CLEVELAND – In an Action News exclusive report, Tom Meyer, The Investigator, caught car washes doing more than cleaning your car, they were cleaning you out.
The hidden-camera investigation caught car wash employees red-handed.
Al Paul, a University Heights car wash, cleans about 1,000 vehicles every week. Action News producers posed as customers and took an unmarked Action News minivan to the popular car wash, as well as two others -- Square Deal and Mr. Magic.
Before going into the car washes, Action News investigators placed a $10-roll of quarters, a knife and a dollar bill on the floor.
At Al Paul, the hidden cameras were rolling when a worker began cleaning up. Within a few minutes, he grabbed the roll of quarters near the rear passenger seat.
He wasn't through stealing. He then grabbed the dollar bill near the driver's seat and pocketed the $15 knife.
The Investigator showed the manager, Rick Kinter, the footage of the thief caught on tape.
"It's terrible," Kinter said. "I mean I don't stand for it. If I catch someone doing it, I fire them. I mean that's the bottom line."
Action News was hoping for a square deal at the car wash with the same name. Instead, Action News got a raw deal.
An employee ripped off the $10-roll of quarters and the dollar bill. The wash wound up costing Action News $22, or double the cost of the car wash.
The manager vowed to fire the employee caught on tape, but another worker was angry and called the investigation's results "petty." The manager disagreed.
"I don't think it's petty," he said. "I think if I have 50 cents in the car, I don't think anyone is supposed to bother it. That's my policy here."
At the third car wash, Mr. Magic, no one took the quarters or the knife, but the dollar bill disappeared when a worker grabbed it and never put it back.
Management was angry, but not surprised.
"It's always a problem," owner Bud Kassoff said. "It's a problem probably in every car wash in the country. Someone is going to pick up something that doesn't belong to them."
Kassoff admitted that he hires minimum wage workers off of the streets without doing background checks. He said that he's fired employees for theft in the past, and says that he would continue firing them for violating what he called a strict company policy.
"It is an ongoing problem, especially with the turnover in help we have in this environment," manager Jerry Friery said.
While some car wash employees proved to be thieves, Action News got different results when it tested valets. No matter what Downtown Cleveland establishment was tested -- Johnny's, Blue Pointe, The Chop House, the Sheraton -- valets left the possessions alone and drove the car responsibly.
Only one worker rifled through a box of videos, but never took any.