Who the Hell Is Lew Blum?

The man everybody loves to hate is actually -gasp- a pretty nice guy.

By Jonathan Valania
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 27 | Posted Dec. 11, 2002

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It's Lew Blum's world--we just park in it.

You've no doubt seen his signs posted in private lots all over town--there are literally thousands and thousands of them--or perhaps you've felt firsthand his brand of rough justice, when one of his wreckers swooped down and put your car "on the hook," as they say in tow-truck parlance.

We thought it was high time we put a face on these signs, revealing the man, the myth and the legend of Lew Blum.

At first, we weren't even sure there was a real, live-and-in-the-flesh Lew Blum, that he wasn't just another corporate mascot, like Betty Crocker or the Keebler elves. Or if he did in fact exist, that he wasn't some cruel, cigar-chomping fat old bastard.

"Yeah, I get a lot of that--always old and with a cigar," says Blum, impeccably groomed and guarding his age like a movie star. He's got a warm smile that he flashes frequently, and his immaculate pearly whites seem to confirm his assertion that he does not now, nor has he ever, smoked a cigar.

Furthermore, the person once dubbed "the most hated man in Philadelphia" is in love. When his fiancee calls in the middle of the interview, Blum coos kissy-face sentiments into his cell phone. "I'm not afraid to say that in front of any guy!" he announces unprompted after hanging up. "'Cause I love her and I want everyone to know it!"

Some kids grow up wanting to be an astronaut or a football hero, but Blum knew early on that there was only one job for him: tow-truck driver. His uncle is George Smith, another tow-truck baron around town. When he was still in short pants, Blum worked the phone at his uncle's tow lot, studying at the feet of the master. By his late teens, he was towing cars for various operators around town.

One day he towed a stranded motorist to Center City Collision at 1413 Bainbridge, and it was there he met his destiny: a '77 Ford F350 "with a homemade boom, nothing fancy." The guy wanted $2,000 for it. Blum gave him all the money he had in the world--$500--and spent the next four months paying the remaining $1,500 off, towing broken-down cars for $8 a pop.

There are two kinds of towing, says Blum, "disabled vehicle towing" and "parking enforcement towing"--and the latter is far more lucrative. Before long, Blum was doing both.

The way it works is, you have a private lot and you are tired of freeloaders filling up your hard-earned spaces. You call up Lew Blum or any of his competitors, and he posts signs in your lot warning that illegal parkers will be towed.

When you have an illegal parker, you call Blum and he'll send one of his boys over to literally make the problem go away. Blum gets all the money--a $150 flat fee, $25 per day storage cost, plus a 15 percent storage tax--and you get your parking space back. "I enforce the parking rights of law-abiding drivers," says Blum, summing up his mission.

As you can imagine, Blum encounters some pretty pissed-off illegal parkers in the course of his day. "We've had people threaten to blow up the building, shoot the tow-truck drivers," says Blum, who deals with the public from behind bulletproof glass and fortified walls at his West Philly headquarters. "Sometimes people will jump inside their car when we've got 'em on the hook and refuse to come out, and then we have to call the police to get them out. We've had people run alongside the tow truck, reach inside and pull the keys out of the ignition. On two separate occasions, we have had women come into the office and demonstrate their displeasure by urinating on the floor of the hallway."

Sometimes Blum shows a little mercy. "If I can see that they just don't have the money--you know, a single mother with a bunch of kids or if they tell a convincing story--I'll cut 'em a break," says Blum. "I got a heart, I really do. But what I can't stand is when people use their position of power to get out of paying the fee--that I can't stand. I hate it when cops come in and flash their badges. It's always their wife's car or their brother's car or their sister's car or their friend's car. You know, I'm trying to make a living here."

To hear Blum tell it, the one member of Philadelphia's finest who never used his badge for special treatment is John Timoney. "I towed his wife's care once," says Blum, with a broad grin. "[Police Commissioner] Sylvester Johnson was deputy commissioner at the time, and he came down and said, 'How much?' Paid it, no questions asked. I will always have respect for that man."

