Tow truck commissions

January 25th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Nicholas Jones at NZ Herald reports:

Tow-truck companies have been accused of paying “spotters” to dob in motorists – a lucrative practice that helped to pay the rent for one former student.

Several Herald readers yesterday said they knew of cases in which flatters and a dairy owner were paid to report illegal car-parkers in a practice going back at least nine years.

One reader said he’d seen taxi drivers “spotting” for tow-truck drivers, but did not know if they had been paid.

Tow firms dismissed the claims as “rubbish”, but Luke Turner, 32, said his flat was paid a $10 kickback from a towing company, which has since changed hands, when he lived in Galatos St, Newton, nine years ago. …

Tow firms the Herald contacted said such arrangements did not exist and to their knowledge never had.

I have no doubt such commissions have existed and may still exist. I don’t see why the tow truck firms deny it, as I don’t see anything wrong with it from their perspective? I mean in a moral sense, it is like being a Stasi spy, but in a commercial sense it is not an issue and tow truck firms are already hated.

Just to show you how money hungry they are, let me relate a story told to me by a friend who used to manage some inner city land in Auckland which he turned into a lot. Obviously he needed the services of a tow truck company to deal with those who parked there without paying the fee. He got paid a portion of the towing fee, in return for having selected that company. So that generated a bit of extra income, on top of that from actually leasing out the parks (which was considerable). There were a total of 30 parks or so, so at say $30 a day that was say $900 a day income.

Anyway after this business had been going on for some time, the tow truck company made a suggestion. They said that what he should do is actually refuse to lease out any of the car parks to people wanting them. Why? Well a piece of land with 30 empty car parks would be an irresistible honey trap to motorists. They would risk a quick park there, not knowing there would always be a tow truck waiting around the corner to pounce and tow them.

I don’t recall the exact numbers but the tow truck company was insistent my mate could make much more money by not allowing anyone to park on his site through a commission on towing them, than through actually leasing the parks out to motorists who want them.

My mate declined. He is a fervent capitalist and loved making money. But that was a step too far for him. however it does give a good insight into the behaviour of tow truck companies.

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17 Responses to “Tow truck commissions”

  1. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    There was a suggestion in Wellington City Council some years ago that they appoint volunteer parking wardens in the suburbs and pay them 50 cents for every ticket they wrote. For some reason the suggestion did not go down very well.

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  2. B A W (99 comments) says:

    Well should NZ have a tow truck act?

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  3. Brad (75 comments) says:

    Perhaps people could abide by the rules if they so deplore such behaviour. But then again, people are lazy

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  4. gump (1,647 comments) says:

    Graeme Hart rather famously started out as a tow truck driver.

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  5. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    There is no organised crime involved in the tow truck business in Auckland, -billboard erection here please.

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  6. 2boyz (262 comments) says:

    I certainly appreciate the assistance provided by tow truck drivers when you have broken down in the middle of no where (happened to me and the service was great). Also having to clean up wrecks, also appreciated, but cruising around town like sharks looking for some easy meat makes my blood boil.

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  7. Scott Chris (6,135 comments) says:

    David Farrar says:- “Just to show you how money hungry they are”

    LOL. Money hungry my ass. It’s a very competitive business, and practice of paying spotters is a healthy sign of innovation within the towing industry.

    I mean, we do believe in free market capitalism don’t we? (for the second time)

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  8. Kimble (4,438 comments) says:

    Money hungry my ass. It’s a very competitive business…

    Not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can describe the exact same thing. Neither term is an argument against capitalism.

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  9. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    There is advantage to driving a shitty old car:
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=187854

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  10. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Not so black and white brad. Sometimes the private parking signs are so small and hidden you would swear they weren’t there.

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  11. BD (11 comments) says:

    Wife was charged $60 to “unhook” the car, wasn’t even hooked up, truck was behind it parked there getting his gear out. Would not move until he had his cash. Her crime was being over 10mins late over the 3hrs of parking she had prepaid, towie told her that if she did not comply he would call the cops on her. Director of this cowboy operation was in the paper today spouting how hard done they are.

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  12. Salacious Crumb (31 comments) says:

    At risk of defending the indefensible (and most towies are pretty scummy in my experience), if you try it on by parking on private property, particularly if a sign says “tow away zone” then stiff shit. Like that wanker lawyer who was trying it on with the fruit and veg place in Mt Eden. Basically he said “rules dont apply to me, I’m a lawyer”.

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  13. Sublime (295 comments) says:

    Towies’ equivalent to insider trading? :p

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  14. Sean (301 comments) says:

    Yep, not much sympathy from me for people who are too lazy or cheap to walk a bit or pay to park. Good old New Zealand: its always someone else’s fault and a giving someone a “fair go” seems to some people to mean that the rules only apply to other people.

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  15. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I know this isn’t possible but it would have the same affect if it could be acted on. Some years ago the rural post service decided that delivering bills to cockies cost to much money. It was decided rural box holders would be allocated a post box in the nearest village near their residence and a large fee would be charged for holding one of these postboxes. Rural people told the postal service to go and fuck themselves, why the hell do you put a stamp on a letter, so it can be delivered to the correct address.. Anyhow most refused to pick their male up. Within a week thousands of items of mail were piling up, most of it junk mail. The upshot was deliveries were hurriedly reinstated as the post office realized they had made a serious error of judgement. This would also work if cars towed were left in the yard . It wouldn’t take long for storage to become a major issue, I believe they have to hold your car for twenty eight days before they can do something with it. Tow companies would have real problems if they had to store thousands of cars.

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  16. swan (665 comments) says:

    Ah the old Kiwiblog “car” inversion. It’s all free markets, property rights and self responsibility round here until the word car is mentioned. Then… “wont someone think about the poor vulnerable, defenseless motorist!!”

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  17. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    There’s nothing wrong with the concept of towing. It’s issues around the implementation many have a problem with. There is an exceedingly aggressive culture with dubious practises by some towies or companies. The aggressiveness is partially a response to the reactions from the towed, which is often pronounced but it does appear that this is out of proportion. I do have an issue with being charged the same for the call out as opposed to the towing and storage. That is not justifiable. It’s also really annoying that they will only take cash.

    Managed to get towed a couple of times – my own fault and no problems with the process. A couple of pay and display car parks are particularly sharp in towing you if you are late back to your car by 10 minutes. I never use these car parks anymore.

    However, one time had a towie turn up to tow me when I was leaving a location. He was turning up in anticipation of my being late. He tried to physically bully me but being a large male from Liverpool I explained I would provide him an additional anus if he continued in this approach (he threatend me 1st). Pointed out his mates would arrive too late to protect him from a hospital stay and I reckoned I could ruin his nice tow truck with a tyre iron. Luckilly the Liverpool training kicked in. Worked for me but I could see that this would be effective for the towie for most and I was pretty wound up for hours after as this was counter to my normal behaviour but I hate being bullied.

    There are far to many stories about the aggressive and dubious approach of towies for this not to be an inherent element of their approach. Based on personal experience like many industries this is likley to be some specific towies or towing companies and not all.

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