Old 11-20-02, 06:17 AM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
Group Moderator
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,567

Got a pm from another member suggesting I post these in automotive. They were originally in a reply to a post in the Whines forum.

Those in the trade will recognize a lot of these:
Favorite customer-isms in my line:

1. "Why are you towing it from the rear; it's front wheel drive?" (would have to be the only fwd Mustand in existance; actually had customers on two separate occasions insist their Mustang was fwd - one even said her mechanic told her that and was I saying that he was lieing?).

2. "Don't you have to tow it from the rear?" (No, your car is front wheel drive)

3. "Are you sure?" (Well, I've never seen a rear wheel drive car with a transverse engine...)

4. "My battery is dead, can you bring me one?" (Sorry, we don't carry 27 different size spare batteries on our trucks)

5. "Oh, I thought you would just fix the tire" (No, our insurance doesn't cover us for making repairs; I can put your spare on for you or tow it)

6. "That much!" (Afraid so; if you saw what our overhead was in this business you'd wonder why it wan't more)

7. "Is that all?" (Well, I can charge you more if you'd like, LOL).

8. "Do I need to give you hand signals so you can get hooked up?" (No thanks, I do this a couple of hundred times a month)

9. "Are you sure? (YES, see #8 above)

10. "Do you take triple A?" (No, we prefer to make a profit and you can't call directly for towing with AAA anyway, you have to call AAA)

11. "I shouldn't have to pay for this tow; I just had the tires rotated there two days ago and now it won't start!!" (Oh, yeah; I'm sure there's some connection there! LOL)

12. "If I get you to tow my car, can I make payments?" (Yes, you can make one payment for the full amount when we drop the car.)

(*Note: I do NOT make these up*)

13. "Do I need to put it in neutral?" (No, "park" is fine; the drive wheels are stationary on my wheel lift)

14. "Are you sure?" (YES!!!)

14a. "It doesn't have to be in neutral???" [NOOOOOOOOOOO!]

15. "That much? It's only 1/2 mile!" (Yeeees; I could charge you by the mile, but the next time you wanted a 10 mile tow it would be $300)

16. "We tried towing it with a rope to start it....." (Ahhh, you do realize this is an automatic, right?)

17. [The owner of a Lincoln with a broken ball joint that is sitting on the ground blocking traffic in a parking lot] "Can't I just go inside and get some people and we can lift it up and get it in the parking space?" (Well, if you try that it's a good thing this is a hospital parking lot)

18. "All-wheel drive???" [Yeeees; that means when you request a tow you need to specify our flatbed. We can tow 99% of the vehicles on the road with a wheel lift; but your's isn't one of them]

19. "You guys just worked on the ______________ the other day and now it's doing_____________!" ["We guys" are independent tow'ers; we didn't work on your car]

20. "I have __________ insurance; can't you just bill them?"
[Nooooo; you have to pay us for the tow and submit the bill to your company for reimbursement]

21. [At the end of the tow when presented with bill] "Oh, I have triple A!" [That's nice; now you get to pay me for the tow and try to get reimbursed from them - good luck!]

22. "Can't you just spray some ether in it to get it going?" [Where I would find ether starting fluid in sw Fla, I have no idea; beside which this AIN'T a '57 Chevy you got here]
Sponsored Links
Old 11-20-02, 10:22 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a

I have some to add, and I made these .

1) "Can't you just patch it up?" (The car's a POS and patching would consist of welding, screwing and rebuilding).

2) "I don't want to spend a lot of money on it" (It's not worth bus fare).

3) "My father in law told me all I need to do is _______" (Then why isn't he fixing it? )

4) "This bill is going to kill me. I don't have any money" (I feel really sorry for you driving a Porsche. Whose fault is that you're a glutton for punishment?

5) "Make sure you guys grease the front end" (Pretty novel idea if it had serviceable fittings)

6) "It's not ready yet?" (It needs a major overhaul. Was Rome built in a day?)

7) "Do what it needs" (Are you sure about that???? This could take a while....)

8) "I never had this problem when I owned XYZ model car" (Then why don't you still own it?)

9)"I'm thinking about restoring this one" (You can find it at ABC Auto Wreckers in a few years)

10) "I restored it" (Like the overspray on everything wasn't a clue??)

