Discounting, Free Tows, Humanity
By Steve Calitri
I have spoke to towers who give a substantial Little Old Lady Discount. At first glance, it seems like the human thing to do. “She’s on a fixed income,” said the tower. I’m not going to take advantage of her.”
Now, what kind of person would any of us be not to help out a little old lady, or man for that matter. But let’s look at what may be wrong with this thinking.
First of all, most people are on fixed incomes, and we are not talking about helping someone who is destitute. Secondly, there’s something way off with this tower’s language. Should “taking advantage” of a motorist even be in the tower’s vocabulary? The entire business deals with the misfortunes of the motorist: flat tires, dead batteries, illegal parks, wrecks, repos, etc. If a tower did not want to “take advantage” of the motorist, he could organize municipal free towing services and perhaps open up a hot dog cart in his lot to pay the bills.
The average tower suffers from schizophrenia about his relationship with the motorist. He’s either cold as ice, such as when the motorist comes in with a sob story with the hopes of getting his car out of the impound lot. Or he exudes humanity, giving the car dealership a rate 30% below his “retail” rate it seems if for no other good reason for the camaraderie of doing business with another businessman. The fact that he may not be able to profit from such rates is tucked away somewhere in the back of his mind, only to resurface when he’s agonizing over the dilemma of increasing debt.
Take the humanity of towers who give free tows to drunk drivers on holidays. On the surface it seems like good public relations for the tower and for the towing industry in general. Who can argue that it helps save lives. If the world was logical, however, some may say it would be beter that the bar owner leverage his relationship with a cab company to give the drunk a free ride home, and the car would sit until the drunk came back sober to retrieve it. Nope, the tower gives a free tow and a free ride home to boot.
The public perception of the program may be a double-sided coin. On one side, the public see the good nature of the tower, usually reviled as a vulture. On the other side, the public wonders if this isn’t a case where the tower is making so much money preying on their misfortunes that he can certainly afford to give free tows once a year.
American Towman Magazine publicizes the holiday free towing programs that exist. American Towman TV has done a feature story on the AAA holiday program. These programs do help save lives. There is also the belief that a good deed done may be paid back one day.
I’m reminded of a tower in San Antonio who makes it a point each and every day of doing a good deed to a motorist, whatever it may be, and often it’s a free tow. He believes what he gives away will come back to him one way or another down the road. His whole family is unusual in this way, God bless them. It’s who they are and it’s part of how they do business.
There are many ways to express one’s humanity and good will to his fellow man besides giving a discount. For example, the unhappy motorist comes in wanting to know where his car is, and the tower has him take a seat and gives him a cup of coffee, showing a little bit of hospitality and respect. Or, the man just got towed in to his shop and doesn’t have a ride home, nor does he have any cash on him. The tower extends the courtesy of advancing him the cab ride fare home, which will appear on his bill when he finally gets his car back.
Then there is the tower who charges the customer whatever he can afford. He’s quite a happy tower. Does he feel he’s ever taken advantage of? Does he make out better this way in the long term? Should we all be giving little old ladies a free tow?