Tow Companies Still Charging Drivers More Than What's Allowed
At the McDonald's restaurant on North High Street, across from the Ohio State campus, tow truck drivers grab one parked car after another.
Any driver who ignores the sign that says "McDonald's customers only" are quickly towed away, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.
"Within two minutes, the guy was towing me," said Kelsey Dailey, whose car was recently towed.
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To some, it seems like the tow truck drivers have secret radar. In reality, 10 Investigates found a network of undercover spotters who work together to catch people.
The spotter alerts tow trucks hiding around the corner when drivers like Dailey park and then stray off the lot. As she walked away, the truck moved in.
Dailey claimed that she was planning to withdraw money from a nearby bank and then stop at McDonald's.
"I am very mad," Dailey said.
Tameka White said that the spotter called in the tow trucks on her, too. White presented 10 Investigates with a receipt that showed she purchased food at McDonald's at 1:27 p.m. As the tow company receipt showed, her car was being towed at 1:39 p.m., 12 minutes later.
White claimed that her car was towed as she walked next door to buy some food from another business.
"The sign said (that) you have to be a McDonald's customer and I was that," White said. "They're trying to take advantage of people who are not trying to break the law."
The spotters who Aker found would not comment.
The aggressive techniques do not stop at towing vehicles. Some towing companies are charging more than the law allows. The problem continues even though 10 Investigates first exposed it in October 2009.
Back then, 10 Investigates found the Ohio law that said tow truck companies can only charge $90 for a tow and $12 for storage, totaling $102. The law can be found right on the signs.
Two companies, Shamrock and Camcar, charged quite a bit more money, Aker reported. In one case, a driver was charged $138.89. Another driver reported a $157.65 charge.
While the companies denied they were charging too much, Ohio Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard disagreed and pushed for legislation.
"There needs to be some punitive punishment for those renegade towers," Heard said in 2009.
More than a year later, some companies are still charging more than the law allows.
"They charged me $138.90," said Nicholas Grizzle, whose car was towed. "It's just absolutely wrong."
Camcar Towing drivers would not comment to 10 Investigates.
Shamrock owner Tim Duffey said that his company does not use spotters and has to charge an extra $30 to keep up with the times.
"I wouldn't charge it if we didn't need it," Duffey said.
According to Duffey, he has to charge the extra rates because he said the state has failed to update the law.
"It's what it costs to do business," Duffey said. "As long as it's not addressed by the state, sometimes you have to address it yourself."
Heard said that she is still trying to take action against tow truck companies because they need to be stopped.
"It's fraud. It's illegal," Heard said.
McDonald's would not answer specific questions about these towing situations.
The restaurant issued a statement that said, in part, "Providing our valuable customers parking access when they visit our restaurants is a top priority for us. The towing policy was originally implemented in response to feedback from our customers who couldn't park because non-McDonald's customers were utilizing McDonald's customer parking access."
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October 29, 2009: Some Tow Truck Companies Charging More Than They Should