11) "I can get the parts discounted" (Great, then you can install them yourself too)

12) "I have a _____ (insert relationship) in the business, you know". (I.E. His exposure to auto repair is limited to putting air in the tire)

13) "Back in my day, I used to fix cars" (That's why you're bringing it to me now, right?)

14) "Make sure you store it inside" (This car hasn't seen wax in 20 years, letting God wash it (rain) would be a collosal start)

15) "This car is giving me trouble" (Yes, cars require maintenance)

16) "Can't you get junk parts to fix it" (Aren't junk and fix oxymorons?)

17) "I"m going to trade it in soon" (You'll do us all a favor)

18) "This fell off, can't you just reattach it" (Hmm, with that big chunk of metal missing and a welder, I guess I could do anything!)

19) "Wow, the parts are expensive" (It's not my problem your ego needs a Ferrari. The rest of us will do great with a Chevrolet and be able to retire)

20) "You know this car really has a lot of power" (True, but right now it has no power, that's why you're here )

21) "What do you mean the part will take a week to come? (Oh yea right, I can just crap out a caliper for a Renault Dauphine, hold on I'll be right back)

22) "Down the road at XYZ shop, they charge X for that same service" (Funny, I have a couple of their rejects there in the lot.....)

23) "Your special says most cars, XYZ service, X dollars" (Again, a Fiat Punto isn't most cars)

24) "You'll have to be speedy on this repair, I really need the car back" (The S46 city bus stops right there. Lookie here, there's a deli that sells tokens. How convenient....)

25) "Can you or one of your guys give me a ride to X. I mean, I really need a ride" (Sure, but then you can't scream in my ear that I don't have your car ready because I was busy driving you around town when I could have been fixing your car.

26) "Can't you just reattach it?" (Sure with enough glue, a welder, screws and a mind, I can do anything. Would you want your house joists made out of toothpicks???)

27) "Isn't there a cheaper way out" (The bus and subway work for me)

28) "This car is killing me" (Smoking does too, and you quit, maybe the car is trying to tell you something?)

29) "I saw many cars like it in the junkyard with the same parts" (Ah, now we are slowing getting the hint, aren't we? Very good!!!)

30) "The tow truck guy said it could be XYZ" (He was just following orders, sir/ma'am. It's cheaper and easier that way. Besides, you'd ask him anyway)

31) "I can't afford to fix my car and go to the dentist this week...go easy on me with the bill" (You can't get to the dentist unless I fix your car, can I? Besides, you wouldn't take the bus like I suggested. LOL.
Old 11-20-02, 10:39 AM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
Group Moderator
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,567

Stop, Joe, you're killing me!!! You couldn't have made ALL those up because I recognize too many of them.

I gave up on #30 a long time ago when I learned that any casual remark made about possible causes automatically becomes gospel carved in stone as THE problem when the customer repeats the conversation to his mechanic. [Okay, when the front tire is sitting sideways and shoved up under the fender I might hazard a guess you could have busted a ball joint - but don't quote me on that.]

And our version of #22 is, "XYZ Towing will do it for $xx". [Ahhh, so why are we having this conversation]
Old 11-20-02, 11:44 AM
mako's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Wake Forest
Posts: 455
I locked my keys in my truck one day and the locksmith comes driving up in this HUGE (ie: expensive) van (BTW the name of the company included the word "economy"). I have NO idea why locksmiths have to drive around in these monster vans as most of their business is just poping car locks. I could do that in a Toyota Prius. Sure I know they have other equipment there too, but you can make a dandy living just popping door locks for people with ADD like myself, charging say $30 a pop depending on the situation.

Took him less than ten minutes to get there, thirty seconds to open my door, and another two minutes to write me a sixty dollar bill.

I told him had I known that I'da called the "Lord Alfred's Rolls Royce Locksmiths" (or something smart-alec like that) for that price and got caviar along with it, or that I could just as cheap knocked out the sliding rear window and replaced it.

Obviously he suggested I do that next time.

Next time, I did. I found that, with a sturdy pocket knife, you can jimmie your way into my trucks sliding rear window. I also learned you can get a 220lb torso nicely wedged in that window too, with a hysterically laughing girlfriend, now your wife, LHAO at you.

That's why I had keyless entry put on my next car- the 86 Cutlass. I've had several people look at the key thing that clearly says "VIPER ALARMS" and ask me "Wow I didn't know those old cars came with keyless locks!"

