best,” he said.

Taylor noted the bill could potentially save his company thousands of dollars. The Jimmy John’s location he manages has placed its own signage alongside a chain that divides the two lots. Still, he said, it hasn’t been enough.

The location now staffs a parking attendant whose sole job is to warn Jimmy John’s patrons parking in the adjacent lot of “aggressive” booting enforcement.

Nicole Nelson, a parking attendant at a Jimmy John’s in Salt Lake City, waits on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, to warn customers not to park in an adjoining lot as there is a high risk of having their vehicle booted. | Kristin Murphy

“Excuse me, are you coming to Jimmy John’s?” Nicole Nelson asked patrons as they crossed the lot on Wednesday. She warned them their car would be booted by an employee of Parking Solutions if they left it in the lot for even just a couple of minutes and advised them to park in the Jimmy John’s lot instead.

“It’s just been a real headache for us,” Taylor said, adding that “we’re not trying to encourage our customers to park in the other parking lot, we’re fine with them needing to park here.”

However, he said informing customers of parking restrictions and the risk of being booted or towed is not in the best interest of Parking Solutions, which benefits from the fees charged to remove a boot.

Taylor estimated the Jimmy John’s parking attendant stops anywhere from 50 to 80 patrons per week from receiving a boot, and said this has sparked harassment toward himself and his employees from a Parking Solutions employee who patrols the lot.

“He’s called me names, and cussed at me, insulted my religion, and just tried to intimidate me,” he said, noting that “multiple employees have quit” because of the harassment, and one employee “said he had PTSD, and was just really distraught afterward.”

These claims were disputed by a man named Jared, a spokesman and enforcement agent for Parking Solutions who has asked that his last name not be shared because he said he has received death threats due to the nature of his job.

Jared said the signs placed by Jimmy John’s and any signs that might be required by a new state law would not affect his business.

“The only people who say they don’t know what (the signs) means are the people who are trying to get out of a fine,” he said. He noted that “hundreds” of other customers who have parked in the lot have told him the signs clearly indicated where they could park.

“It’s human nature,” he said, “for the people who think that they don’t have to pay attention to the signs, they are going to ignore them no matter how big they are.”

With regard to claims of harassment on his part, Jared said the opposite is true. “They have tried to provoke us many times,” he said, adding that Jimmy John’s employees have “gotten in my face and told me to (expletive) myself.”

The bill will return to the interim committee, which will decide whether to favorably recommend the measure in September.