I think there is something entirely inappropriate, although probably not illegal, taking place at this McDonalds. I acknowledge making mistakes that resulted in my vehicle being towed, but let me explain the scenario and you decide.
I went to downtown Kalamazoo to pick up guests who were coming on an Amtrak Passenger Train. Due to long term construction Amtrak is using a parking lot across the street that has no signs labeling it as Amtrak's. I parked in this lot and went in to check on the arrival of guests. They were not arrived and I thought I was in the wrong parking area so I moved my van to nearby McDonald's. I re-entered the Amtrak station and heard that the train was now 20 minutes late. I went back to McDonald's. I waited in line, bought a drink, and then crossed the road back to Amtrak. The train arrived 30 minutes late and I noticed my van was gone. It had been towed about 4 minutes earlier.
I walked 1 mile to the tow company, T & J Towing and paid $118 to reclaim my van. I was fortunate someone was available to take payment then.
It was cold and raining that day and I was dodging the rain, and maybe that is why I did not notice any towing signs. There were no signs in the center area of the lot where I parked. Had I pulled into one of the spaces on the perimeter I probably would have seen a sign. I think McDonalds has an obligation to improve their signage. I AM ONE OF MANY WHO HAVE BEEN TOWED FROM THIS MCDONALD'S. The McDonald's area supervisor (it is company owned, not franchised) told me this location tows aggressively and tows an enormous of vehicles a week!
I spoke with an employee at the business located between the Amtrak lot and McDonald's. This business has a tow sign at every parking space. The employee told me they tow "next to never" and without my asking he added, "McDonald's next door, every day."
One tow company, T & J Towing, has exclusive tow priviledges at this McDonald's. I believe T & J closely monitors the lot. Apparently they have the right to tow if you leave the McDonald's property at any time while your car is there. At $118 per tow they and the state can make a lot of money, ($78 to tow company and $40 to the State of Michigan)
I cannot imagine why McDonald's Corporation would allow their customers to be alienated in this way. If McDonald's invested in more parking lot signs and a sign in the restaurant I really believe the tow company wouldn't have nearly as much business and McDonald's everywhere would benefit from the goodwill.
In the future I will be vigilant for tow signs at all businesses. Once a tow company has exclusive rights at a business and has one of their tow company signs up they can be very aggressive in their interpretation of who should be towed.