Yup. Came with a 600-watt subwoofer and Pioneer headunit too, and a Grant steering wheel. And a sagging headliner. Part of the "Pimpin" package.
Old 11-20-02, 06:30 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a

I sat at my desk while eating lunch today and cranked them out, so yes I did make them all up. Some of them are actual things I heard over the years....some customers are priceless.

I guess when you are in the situation, you tend to react differently. But, being in a service industry, we tend to understand what it's all about.

People that don't deal with the public or customers directly (as we seem to do) don't have this concept!
Old 11-21-02, 01:06 AM
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Colorado
Posts: 431
I worked for IBM Field Service for 18 years and I ran into all sorts of things but the classic statement was guessed it, a Blonde.

"It only breaks when I use it!"
Old 11-22-02, 12:54 AM
cheese's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 16,817
Being the owner of a small engine repair service, I see some wierd things. May favorites are:

The guy says "It won't start for some reason"...I pull the spark plug and there is something green on it. I remove the gas cap and have a look in the tank. "There's antifreeze in the gas tank!!" I said. He says "that's not where the antifreeze goes?" I say "No, this engine is air-cooled, it doesn't use antifreeze at all." The whole time I'm blown away by the fact that this guy is so ignorant of the piece of equipment. "well where does the antifreeze go?" He asks. "You don't use antifreeze at all. No antifreeze. Gas and oil only." Flushed the whole fuel system out and got it running again. Turns out the guy was getting senile...according to his wife.

The other one is the woman with the craftsman riding mower who has a list of things for me to do. "If you don't mind, the steering has been getting harder and harder for me to turn, so could you fill it up with power steering fluid for me while you are at it?" I think she's kidding me, and laugh. "what?" she says...looking confused. I said "these don't have power steering." She says "the guy from sears that used to come out and service it said he added some the last time it got hard to steer, can't you just put some in?" "I can't...There's no place for me to put any" (trying not to laugh too much). I thought I would never make her understand that there was no such thing as power steering on this mower.

And you always have those who don't realize that an engine won't run on an empty tank, won't start when the blades are engaged, won't cut well with the blade on upside down, etc...

I guess we're all entitled to a brain flatulence once in a while, LOL
Old 11-22-02, 10:43 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Louisiana
Posts: 438
...and then there was the time that I bought new tires (& balanced) for my MR2. Left the tire dealer and the wheel weights were clicking in the front. (hitting struts) Brought it back and explained problem.
Manager said he had to ride in the car so he could hear what clicking sounded like. His prompt diagnosis were that my CV Joints were bad. I told him this was a MR2 and there are no CV joints on the front. He gave me one of those looks that was supposed to show me how dumb I am. He said he would show me, and by the way they could fix it for $400.00. Before we got back I had a five dollar bet with him. I wish I'd had a camera when he popped the front hood and looked straight down into the trunk!
Old 11-23-02, 03:21 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Managing a convenience store for many years, I recall stopping a young man before he put transmission fluid into his gas tank but was too late to prevent a woman from trying to put, not one, but two quarts of oil down the dip stick tube. Upon showing her the proper place to add oil, she remarked, "I wondered why it was going in so slowly!" And my personal favorite, our son was explaining how a friend had just wrecked the new car her parents bought her for her birthday. She was driving too fast along a gravel road and lost control in a curve. Seeing that she was headed for a mailbox and didn't want to scratch up her new car, she quickly pulled the emergency brake. When asked why she pulled the brake, she simlpy said, "Well, it said EMERGENCY!" I really believe that a short course in Auto 101 should be a requirement before obtaining a license.
Old 11-23-02, 04:16 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
Lol. I agree with you. When I took driver's education in 1987, it WAS a part of the fact, there was a whole chapter on it in the book!
Old 11-23-02, 12:18 PM
Pendragon's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 1,839
Whenever I've needed a tow truck, I _always_ request a flatbed.

"13. "Do I need to put it in neutral?" (No, "park" is fine; the drive wheels are stationary on my wheel lift) "

That may be true, but I've seen enough tow trucks dragging the drive wheels (and the tires barking because of it) that I either want it in neutral, or on a flat bed. As I understand it, it has to stay in park in case it comes off the lift.

I've also seen tow trucks dragging the rolling end of the car because the wheel lift was up too high. I guess there's a happy median somewhere, but with a flatbed, I don't have to worry either way.

