Largest mall in NJ tows dozens of employees cars

PARAMUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- 7 On Your Side got an earful from employees who claim they had no idea why they got towed while working their shifts. After hitting roadblocks with mall management we made a big discovery. One that lead to Bergen County Consumer Affairs taking action against the largest mall in New Jersey.

"I thought it was stolen," said Stefanie Mastbeth, a mall employee said.

That was Mastbeth's reaction when, after her shift at Michael Kors, her car vanished from the Garden State Plaza parking lot in Paramus.

"I actually have the Onstar app. So we tracked the car and it wasn't in Garden State Plaza," Mastbeth said.

She tracked the car to Hackensack and learned it was towed. She had to pay $150 to get it back.

"$150 is nothing to them, but for employees it's a big deal," Mastbeth said.

She was one of 48 mall workers targeted and towed by global retail management giant, Westfield Corp., because the lot she says she's parked in for seven years as a part-time employee is for customers only.

"I didn't know about it until my car was towed," Mastbeth said.

The mall manager says after issuing memos to all store managers, with maps showing employee lots, violators were watched on security cameras then towed.

"I feel completely violated," Mastbeth said.

"It cost me $100," said Damon Dixon, a minimum wage-earning student and Starbucks barista who also had his car hauled away. Damon says that $100 tow fee was as much as he earns in two shifts at Starbucks.

Damon, like Stefanie, said he knew nothing about employee parking rules. So 7 On Your Side took a spin around Garden State Plaza and found no warning signs anywhere warning employees could be towed. We pointed that out to mall managers, but Westfield still refused to reimburse tow victims.

A week and half later, there were warning signs everywhere plastered all over the Garden State Plaza parking lot and garages.

"They're everywhere now. There was nothing before," Mastbeth said.

New Jersey's Predatory Towing Act makes it against the law to tow off private property unless signs are posted. Westfield had NO signs warning employees they could be towed, and the new signs it put up after 7 On Your Side got involved are too small. 3 feet by 3 feet is the law. These are only 12" by 18".

"I think they're really cowardly because they're not stepping up," Mastbeth said.

Bergen County Consumer Affairs stepped up, after investigators found Westfield Corp. racked up four violations of the Consumer Fraud Act. Just hours later, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco brokered restitution. Westfield will pay back all 48 mall employees who got towed and will install new signs by Christmas that are compliant with New Jersey consumer law.
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