A word to the wise on Apps for roadside assistance

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Old 03-20-15, 12:28 PM
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A word to the wise on Apps for roadside assistance

I'm not going to be able to identify companies by name (I would have to ban myself ), but those of you with smart phones need to be really, REALLY careful if you decide to load an App for summoning roadside assistance should you need it. There are several versions around (probably more than I know about) and they all basically do the same thing - charge you (or the towing service) a fee for the referral. You are just as well off Googling towing services in whatever area you are broke down and picking one. You are likely to get as good, or better, a rate than you will get through one of these referral services PLUS you get to speak directly to the provider. Also you are just as likely to get a reputable company. Here's why:

Many - perhaps not all, but a significant number - of these companies do not vett the providers they refer people to in any way, shape, or form. Also in the fine print you are likely to come across a disclaimer that they assume no responsibility should there be a problem. Here's a redacted sample (emphasis added is mine):

"***** has no control over the quality, safety, or legality of any aspect of Providersí services or offerings or any claims made by Providers about the services they offer, the truth or accuracy of warranties or pricing supplied by Providers to *****, the ability of Providers to provides the services offered, or the ability of users to pay for Providerís services. ***** does not conduct background checks regarding any users or Providers of the ***** Service. ***** is not a broker, agent or insurer for any users or Providers of the ***** Service. ***** makes no representations, warranties or guarantees regarding any content or information provided by users or Providers. We encourage you to communicate directly with potential transaction partners through the tools available through the ***** Services. All purchases made by users from Providers are made at each partyís own risk ."

This particular service, I've discovered, amounts to a bidding war for a towing job. I have received automated calls from them and after hanging up a couple of times I played along and put some wild numbers in to make sure I didn't actually get the job just to see how the logistics works. You basically listen to the description of the tow and are then asked to input your rates for the tow. The automated system then (as near as I can tell) forwards your "bid" to the motorist for acceptance, I'm sure with a markup that goes to the people running the App. I would also guess the same automated message is going out to multiple providers at the same time.

SO, what the motorist is getting is service from the lowest bidder. You could, for all intents and purposes, be getting a paroled ax-murderer (okay, I'm exaggerating) in a beat-to-crap tow truck. Theoretically you are supposed to get fast response; the company I used as the example claims 15 minute response time. How they can manage that without getting multiple "bids" and then picking the fastest/cheapest is beyond me; my average response time is 30-45 minutes depending on location and that's when I'm speaking directly with the motorist from the start.

I was sitting at my tow buddy's office this morning and he got a call from yet another of these outfits wanting him to sign up as a provider. Their fee was $15 per call. That would be a big chunk of the profit on an average call unless it was added in to the bill, so guess who ends up paying THAT.

Just a simple rule to keep in mind, and this applies to a lot of other services: If there's any kind of middle-man, you are going to be paying more, either monetarily or in reduced quality, for the final bill.
 
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Old 03-20-15, 02:32 PM
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I don't see why you are afraid to name companies, if you think that they don't do the right thing. As far as apps to get a tow truck, don't most people already have a service? I have AAA, some people use the service that AARP provides & there are a many more.
 
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Old 03-20-15, 03:19 PM
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Don't worry Master Guns, the forum does not allow us the functionality to ban ourselves
 
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Old 03-20-15, 03:41 PM
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I'll name a company, GEICO. Government Employee's Insurance Company. (I'm sure many don't know that's where they started)
I have full confidence in their roadside assistance, and I'm sure many other companies offer the same for a low monthly fee.
I would not want to wait for a bidding war to take place while I'm waiting for assistance, especially in Southern California. It's very dangerous to be on the side of a freeway, and you need to get help ASAP.
 
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Old 03-20-15, 03:44 PM
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I had never considered an app like that. I've really got to wonder why anyone would go to the trouble of installing such a specific app that most would never use.
 
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Old 03-20-15, 04:03 PM
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Pilot Dane again bringing sense to an issue.
I've used my roadside assistance once in probably 15 or more years, and that wasn't even my car! I was a passenger and I was covered for that situation.
 
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Old 03-20-15, 04:34 PM
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I have towing covered by my insurance company, so I'll get reimbursed with submission of the bill. I have all our towing companies on my phone so I can call who I wish. I have done it for people on the side of the road who need a tow, too. Don't forget, you can use your GPS to locate a towing company in your points of interest.
 
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Old 03-21-15, 11:46 AM
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Good advice, TG. I never even considered looking for an app like that. We used to have AAA, but my insurance company offers roadside assistance now. I also try to stay away from funding lobbyists. I haven't used any roadside assistance in over 10 years. And your point about finding a local tow using google on your phone is a good one. Too easy to do these days.
 
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Old 03-22-15, 01:08 PM
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Brian, I both have GEICO on my personal vehicles and also do some towing for them. Very easy to get along with and they don't quibble about my rates.

PD made one of the same comments I made the other day while kicking it around with my tow buddy; why have an app you might use one every 5-10 years?

Also I think this is the same company that when I looked at the provider application it required you to sign off on (a) having to give them ALL your insurance information, and (b) that they be permitted to release said information to anyone who asks for it.

A little side comment: The insurance company with the largest roadside assistance network (other than AAA) is also the one that pays one of the lowest, if not the lowest, rates to providers. Fortunately I'm not in their network, but I still get calls from them periodically to do tows, which I do at MY rates and they have to provide a CC number to bill the service. The reason I get the call is because those IN the network don't like the low contracted rates. Sometimes customers are left waiting for extended periods while the dispatcher works down the list before having to go out of network. I always make sure the customer knows I got there in 30 minutes; the other hour is on their roadside assistance provider. Got one just the other day to do what's referred to as a "secondary" tow. This is when the vehicle has already been towed, in this case following an accident, and needs to be towed to a secondary location, in this case from the towing company that worked the accident to a body shop. I couldn't do the call because it required a flatbed (rollback) which I don't have. In passing I asked why they didn't just have XYZ towing (who had the vehicle) do the tow. The answer was they tried that but XYZ towing didn't have a truck available. Ooo-kay. A little further prying and they admitted that XYZ towing is in their network. AHA, XYZ obviously did not want to do a 6 mile tow for $34 (that's a $60 tow at my wholesale rate/$70 retail).
 
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Old 03-22-15, 02:36 PM
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Good info tow guy.

All the companies should make it easy on customer that needs help, and you, the contractor.
Charging you $15 for a referral and making me wait is not good service. Not to mention they are probably selling personal info.

And as I stated above, being broke down on the side of a freeway in SOCAL can be a life and death situation. I think many don't realize that.
 
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