$255 gamble: worth the risk?

Ryan Johnson

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For City College students, few things can be more frustrating than rushing to class and not being able to find parking around our campus.

However, some students make decisions that pile on to their frustration by ignoring posted signs at local downtown fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s. These signs warn them that if they use the restaurant’s parking lot they could and likely will be towed.

Fast food restaurants have an obligation to serve their customers. Especially in a downtown urban setting, managers are making sure their lots are available for customers, not students looking for a quick place to park.

Students thinking they can beat the system by buying a soda or coffee and then going to class for a couple of hours should think twice.

Otherwise, they will likely return to find their car gone and a $255 bill from the Centre City Towing Service in its place.

Margarita Sanchez, co-owner of Centre City, is a single mother and coincidentally, a City College student studying business administration. She said businesses like McDonald’s call her when they have illegally parked cars that need to be towed.

She explains that it is up to the lot owner to determine which cars are parked illegally. She said she understands students’ frustrations but that, ultimately, she has a business to run.

“Students are upset when they get down here (to pick up their car) but after working with me they understand they shouldn’t have parked there.” Sanchez said. “At the end of the conversation they usually admit that they knew it was wrong to park there but they decided to ‘take the risk’ anyway.”

State law requires that signage indicates that parking illegally will resulting in towing. McDonald’s has even gone the extra step of adding additional signage that explains “once you leave the premise, you are no longer a customer” and thwwat your car is subject to towing after a one hour grace period.

Franz Kurtz, a manager at the McDonald’s across from campus, on Park Boulevard, explained that they don’t like to tow people. He stated that unfortunately, so many people – especially during the first few weeks of a semester – use the lot for other purposes and that paying customers often are inconvenienced by lack of available parking.

“We don’t like towing people or making people sad,” Franz said. “I’d rather they spend the money ($255 towing fee) here than to get their car out of a tow lot.”

Kurtz also informed that, “We have employees dedicated to monitoring the parking lot and writing down license plate numbers” and before they call the tow company they do a complete check of the lobby to see if the owner is in the restaurant.

One part-time City College student, Diane Seung, admitted she had made a mistake and accepted the mistake she had made saying with humility, “I got a cup of coffee and then wandered to class, forgetting that I had parked (in the McDonald’s lot). I do things like that a lot”.

Usually one $255 fee – almost as much as full time tuition at City College – is enough to stop anyone from making the same mistake twice. Still, Sanchez said, “We are a tiny company and I’ve seen it where the same person in the same car has gotten towed two to three times.”

Students would be wiser to spend $30 on a parking pass available from campus police or take extra time in order to find legal parking before class.

Sanchez, who has 10 years of experience in towing, thinks not all folks will be so wise, “Believe me, some people will never learn”.a business to run.

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