Soap, Suds and Stealing?

Wednesday, November 26th 2008, 3:13 pm
By: News 9

By Amanda Taylor, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Getting your car washed can have a bigger impact on your wallet than you think. NEWS 9's Consumer Watch team investigates how often thieves strike at the car wash.

Candace Porter told NEWS 9 her iPod was stolen when her car was washed at the Red Carpet Wash on Pennsylvania Avenue. She said it was hidden underneath a bunch of things in her car inside a closed compartment.

"I was ticked off," Porter said. "It's just the principle that they went through my personal items and took the iPod out. It was wrong."

Unfortunately Porter didn't have cameras in her car. But NEWS 9 hid two cameras inside a vehicle to test the theory. The cameras were focused on two areas of the car where change was out in the open and where jewelry and cash were stashed in the closed center console.

NEWS 9 sent the vehicle to three metro car washes, including the car wash where Porter claims her iPod was stolen.

While at Red Carpet Car Wash, a worker cleaning unknowingly covered up the main camera, so it wasn't possible to prove how a $1.80 in change disappeared. The second camera though showed what looks to be a worker grabbing then pocketing the money. The car was taken back on a different day and nothing was taken.

At the second car wash, Memorial XPress Auto, the car came back clean and nothing was taken.

However at the third car wash, AutoSplash on S Pennsylvania Avenue, while an employee was driving the car into the wash, the camera caught him opening the console and taking $20.

NEWS 9 showed the video to the worker and the manager. The worker never admitted to taking the money, but he gave NEWS 9 $20 back from his wallet.

The AutoSplash manager said this is why they had to put up cameras of their own to try to prevent this type of incident from happening. She has also warned all her employees that if they get caught, they will be fired.

The manager of AutoSplash said she placed the worker, who allegedly stole $20, on two weeks unpaid leave and six months probation.

Jim Blakewell, the owner of Red Carpet Wash, said he's had to fire people in the past too.

"If there's no consequences for stealing, why not steal? We don't allow it," Blakewell said.

Blakewell said they also have surveillance cameras as a preventative measure. The camera system proved a worker spent too much time in Porter's car.

Red Carpet Wash reimbursed Porter for her iPod.

NEWS 9's investigation proves you should always take anything of value out of your car before you hand it over to be washed or have maintenance done on it.