On the MR2, I had a mid engine car too (fiero), and can't count the number of places or people that just KNEW such and such and went to pop the front to check out the engine. Needless to say, they didn't get to work on it. I ended up just doing most repairs myself, and had 190k miles on the original, never opened engine which was still running strong when I sold it.

on this one..
"11) "I can get the parts discounted" (Great, then you can install them yourself too)"

I had the brakes done on my conversion van (if I had a 3 ton lift, I would have done them myself). Repair shop wanted $140 EACH for rotors.. Told em uh, I don't think so. I got them for $30 each (and the rest of the parts I needed) from the local parts place.. The SAME place the repair shop buys their parts from! They put the parts on for me and at least made the labor charge.
Old 11-23-02, 06:11 PM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
Group Moderator
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,567
Ever seen what a car looks like after it comes OFF a flatbed when it wasn't properly secured? LOL, not pretty.

Inexperienced or incompetent operators can screw up just about any evolution you can think of (including dragging the back end of your car getting it on & off the bed and hooking the bridle to something non-structural). The going rate for tow truck drivers is 30% of the tow cost (differs some regionally) so EMPLOYEE drivers are not getting rich (neither am I, but owning the company is better than working for 30%). And if it's a AAA call the driver is getting 30% of about HALF a normal call. This is why the motor club guys tend to be in a hurry. They have to do volume to make up for the discounted rate they get.
We have both wheel lift (fully automatic self-loaders) and flatbed, but when I need to tow my own vehicles I prefer the wheel lift. Biggest advantage of the wheel lift, of course, is efficiency - if we ran 3 flatbeds our average response time would be about double what it currently is. I can go to a car this is stalled in traffic and have it hooked up and rolling in under a minute, often without having to get out of the truck; can't do that with a flatbed. We can also pick-up (and frequently do; on the side of the interstate, for instance) cars where the keys were left at the garage and the car is locked (provided the "drive end" is accessible and parking brake is off); can't do that with a flatbed. Can pick up cars that are parallel parked; can't do THAT with a flatbed. Can pick up cars with locked up transmissions; can't do that with a flatbed. Can pick up cars in mud and standing water without getting wet; can't do that with a flatbed (unless you convince the customer to hook up the bridle for you, LOL).

Flatbed advantages: all-wheel drive vehicles, vehicles with multiple flat tires.

For anyone who's never seen a self-loader in operation, it's available on our web site ( Note that the operator doesn't have to get out of the truck until the last step (putting on safety straps and the tow lights).
Old 11-23-02, 06:43 PM
Pendragon's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: USA
Posts: 1,839
True, but there's no mistaking the damage to a car that comes off a flatbed as being the fault of the company. "That was damaged when we picked it up" can't really be used if you're car is laying upside down in the ditch after coming off the truck..

As for fees. I've see tow fees for anywhere between $35 and $75, and no apparent reason for the difference.

A self loader sounds neat, I'll have to check out the video.
But how can you pick up a car that's parallel parked, since you don't have access to the end of the car?

Everyone can make mistakes, ask how many fiero owners had their cars jacked up by shops using the side panels as the lift point rather than the frame or how many had the front end ripped off after getting towed by a wheel lift truck, then ask how many of those shops accepted responsibility for some very expensive (and now equally hard to get) parts.
Old 11-23-02, 08:13 PM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
I love this stuff!

More funny customer service stories can be seen at the URL below.

A story of my own:

I worked at a small town gas station when I was in high school. We were close to a retirement home & had many elderly customers.

One particular old woman took her two equally old Irish Setters with her whenever she went anywhere. She stopped in one day complaining of a strange hissing noise in her early 1980s Buick wagon.
Our mechanic took the car for a ride. He didn't hear anything strange & sent her on her way. She returned the next day with the same complaint. Another mechanic took a ride with her, but this time he let HER drive. As they approached a stop sign, she exclaimed "There it is! Do you hear it ?!!"

Our man laughed & explained to her that the noise she was hearing was her DOG breathing in her EAR! LOL

I now work for a large fleet operation. We use both in-house towing and outside vendors. I've seen all kinds of damage caused by our own tow truck operators and the outside guys.

Most common were torn CV boots on FWD cars & bent rear control arms.

Now for the flip side of the coin, both from the gas station:

2 mishaps w/ customer cars & 1 was my fault.

