The Week's Features
Three-time cancer survivor is doing what he loves
App, web-based service provides lien-holder contact information
Digital Recognition Network CEO lays out company's vision
Unit designed to bring greater awareness to Move Over law
Buddy's gets farmer's tractor with corn silage in open field
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August 17-19, 2017
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May 9-11, 2018
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 23 - August 29, 2017

City, State
RATES
North:
Bronx, NY
$125
(Pop. 1,438,159)
South:
Charlotte, NC
$85
(Pop. 809,958)
East:
Baltimore, MD
$85
(Pop. 622,104)
West:
San Jose, CA
$200
(Pop. 1,015,785)
Light-Duty nonconsensual tow rates as provided by Police Towers of America.
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Doing Away with Credit Card Fees

15 0bf10By Don G. Archer

What once was considered a cost of doing business is now a thing of the past.

In 2005, 7 million business owners sued Visa and Master Card over service agreements. They claimed the credit card companies were forcing them to bear all the fees incurred when customers used their cards to make purchases.

As a condition of accepting their cards, Visa and Master Card told business owners that they could not pass these costs down to the consumer. They couldn't even steer them to less expensive payment options. If they did so, they would lose their ability to accept their cards.

When this was going on, I owned a convenience store and knew nothing about the suit; but I felt the pinch. A load of gas would come in off the tanker and it might cost me $2.45 per gallon. I would retail it, in step with the other gas stations in my area, at $2.49. This meant that if a customer paid with cash I would get four cents per gallon; but if they paid with a credit card ... well, that's another story.

Depending upon the card used, I would pay anywhere from 2.5 percent to 4 percent of the purchase. This meant, as a business owner barred from passing these costs down, it cost me money to sell them gas. At $2.49, the credit card fees would have been between six to nine cents per gallon, which meant I was losing between two to five cents per gallon.

Why should a business owner pay extra fees based on the type of payment used? It might have made sense in the past. If your business was the only one in the area accepting credit cards, you had an advantage. When profits were higher and margins weren't as slim you could afford these fees; but in this economy where everyone accepts credit cards, there's no need for business owners to continue to pay.

Fast-forward a few years to 2011. I'm out of the gas business, the attorneys have finally quit squabbling and justice has prevailed. Visa and Master Card are ordered to pay back some $6 billion. They were also sent back to the drawing board to rewrite their service agreements, with direction to allow business owners to pass on their fees.

But like any good movie, this can't be the end.

With the precision of surgeons, the Visa and Master Card lackeys began dissecting every word in the judge's decree looking for a "legal" way to comply with the ruling and bring in more revenue.

They rewrote their service agreements to allow business owners the option of passing their fees onto the consumer—as a surcharge.

As a result, the credit card companies were still charging business owners a transaction fee on top of what they were collecting. That fee was bigger due to the surcharge.

To illustrate: With the new service agreements, if you had a $100 sale and added a 3-percent surcharge to the customer, the credit card company will then charge the business owner somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 percent or 4 percent for the entire amount.

($100 x 3 percent = customer pays $103 x 4 percent charged by the credit card company = $104.12.)

This $100 sale nets the credit card company $4.12, and the business owner is still paying $1.12 of it. The numbers may be hard to digest but the gist was—the business owners were still losing out.

After numerous complaints, the Justice Department stepped in and sued the credit card companies. Visa and Master Card quickly settled; after a seven-week trial in 2014, it was ruled that American Express had violated anti-trust laws. Things began to change.

The ruling opened the door for businesses throughout the U.S. to pass on all those fees. My towing business was doing more than $60,000 per month in credit and debit card transactions. If this has taken place from the start, I could have saved more than $2,000 per month.

When I first learned about the changes in the law, I was skeptical. I called the company that did my credit card processing, and they had no idea what I was talking about. It seems that this is so new that only a handful of companies are doing it. They're all using the software of a company called SignaPay, who claim to be the only legally compliant software available.

As far as the viability of passing credit card fees down to towing customers, that's a whole other discussion; but if anybody out there is using this already and saving loads of money, I'm sure others would like to know about it.

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 TheTowAcademy.com. Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at don@thetowacademy.com.
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Gate Runners and Crashers

auto 13981By Randall C. Resch

According to police reports, a mid-afternoon incident happened when a female walked into an open tow yard, got into a car and started to drive away. A lot employee tried to stop her, but was struck as she sped past him. Soon after, fellow employees located him nearby disoriented and dazed.

Police and EMS responded and the employee was taken to the hospital. Police quickly obtained a warrant charging the female with failing to stop after a crash resulting in injury.

This problem's been around forever. Vehicle owners or their caretakers don't like having their vehicle's impounded. When their car is towed by the police or during private-property impound, their right to free movement is taken away. For some people, once their vehicle gets towed away, they start thinking about how can they get their vehicle back without paying.

As a tow company employee, you know that when a car leaves the yard unauthorized, heads are gonna roll. In addition, agencies generally become upset that the tow yard's security was less than acceptable when the car was initially impounded for law enforcement actions.

Companies should have solid, written employee guidelines for scenarios like these to prevent them being injured or killed.

Here is my written policy: "By contract, we are a secured facility. Employees will NOT allow unauthorized persons to enter the Company's facility at any time. When approved customers enter any Company storage facility to conduct vehicle releases or obtain personal property, an employee will escort them to the yard and then back out.

"When Tow Operators return to a Company storage yard to drop-off impounded or towed vehicles, the main gate WILL immediately be closed and locked behind them to prevent potential robbery, un-authrorized removal of impounded vehicles, or physical harm to the Operator. Do not stand in-front of an escaping vehicle or attempt to stop them."

It's also good practice to not leave keys in the ignitions of stored vehicles. However, when a vehicle's owner or caretaker is bent on liberating their vehicles, they may have spare keys with them. For those individuals who lurk in the darkness and then decide to crash through a tow yard's gate or cut the fence with bolt cutters, there's really not too much you can do to stop it.

As mentioned above, companies should have solid policy and procedure that if someone wants to emancipate their car from the tow yard ... let 'em go. By letting them go, vehicle owners will eventually have to defend their ignorant actions down the line. Why get killed over someone trying to drive their car out from the tow yard?

Facilities that have questionable care, custody and control issues may face subsequent disciplinary action that may include removal from a contract. Security begins before things happen. Take a look at your employee guidelines and be sure everyone knows what to do to limit these kinds of unfortunate incidents.

Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operations Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line, and is a member of the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame.
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