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Comments 1 - 27 of 27
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1. jeff said... on Feb 15, 2009 at 02:09AM

“lew blum and george smith are both croooks they should be hanged”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jan 10, 2011 at 10:04PM

“lew blum towing is the best towing co in phila they are the only towing co open 24 hr 7 days a week lew blum towing does not own the property the vehicles are towed from the owner of the property will call lew blum towing that is the only way a vehicle can be towed set the record right. if you can not read a sign 36 in by 36 in your are blind as a bat if any one is in need of towing contact lew blum towing co inc phila pa”

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3. Anonymous said... on Aug 27, 2011 at 06:26PM

“This company is tragic. The operator hung up twice when we called to determine if they held our car. When we arrived the garage was closed forcing us to wait two hours for someone to return although they say "We never close." I urge everyone to pursue all legal means to revoke their license. Despicable service guaranteed.

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4. Anonymous said... on Sep 25, 2011 at 02:56PM

“This company is scamming everyone.. they towed my car.. wouldn't meet me to come get it untill 3 days later, and when i got my car back... my i pod touch is stolen as welll as a few other cheap items.. I am positive they stole it because i keep my car clean and i know where i keep my ipod in my glovebox.. is there anything i can possibly do to get my ipod back?”

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5. Anonymous said... on Dec 3, 2013 at 09:11PM

“the workers are crooks and i know multiple people that have had valuables stolen from them after being towed. surely not a coincidence. they charge more for storage and towing then the posted signs in town say, and they even admitted that they own some of the lots that they tow from. talk about shady.”

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6. eatmyfartslewblum said... on Feb 5, 2014 at 02:54AM

“I've never seen liquid garbage personified, but the "people" at this horrible excuse for a business are actual scumbags, they overcharged me and made me pay in cash (illegal) god will surely damn you lew blum ps I'm truly sorry if you have the misfortune of meeting any of these bottom feeders

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7. Jailtimeforlewblum said... on May 17, 2014 at 09:38AM

“They towed my car from a legal spot in front of an abandoned old broke down gas station, I was forced to pay $205. To get my car back. This is a crime. I was just robbed. At first I thought my car was stolen , even the cop did, because it was a legal spot!!! Then he pointed to the sign...the guy at the window just said , well I just work at the window, but he knows they are doing a crime by his smile. Lew Blum is a piece of poop.”

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8. BurninHellLewBlum said... on Jun 15, 2014 at 11:44PM

“Thieves. Nothing less than legalized mugging. Scam artists of the worst sort. They use trashed out vacant lots as a license to steal. Trolling from lot to lot where they threw a sign up, looking for some damn fool unlucky to have parked in what is otherwise an abandoned property. Asphalt spider webs to feed the bloodsuckers waiting to hook and haul.”

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9. ScammedbyLew said... on Jul 26, 2014 at 07:36PM

“Scam artist who preys on the public. Business started in 1978. 36 years ago. Does that pic look like someone pushing 60? Just an example of the dishonesty reflected here. Wrote an article about my experience with Lew Blum Towing which I posted here: http://deceptionbyomission.com/personal-liberty/citizen-alert-philadelphia-lew-blum-towing-scam/”

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10. Anonymous said... on Jul 27, 2014 at 08:16PM

“These guys are criminals. How is this company still in business? We just had our vehicle towed with no visible sign in the vicinity. Come to find out there was a sign in the corner of the parking lot on a tipped over electrical pole. Sign says $175 but they will charge $200 to get the vehicle out because of a 24hr "Storage Fee". Took a $20 cab to a less than desirable neighborhood with 3 small children and there was no one in the "office." Just a run down, shady place with some plexy glass. I had to call twice to get the guy to come down and help me. Once he did he said he needed to take my license and keys. I said you can take down my information through the glass and he started to walk away and said, "let me know when you want your car back." He took my license behind the wall and I had no choice but to give him the keys. He then came back to collect the $200. At this point he had keys and money and I had nothing. 20min later (after he obviously went through our car for valuables)...”

