Student plans to file suit against towing company

A University student plans to file a lawsuit stemming from a dispute in the Dinkytown McDonald’s parking lot. The dispute involves a Cedar Towing employee and four Minneapolis police officers.
Nancy Christenson-Schalow, a College of Liberal Arts senior, claims a Cedar Towing driver lied about when he hooked her car for towing, and then police ignored her when she called them for assistance.
“I was just totally being ripped off,” she said.
Christenson-Schalow drove into the McDonald’s parking lot April 1 but walked into Subway, whose parking lot is adjacent to McDonald’s.
McDonald’s parking policy states that if a person parks and leaves the premises, their car could be towed.
But Christenson-Schalow said she planned to go back to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal for her son.
When she came out of Subway, she saw a Cedar Towing truck pull up to her car. However, she claims the driver had not yet hooked it up to be towed.
Joe, the tow truck driver who asked not to have his last name printed for security reasons, would not let Christenson-Schalow take her car. She said she became angry and called police.
She claims the McDonald’s parking lot manager distracted her so Joe could hook up and lift her car. If a car is lifted, a driver must pay a $50 drop fee to get it back.
But Joe said the car was already lifted when she came out.
“I got it up fast so I could get my drop charge,” Joe said.
However, Lynette Engebretson, who witnessed the incident from her car in the McDonald’s lot, also said the car was not lifted.
Christenson-Schalow tried to call Minneapolis police for assistance, Engebretson said. But they said McDonald’s is in University Police jurisdiction and allegedly transferred her phone call.
Neither Minneapolis nor University police could find phone records of Christenson-Schalow’s call.
“It’s not very likely that Minneapolis transferred her to us,” said Julie Gfrerer, chief secretary of University Police.
Minneapolis police did find a phone record of Cedar Towing calling and requesting assistance at the lot.
When four Minneapolis officers arrived at McDonald’s, they ignored Christenson-Schalow and went straight to Joe, she said.
“They were siding with the men,” Engebretson said. “It’s definitely a woman vs. male thing.”
“They formed a circle, all the men,” Christenson-Schalow said.
But officers claim they were simply following procedure.
“The officers were focusing on the incident, not the human element,” said Minneapolis Police Sergeant Carl McCarthy. “I wish there was more I could have done for her.”
The officers eventually came to Christenson-Schalow to ask if the car was hooked up when she came out of Subway, she said. She told them it hadn’t been. Then officers told her she had the choice of paying the drop fee or having it towed, she said.
“They weren’t listening to me,” Christenson-Schalow said. “Yes, I got a little hysterical.”
“Most people are pretty civil, but she was flying off the handle,” Joe said.
Joe said Christenson-Schalow eventually paid the drop fee. The driver dropped the car, but the two exchanged words.
Though the fee was later paid back to her by McDonald’s, Christenson-Schalow said she plans to file a suit against Cedar Towing.