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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingJune 21 - June 27, 2017

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Sheridan, IN
(Pop. 2,665)
Eastsound, WA
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Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.

No Tolerance for Gouging

money 73 11843By Randall C. Resch

Tow companies are constantly in the media's cross hairs, accused of intentionally stacking charges by inflating an invoice's bottom line. Since the inception of rotator services, it's not uncommon to see invoice totals that range upwards to $50,000.

In one particular scenario, a tow company was suspended from a law enforcement contract because of alleged gouging. A vehicle's owner complained that a company's tallied fees were excessive for a tow that (he says) took no more than 40 minutes and was only a few miles from the tow company's yard. The tow company's owner responded by saying the fees may have been a mistake, and he made it right by lowering the bill. By lowering fees after a complaint was initiated, doesn't that suggest a certain level of culpability by the tow company?

A southern California tow company transported an off-duty police officer's wrecked vehicle a short distance and charged highway patrol rates. When the off-duty officer arrived at the tow company's yard a couple of hours later, he was handed a gigantic bill. Because the off-duty officer was there at the accident scene, he knew that an additional truck and driver weren't there, he knew there was no need for stand-by time, excessive labor, additional mileage, flares and absorbents, even dollies. Most damaging was that his wrecked vehicle was transported on a carrier and the tower actually drove the damaged vehicle onto the carrier. A subsequent complaint was filed with the agency's tow boss, leading to a surprise audit a week later. The audit eventually determined that other invoices substantiated intentional gouging resulting in them being terminated as a rotation tower.

These types of complaints plague the towing and recovery industry. When tow operators get paid straight commissions, adding charges is a typical way to bolster commissions. Typically, when tow company staff enters job information into the company's computer, tow company owners don't see what is entered. Ultimately, if owners don't review invoices for accuracy, jobs that may have been inflated oftentimes make their way to unsuspecting customers.

Owners: To say, "I didn't know," is not a defense.

And, because there's an earned distrust between insurance companies and tow company invoices, the industry has experienced a difficult road-to-hoe because of padding and stacking false charges on invoices.

Because invoices don't write themselves and are the product of mandatory office administrations, responsibility to demand accuracy in billing begins with the company's individual stand on honesty, reputation, and fair play to not get caught up in dishonest fees and charges.

Owners can't review every invoice or computer entry, but they will have to defend the company's reputation. Owners can set the tone of accuracy by training and demanding that your personnel only specify honest charges and fees approved by the agencies you serve.

I fully support tow companies being paid for the work they've done or services they've provided, but when false charges or fees are added and work hasn't been done ... that's nothing less than committing fraud. Tow companies should be required to openly submit to periodic audits of collected invoices. Companies that truthfully and honestly conduct work and services should be paid.

No-Look Pass

MichaelJordan a745aBy Don Archer

Back in the '90s, I was a Chicago Bulls fan. I was amazed at the prowess of Michael Jordan, how he dominated the court. He could hit three-pointers one after another with ease. He would climb invisible stairs from half court over his opponent's heads slamming the ball into the basket. To me, he was more magic than Magic Johnson.

But what I loved the best about watching the games was the no-look passes.

Sometimes Jordan would be up against a formidable defense and not be able to get to the basket; it was no problem, because he had Scottie. Scottie Pippen was his right-hand man and they played together like each knew what the other was thinking. When Michael would be boxed out, he'd fake right and then—without looking—bounce-pass left to Pippen, who would inevitably score. It was a thing of beauty, teamwork.

Fast-forward 20 years and I reminisce about the Scotties I've had in my life. You know, the kind of guys you can trust with anything.

One occasion was a snow day. We were swamped. Everyone was busy helping someone, somewhere and the calls were stacking up. Law enforcement called and asked if we could respond to a tractor-trailer that was blocking traffic. It was stuck in the snow on one of the main arteries into the city.

We couldn't respond.

We had to tell them that all our heavies were already out and that we couldn't get to it for at least two hours, maybe longer. We suggested that they call the only other company in town with heavies to respond. Five minutes later they called back and said that the other company couldn't get to it until the next day.

I was on the road in a Ford F-550/Vulcan 882, and hadn't gotten word yet about what was going on. I was approached by one of the officers, a friend, and he told me what was going on. I called dispatch to see where the heavies were and learned that there was no way they were going to be able to respond. That's when I thought of Scottie. But my Scottie's name was Tom.

I called Tom and told him the situation and he said, "Let's go and take a look."

Tom was a real laid-back type of guy. He rode motorcycles, played the guitar and had been towing since the early '80s. Nothing under the sun was new to him.

When we arrived we assessed the situation. Tom chuckled, "Well buddy, this is going to be as easy as shoving a wet noodle up a goat's ass."

But it wasn't.

The tractor-trailer was fully loaded on a substantial grade. The driver had become stuck in the snow because she failed to accelerate up the hill, while entering the flow of traffic. There was no way we were going to PULL her out.

That's when Tom got out his grain shovel and started removing the snow from around the drives.

Now most guys seeing an insurmountable task would just shrug their shoulders and say, "There's nothing we can do."

Not Tom.

I'm not saying that Tom had all the answers, but he was willing to give it a shot.

We both started shoveling the snow, removing it from around the drives. As we did, I came up with a plan. It may have been Tom's all along—we never discussed it.

First thing in our favor was the snow was wet: we could easily move it. The second was the trailer was straight, and so was the road.

While continuing to remove the snow we re-routed the traffic that was behind the truck. This way, the driver could back up and take a better run at the hill. It was hard work and it had to be done as quickly as possible, but I never heard one complaint out of Tom.

At first it didn't work; the drive tires kept slipping in the snow and I started to think that our plan wasn't working. Then out of nowhere, Tom pulled a 5-gal. bucket of oil-dry out of his truck and started spreading it in front of the tires. I followed suit and it worked. She finally made it up the hill and out of the way.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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