Paying Customers Subject to Towing

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Paying customers who had their cars towed question the fairness of local towing companies. As students pile into local coffee shops and fast food joints to take advantage of the free wi-fi, they still risk getting towed, even as paying customers.

"To me, it's a real low thing for a towing company to take advantage of students like that," said David Branyon, father of Texas A&M student Thomas Branyon.

Branyon said his son was one of the many students to utilize the free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, while he ate and studied for finals. Although he paid for his meal like everyone else in the restaurant, Branyon said his son's car was towed after being parked there for 3 hours.

"He actually had not left the premises; he was inside studying using the Wi-Fi," said Branyon.

According to Branyon, this isn't the same sign that was posted when his car was towed last spring. The old sign was posted much higher and said, "if you park here and leave the shopping center your vehicle may be towed at your expense." Branyon said his son did not leave the shopping center, but remained in McDonald's the entire time.

"He researched it and had 7 violations; it didn't have the right tow symbol; it didn't have the towing enforced, it didn't have what time period it was, it didn't have the name of the company or the phone number of who to contact," said Branyon.

The Texas Towing Compliance shows various examples on their website of unlawful signs which are common in Bryan/College Station.

News 3 spoke with the law offices of Chad Lampe, who said victims have argued the verbiage of "unauthorized vehicles" is too vague. They point to more specific signs as legitimate; those that enforce exactly which customers are allowed to park in the designated spaces. A clear example would be, "Wells Fargo Customer Parking Only" as opposed to "Unauthorized Vehicles will be towed."

News 3 contacted both local towing companies in town. Although they both declined an on camera interview, one worker who did not wish to be identified, said parking in a parking lot and walking elsewhere for business "hurts the company's potential revenue." He said regardless of the sign's language, the car should still be subject to towing. This was not the case for Branyon, as he parked in the McDonald's parking lot where he was a customer.

The towing employee went on to say that 99% of their tows come from the request of their clients. He said it was common for Northgate businesses to call them, as many times, people will try to avoid a parking fee.

Branyon fought his case in court Monday. Judge Vera Lara-Hoogeruled in favor of A-1 Towing. News 3 has requested specifics from the Brazos County Justice of the Peace. We will update this story as soon as a response becomes available.

A similar hearing was presented Monday morning. Judge Michael P. McCleary ruled in favor of Tribble & Sons Wrecker when Cynthia Wydermyre protested her car getting towed. The court did not release specifics on McCleary's ruling.