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11. Fran Spause said... on Aug 1, 2014 at 08:43PM

“Karma is coming for you”

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12. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2014 at 11:28AM

“these guys are the biggest scam artists in the city. I hope every cop in the city gets their car out for free. These guys will tow cars illegally without a second thought. I was parked legally and they towed it. Scumbags. Prof that these guys do not give a crap about the people they Tow, they have a $7 fee on their ATM. How low do you have to be to try and suck every dollar out of someone.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Sep 2, 2014 at 12:20PM

“They are required by law to take credit cards - My experience is that you have to call 911 to force them to actually take the credit card, but they will do it. Don't pay by cash and give them the ATM fee money!”

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14. JMH said... on Sep 11, 2014 at 09:07PM

“They have towed my car illegally TWICE. I live next to a chain pharmacy, for close to 3 years now. They allow me to park in their lot when the street parking is taken. Granted, I live in the city, I rarely move my car, but my asking for favors is infrequent. The rule is: Lew Blum may not tow my vehicle unless a manager phones them, yet I have always had the permission from this pharmacy to park in their lot.

Lew Blum drivers have taken it upon themselves to confiscate my vehicle on two separate occasions. The first time they took my car, I had to walk to their location to retrieve my car. The second time, well, at least they brought it to me. The respective shift manager at the pharmacy has come to my aid to call Lew Blum and demand they release my vehicle, since it was done without permission.

What sickens me is that these fraudulent practices could be effective in making the company money. I consider myself fortunate but I'm sure there's many that have been dealt with otherwise.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Sep 29, 2014 at 07:46PM

“I want to know the towing company drivers insurance company???? My car was returned damaged.”

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16. ricky said... on Oct 14, 2014 at 11:36AM

“the people running this place are trash the place itself is trash and cowards as they tamper with your car after they tow it and talk shit behind the phone”

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17. Blum is Scum! said... on Oct 22, 2014 at 08:45AM

“He may come off as a nice friendly guy, but that's because he is raping people out of their own money. His company has twice towed my car from legal spots, he doesn't answer for what his drivers do. They tow your car without having to provide evidence that it was illegally parked. How is that not theft? Then you have to pay over $200 to get it back, your own property that he can't prove was towed legally! How is that not theft! The people who work there sometimes claim they have your car if you ask, then you get there and nope, they don't have it. On top of that, you must pay CASH! What kind of legal business is this that only takes cash? He does it because it is very difficult to get cash back from illegal transactions without a lawsuit, which he figures the owners won't have the time to do. And he is right, he has all the time to fight lawsuits, and car owners don't. He is scum, complete scum. I would LOVE to meet this P.O.S.!!!”

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18. Mari said... on Nov 11, 2014 at 09:47AM

“These frauds took my STOLEN vehicle after the door was pried open and the key whole popped off. I can't get the cops to help me. All of my belongings are in that car. I just want my stuff back. They said I must sign over the car to get my stuff back I said FINE! Just pleAse give me my stuff. They've been giving me the run around for two months--hanging up on me, yelling in my face, telling me I can come get my stuff then I go all the wAy to west philly with my dad who took off work just to bring me there and they just told us to go away. Somebody help PLEase!!! 8569793387”

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19. Anonymous said... on Nov 14, 2014 at 10:14AM

“They said call on Friday (today).i called. They said oh we have an emergency. Call Monday. And when I call on Monday watch they're gonna tell me to call Friday just like they did LAST MONDAY. omg I just want my belongings that's it I'm on Ssi I can't Afford new clothes. I was moving away. I left my extremely abusive fiancée of 5yrs after he disfigured my face (I used to be a model...used to be...) and fractured my skull w a baseball bAt n a gf of mine hAs the pics to prove it! But anyway I packed all my belongings inside the truck and that bastard stole it by prying the door opens open and popping off the key hole to the ignition. He drove it to a Sunoco on my birthday aug 9 and abandoned it there knowing it would get towed by the worst towing company in PA. Yes he's crafty like that. Every time I talk to these people I just start crying they're so mean all I want is my stuff they can have the stupid car. If anyone knows Wut to do please help! 8569793387. mlitoshenko23@gmail.com.