1. The gas station where I worked was built in 1959. It had an old single post lift with a defective anti-rotation rod. The lift would turn about 30 degrees to the right or left if you didn't hold the car straight as you lowered it. I wasn't paying attention one day & let a customer's (I can see Joe_F cringing) late 1970s Firebird Espirit come down on an angle. I promptly backed it out of the bay & smashed the LF fender on the side of the building. OOPS!
The fender was repairable, but it cost me $225, which was nearly 2 week's pay at the time.

2. A customer brought his 1969 Mach 1 in for a tune-up. He specifically told the mechanic that the shifter (auto trans) was messed up & would jump out of "Park", so be sure to set the parking brake and/or chock the wheels if he planned to work on it with the engine running.
Our mechanic at the time was an old school guy who ALWAYS checked his work on an oscilloscope after the job was done. He'd rev the engine to about 3000 RPM & make sure the vacuum & mechanical advance mechanisms were working properly.

Needless to say he forgot all about the shifter problem...The car jumped in to Reverse & took off out of the service bay. It came to a smashing halt when it slammed in to another customer's mid '80s Accord. The Mustang suffered pretty serious damage & so did the Accord. The shop's liability insurance paid to repair both cars. Both customers were initially irate, but the shop owner calmed them w/ sincere apologies, rental cars, and smooth talk. They remained customers until he retired a few years ago.

Bottom line:

Anyone can make mistakes, but it's MUCH funnier when it's someone else!
Old 11-24-02, 09:46 AM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
Group Moderator
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,567
Amen, Knuckles.

The 90 degree hook up is a little hard to explain, pendragon. I checked the equipment manufacturers' web sites hoping to find some pix, but no luck. Will have to look some more or else shoot my own pix and add to web site. It's basically just like hooking from the front, only you approach from the side with the wheel lift centered just forward of the tire on the near side. When the end of the cross bar contacts the tire, it pivots 90 degrees until the other end contacts the far tire. Jaws are closed, car is raised, pull out (being very careful of nearby vehicles/objects). The guys at the trade shows make it look REAL easy; in real-world it's a little more time-consuming and exacting, but it is a do-able operation.

Several factors in tow rates. In our area, for instance, the retail rate for hook up runs roughly $35-45 (there are some guys who say their rate is $25 but for some reason (if the tow will not be profitable) they're "too busy". Generally the hook up rate gets you several miles without additional charge (5 miles fairly standard here). After the initial mileage there is an additional charge per mile ($2-2.50/mile here). Higher rates can apply for a number of reasons: larger vehicles (we charge additional for 1-ton and above), labor (strange location, winch it upright first (LOL)), key pickup (5 miles out of the way), custom features on vehicle (lowered), etc. Also, accidents automatically are higher, $75-85 dollars initial in this area, plus $2/mi, and additional for cleanup, additional labor, etc. In addition, in some cases, if you are broke down on the side of the road and you ask law enforcement to call a tow truck, you will get a company from the police rotation list and they will charge more because of that (we don't do rotation and charge the same rates regardless of how the call is initiated, other than accidents). I've also heard in some jurisdictions (in the NE for instance) that towing companies are awarded contracts for towing certain stretches of turnpikes and they are they only ones allowed to do so; consequently they charge a higher rate.

Funny story: We bought our flatbed (used) this year from a towing company in Oklahoma that listed it on the web. My partner flew out to finalize the paperwork, give him a check, and drive it back. While making small talk, he asked about their rates and the guy said they DON'T HAVE SET RATES; they pretty much charge as much as the traffic will bear! He even crowed about gouging a guy $150 for a 6 block tow, because the guy had to have it done right away. On the plus side, we got an excellent truck at a great price.

We always reimburse in case of damage, which is rare - our damage rate is less than 1 per 1000 tows. Most damage is likely to occur to cars with non-oem modifications such as lowering, installation of ultra low profile tires (same as lowering), or custom exhaust items (the big howitzer-size mufflers the Honda kids love). Even these can be safely wheel lifted with the proper procedures and precautions. We tow Corvettes by wheel lift all the time, but you have to watch for two things, (1) if the exhaust has been worked on, sometimes replacement clamps protrude downward and can interfer with the lift, and (2) you tow them with the rear wheels about 3-4" off the ground instead of 8-10"; otherwise you drag the front skirt. Coincidently, the same situations that make damage by wheel lift more likely also make it more likely if winching onto a flatbed.
Old 11-24-02, 10:00 AM
Visiting Guest
Posts: n/a
As long as it wasn't a 400, we're ok . LOL

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Display Modes