MANCHESTER — A Friday excursion into Boston for several Manchester-area senior citizens ended on a sour note, when they found their cars had been towed from a Burger King parking lot one said had been used for decades without a problem.
Eight cars had been towed, and the seniors had to come up with $100 to retrieve each one, said Kathleen Goulet, a Manchester resident who went on the trip.
About once a month, the 14 hire a limousine-van for a trip into Boston, where they visit the Museum of Fine Arts and hear the Boston Symphony. Goulet said she and her friends rendezvous at the Hooksett Road Burger King; some in the group have been doing so for at least two decades.
But recently, the owner put up customer-only signs that warn of a tow.
"Burger King should have put post-its under the windshield wipers (saying) don't do it again. They couldn't have been oblivious to the fact we've been doing this all these years," said Goulet, who is 78. "I think it was a dirty trick."
Efforts to get a comment from Burger King were unsuccessful. Two people who identified themselves as managers on the telephone said they didn't know the identity of the franchise owner and then hung up. On-line city tax records say the land and building belong to Burger King Corporation.
An email and telephone message left with Burger King corporate communications on Monday was not returned.
However, the towing company owner said Burger King started cracking down on the parking lot because of teenagers who drive recklessly through the lot and litter. Kris Hobbs of Bentley's Towing said the manager called him Friday and told him to tow cars that had been there all day.
Hobbs said the last of the eight cars was on his flatbed when the van pulled up.
"I felt horrible when they all showed up. They were sweet little old ladies," he said. He said he reduced the tow charges from $165 to $100.
Goulet said she was grateful to Bentley's. The van driver took the passengers to the tow yard, where they picked up their automobiles.
"All of us together, we can joke or laugh. But any of us by ourselves, it would have been a disaster," she said.
Hobbs said some of the group's cars were parked underneath the customer-only parking signs. Goulet acknowledged that a member of the group saw the new signs. But they gave it no mind, given the long-standing practice.
She said the average age of the group is 80; some of the members buy a coffee and food at Burger King before boarding the van at 9:15 a.m.
She said everyone parks far away from the doors.
"We look like we're customers," Goulet said. "We thought we were doing Burger King a favor; their parking lot is never full."