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20. Mari said... on Nov 14, 2014 at 10:24AM

“Both of the last two posts r mine I forgot to write my name”

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21. Mari said... on Nov 14, 2014 at 10:29AM


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22. Myrt said... on Nov 18, 2014 at 12:39PM

“How can he be such a nice guy if he allows his staff to treat people the way they do. Not good leadership at all. Not just poorly run, but unethical and unprofessional. Fortunately, I got to my car before it was towed away. It was hooked up to the tow truck, though. My car was damaged. The driver pushed my car with his body and made a huge dent in the fender. He also BROKE INTO my car. The door was bent, and the molding between the two doors looked like it had been sawed through. The driver denied causing the damage, but a neighbor witnessed what had happened. We called the police, who immediately demanded that the driver unhook my car at no cost.”

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23. A Little Advice said... on Dec 5, 2014 at 06:17PM

“In response to Mari and anyone else who has had problems with Lew Blum, you can call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection line at 800-441-2555 and the Better Business Bureau at (215)985-9313 to report these issues. If no one is reporting them, then they will continue to operate and engage in illegal activity. FYI the legal charging amounts are as follows: For vehicles under 11,000 pounds: $150.00 for the tow; $25.00 for the storage for each 24 hour period or fraction thereof. Call the police when they tell that you can only pay cash. Let your local council person know about these issues. Call 311 (215-686-8686) for council person contact information. It is bad enough we get charged for parking and can barely ever find a parking spot. Let alone having a company like this after our bucks that we use to take care of our children, homes, vehicles and our bills, while they are getting rich. Penalizing someone who parked illegally is fine, but going after innocent citizens is PATHETIC”

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24. Steven said... on Dec 29, 2014 at 05:00PM

“20 mins with all my keys. Finally when he was back he said go pick up your car from the garage on the left. I saw a major damage on my front bumper but they of course denied saying they have proof of pictures taken before towing. But few minutes later, it turns out the driver had no memory card in his phone so no pictures.

While standing at garage waiting for the cops to arrive (their 5 minute took about 30mins, suspicious right??) a black guy approached to us and told us get the car out. I wasn't sure weather he was the manager or driver. These were his next words;

"I believe in karma. You might sue us or even get money from us for something we didn't do. But someone in your family might get killed or your or your partner might get beaten up to death. What goes around comes around.."

We've video taped everything. Please email me yakamoz__90@msn.com if interested. Someone needs to stop them.”

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25. Anonymous said... on Apr 29, 2015 at 05:38PM

“It towed my car and damaged it!!! How can I address this issue?”

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26. wg said... on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:41PM

“I was towed today by this company as well. I was legally parked and was not blocking any entrances nor was I an obstruction. I called the police to report the matter and after making his report, the officer repeatedly advised me to file a complaint against this company. As he explained they do this a lot (illegally tow cars). He also informed me that they were supposed to take a picture of where or how the car was parked...............of course they couldn't produce one and they're telling me that I have to check with them tomorrow morning after 9am. Bull-crap! With today's technology, those pics/photos are available instantly. Then to make matters worse I found a website complaining about this same issue and guess what, they were parked exactly where I was. Same exact spot.They charged me $205 ($175 for the tow, $25 for storage and $5 for a so called city tax). Beware of this company and file your complaints when they attack. I for surely will be doing this tomorrow.”

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27. Anonymous said... on Aug 19, 2015 at 09:28AM

“Same experience as wg (#26 above"). Same scam by Lew Blum. Our car was towed illegally by this companyl. We were legally parked (and not blocking any entrances, nor were we an obstruction.) We called the police to report our car stolen. After meeting the police in front of Lew Blum's, the police officers said this happens repeatedly with Lew Blum, and advised us to file a complaint against this company.”


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