Robert Newton, a 59-year-old grandfather from Gillingham in Kent, has been slapped with a £100 fine for overstaying his welcome at McDonald's in Bobbing, near Sittingbourne. The parking firm insists he was in the McDonald's car park for over two hours, when in fact he spent less than 30 minutes there.
Robert told Kent Online that he had popped into the chain for his lunch, on the way to pick up his grandchildren. He hadn't even been into the restaurant, but picked the food up from the drive-thru, and ate in the car park, before driving off.
The Daily Mirror reported that he then drove to Sheerness to pick the children up, and they persuaded him to go back to McDonalds for a couple of Happy Meals. Again he picked food up at the drive thru, they ate in the car, and he drove off.
The trouble is that the parking firm picked up his first arrival, but missed him leaving. As a result, they matched up his first arrival with his second time of leaving, and calculated he had been there for more than two hours.
A McDonald's spokesperson refused to immediately cancel the ticket. They said the parking firm was entirely independent from the restaurant chain, and so Robert would have to appeal to the parking firm through official channels.
He's not the first person to have a problem with parking at McDonalds. In April 2014, a woman in Northampton received a fine for £100, after staying at a McDonalds for more than 90 minutes. She explained that she and her friend had been eating in the restaurant the whole time, but McDonald's refused to budge, and suggested she contacted the parking firm.
In September that year, a 71-year-old man from Caerphilly parked up at 5am for a Happy Meal, and then fell asleep. By the time he woke up, he had overstayed his welcome. He refused to pay the fine, on the grounds it had been a mistake, and because he didn't pay it quickly, it was doubled from £100 to £200. Interestingly, in that instance, the papers contacted the parking firm, who refused to cancel the fine. They then contacted McDonald's, who arranged for the fine to be dropped - showing it's not totally out of their control.
McDonald's insists that they only bring in parking charges where there is a problem with people abusing it - so there aren't enough spaces for customers. They say they have had people parking up to go shopping elsewhere, and even had a mini cab company using the car park as waiting bays.
In March this year, it emerged that a man had been leaving his car at McDonalds every day when he went to work - throwing away the ticket on his return. Eventually the car park firm got fed up with the situation, and launched legal proceedings, and he ended up paying them £2,980.