DETROIT (FOX 2) - McDonald's serves up hot fast food but at the mid-town location you also have to eat fast - or your car might be gone before you finish your burger and fries.
"I'm lovin' it." That's one of their slogans but at this McDonald's these mc-customers say 'I'm hating it.'
"I was just devastated," said Cherry, a towing victim.
Rob Wolchek: "So they towed your car even though you were inside the place?"
"Yeah," said Haley, another victim.
Stop in for a shamrock shake and you might get a shakedown.
Wolchek: "They were trying to insinuate that your mom didn't even go in McDonald's?"
"Yes," said Malika, Cherry's daughter.
Wolchek: "And that they had it on videotape?"
Wolchek: "And you knew that was a lie?"
This is 87-year-old Cherry. Cherry still gets around on her own but needs a coffee break now and then.
"I decided to stop and have a cup of coffee," Cherry said. "I had ordered a senior coffee - one cream and one Splenda."
The place was busy so she waited in line, got her coffee and had a seat.
"So when I got ready to out to the parking lot to pick up my car, it was gone," Cherry said. "And I looked all around and I didn't see the car. So I went back in and said may I speak to the manager? Somebody stole my car off your lot."
But the manager explained it wasn't the "Hamburglar" who took her car.
"She said your car has been towed, you don't need to make a police report. So I said, towed, why?"
Cherry had her receipt. She says the manager told her she must have left the restaurant.
"I never left McDonald's. I just stayed in there and drunk the coffee," she said.
Then the manager said she must have been in the restaurant for an extended length of time.
Wolchek: "But you weren't in there for like four hours or anything?"
"Oh baby I was in there 30 or 35 minutes something like that at the most," Cherry said.
The manager told Cherry it would be $420 in cash to get her car back from the towing company. Cherry doesn't even have a cell phone.
"I didn't have the money so I set there for a while and said could you call me a cab?" Cherry said.
But the cab never came. So she started walking.
"I got fluid on the knee so I got a bad knee so I walk a block and I sit," she said. "I walk a block and I sit. And I kept on walking and walking and looking for the cab."
Imagine an 87-year-old lady, who has a car, had to walk almost two miles to the Transit Center - in the dead of winter.
Now meet Haley.
"I got a coffee, I sat in the back on my phone for a little bit," Haley said. "Like back corner away from where I parked, and then I went outside and my car was gone."
Haley got towed, too.
Wolchek: "So you were sitting in the restaurant when your car got towed?"
"Yes," she said. "Apparently I'm not supposed to be in the restaurant that long I guess."
Haley needed more than $400 in cash to get her car back. She's a student at Wayne State. She doesn't have that kind money.
And the McDonald's staff didn't help.
Wolchek: "So now when you went to the McDonald's people what did they say?"
"They literally had nothing for me," she said.
Haley and Cherry were towed by Breakthrough Towing. I've done stories on them before.
A few months ago we watched as day after day, people were towed. The company appeared to be using spotters like one lady who parked all day watching the lots they service from the seat of her green Chevy.
Breakthrough Towing's attorney told us the company didn't use spotters. But whenever she was around, people got towed.
Breakthrough has a contract with this Midtown McDonald's, the one that according to Haley and Cherry, towed them even though they never left the restaurant. Malika is Cherry's daughter.
"I just don't see how they're allowed to keep getting away with it," Malika said.
Malika says her mom finally got ahold of her the next day. They went to the Breakthrough Towing office and were told McDonald's had video proof Cherry wasn't in the McDonald's.
"She never left McDonald's," she said. "She doesn't have the money to pay and I don't have the money to give her. I'm begging you please don't keep my mom's car. I literally begged and my mom she looked at me and said 'Don't beg.'"
So she went to the police who wanted to see the tape. But instead of showing the cops the tape, all of a sudden, they brought Cherry her car back.
Haley wasn't so lucky. She had to call her mom who bailed her out to the tune of more than $400.
The franchisee of the McDonald's in Midtown is Dominique Virgiles.
FOX 2 called Dominique up to ask her about Haley being towed while she was in the restaurant and Dominique claimed Haley lied and she had videotape to prove it."
And when my producer called Ms. Virgiles back asking to see the tape, Dominique hung up on him.
So, one day me and my cameraman decided to take a trip to mickey d's. There's the lady in the green Chevy - you know - the one who's not a spotter.
There's Dominique Virgiles' car in the parking lot.
Wolchek: "I'm looking for Dominique."
A few minutes later, a lady who sure looks like Dominique Virgiles comes out.
Wolchek: "Are you Dominique?"
"Can you get Dominique for me?"
"She's not here. You cannot record."
Wolchek: "Ok, who are you?"
Well maybe that wasn't her. so we stand around for a few more minutes.
Wolchek: "Could you get Dominique for me please."
We are ignored. No owner. No manager. Then there's the young lady who told me earlier Dominique was in the back.
What kind of McDonalds is this!? What's next? Are they called the cops on us?
Cop: "Is there a problem?"
Wolchek: "We're just trying to talk to the manager or the owner."
The police are nice. They say as long as nobody told us to leave, we can stay. So we stay. And so do the cops. And then, they're kind of puzzled because no one comes to talk to them either.
Finally, after about a half an hour, Mildred comes out. She claims to be the general manager.
Wolchek: "Who tells the people to tow the cars?"
Mildred: "I don't. you got that camera in my face?"
Wolchek: "So who tells them Mildred?"
Mildred: "Put that camera outa my face, would you tell them to get that camera outa my face."
Wolchek: "So will you do me a favor and tell...."
Mildred walks away.
We never get to see the promised videotape proof that Haley and Cherry weren't really in the McDonald's when they were towed.
But I do think we got to meet Dominique Virgiles the owner who told us she had the tapes.
Well, as soon as we leave the restaurant we doubled back to see the lady who said she's not Dominique, getting into Dominique's car. And I got the video to prove it.
Hey, the people at the Midtown McDonald's have a new jingle you want to hear it? You deserve a Breakthrough today. Watch them tow your car away from McDonald's.
Dominique. you're in the Hhhhhall of Shame!
MORE BREAKTHROUGH TOWING:
Since Dominique didn't want to talk, I reached out to McDonald's to see what they had to say about making an 87-year-old lady walk two miles to the bus station.
In a word, nothing. But McDonald's did send me a statement from the company that runs the franchise, Virgirilli Management Company.
"We take the allegations of Breakthrough Towing's towing practices that may impact McDonald's customers very seriously. we are listening to our customers' concerns and plan to end our relationship with Breakthrough Towing."
>>WEB UPDATE (Feb. 7): Breakthrough Towing shouldn't even be towing. On Thursday FOX 2 got a call from the Michigan State Police which said the Commerial Vehicle Enforcement Division sent Breakthrough Towing a cease and desist letter yesterday.
Breakthrough's permit to operate ran out at the end of the year and they never re-applied. They say Breakthrough should not be oeprating and should not be towing cars.