KNOX – Towing the line is getting tougher in this age of declining civility

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TOW-TRUCK DRIVERS don’t expect hugs. Nobody likes having their car towed after getting caught breaking the rules, and nobody likes making their way to the storage yard to bail their pickup out of prison.

But here’s the difference between now and 30 years ago when Cheryl Parker got into the business: People think the towing company is to blame.

“It’s society today,” she says. “Nobody wants to accept responsibility for what they did.”

Not only that, but they feel entitled to hurl abuse at those they deem culpable. “They come in here screaming and swearing at us. It’s always our fault.”

Parker and her husband Gary Parker own Kustom and All-Ways Towing. She knows that comes with a certain amount of grief, that no one walks through the doors because they want to be there.

But holy smokes, she and her drivers have never been on the receiving end of as much self-righteous invective as is spewed at them now. “Within the past five years it has progressively gotten worse,” Parker says. “We’re taking a lot of heat, and it’s not fair.”

Bad enough to get ripped in person, but now they also have to deal with being shredded on Facebook, with the facts twisted to match the narrative the poster wants to tell. “They can say whatever they want and people believe it.” That’s the way it is with social media, particularly when people are already predisposed to seeing towing companies as predators and towees as victims.

That’s true even when it isn’t the towing company’s decision to tow. The company has contracts with the City of Victoria and Victoria police. It isn’t allowed to haul cars from a public road unless asked to do so by someone from one of those bodies. (Private lots are another matter; don’t roll the dice on the Customer Parking Only sign when the tow truck driver is watching.)

Typically the police will call if someone is found driving without insurance or with an expired licence, or has been slapped with a 30-day roadside drinking-driving impoundment. Or the city will call if a vehicle is parked in a taxi zone, or in the Douglas Street bus lanes, or in the stretch of Quadra Street where parking is prohibited during the morning and evening rush hours.

It’s not cheap. The towing fee for a two-wheel-drive vehicle is $84 plus tax. It’s $119 plus tax for four-wheel drives, as dollies must be used to avoid damaging transmissions and transfer cases. Then there’s a $25-a-day storage fee.

So, yes, Parker knows owners won’t be happy. “We expect people to be upset.” Really, though, they should be upset with themselves for getting behind the wheel without a licence, or after drinking, or whatever.

“We didn’t stand there with a gun forcing them to drive,” she says, “but they still come in here screaming and yelling and blaming us.” Remember, these are the same tow-truck drivers who pull you out of the ditch when it snows, who clean up after car crashes. They’re just doing their job.

The question is: Why now? What has changed to make people behave so badly?

Parker blames social media, and she might be right. Some people’s default setting has become a Trumpian howl, a holier-than-thou, fact-free, self-benefiting judgmentalism that compels them to act like wieners, both online and off. (This weekend, while waiting for my order to come up in a coffee shop, I was talking to a uniformed police officer who was showing me the welts she got while rushing through some stinging nettles to an overdose call that morning. “You’re hardly in the way at all,” muttered a woman who shouldered past. Did she feel better about herself after that?)

While this shift might not be new — it has been nine years since Jean Twenge’s book The Narcissism Epidemic was published — it is not getting better.

“It is way worse,” Parker says. “They come in here blazing and expecting us to do what they want.”

If it weren’t for a sense of entitlement, some people would have no sense at all.

Jack Knox is a born-and-raised Kamloopsian who once worked at the Kamloops Daily News. He is now a columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. Since joining the Times Colonist in 1988, Jack has worked as a copy editor, city editor, editorial writer and editorial page editor. Prior to that he was an editor and reporter at newspapers in Campbell River, Regina and Kamloops. He won the Jack Webster Foundation’s City Mike Award for Commentator of the Year in 2015.

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1 Comment on KNOX – Towing the line is getting tougher in this age of declining civility

  1. Jeff Griffiths // June 3, 2018 at 7:54 AM // Reply

    Kamloops is just as bad. I cant even begin to tell you how many guys ive seen crying , angry at at me for towing their truck when they are drunk or people get in an accident. People expect you to work for them and rely on their good nature to “come in later to pay” then when they have no insurance it’s my fault. Ive been hit by cars here trying to squeeze by in half a lane. My truck has been hit and i really couldnt tell how many times over the last 18 years towing here that ive had to run for the ditch or scramble to get away from a car, pick up or even a big truck, people looking at me while driving toward me , not slowing down, moving over (its been law for a cpl years now) I have no problem putting a wrench through your windsheild or backing that up, i take a very dim view of people who try to kill me.
    Most, yes most drivers out there think they should be able to do what they want or get it done for them (not just the millenials who think it should be free or Dad will deal you). A new wrecker costs upward of 100g for a little itsy bitsy light duty one the heavies can be at the fat end of a million bucks for the huge rotators and the smaller heavy trucks are still in the 3 to 500k range so the desire and the investment is there but the customer is in a pinch and we are the only target. I also dont get these big cororations who think it is ok to make you wait 30, 60, 90 even 120 days to get paid. Try doing that at a restauraunt go and have a meal and try to tell them youll pay for it in 3 months. You dont pay you dont get your car back. At the mechanics if you dont pay they wont let you drive off and hope you come in at a later date. Cheats liars and scum bags.that is the general impression of the motoring public to towers but in reality its the other way around. Most of those gyys are on call 24/7 and dont comlain, towing becomes more of a lifestyle than a job everything ends up revolving around it, i can think of two recent christmas dinners and a lot more meals where ive put down my diggers and run out the door to some accident or some one broke down on the coq in a snow storm or + 38° weather or worse to recover a vehicle before the fire dept will cut the bodies out if it because of where it is. Yes we see a lot of that sometimes we dont need and it can stick with you for a while. Towers are not there just to rip you off, generally we are here to help, whether it is for a tow, a winch out of stuck, upside down or out of gas , locked your keys in, or got a flat and dont know how to change it. Of course if you cant see a no parking sign or think that the parking meter isnt there for YOU then thats your own dumb stupidity, get over it. There is a cost to you for that service but there is also a cost to the guy or girl doing the job. Some can hack it others cant , everyone is different no big deal we all have our place.

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