The late, great Dave Grohl in happier times.My car, whose name was Dave Grohl*, was rear-ended on Sunday. Sadly, the injuries he sustained means he’s a write-off.
The accident wasn’t my fault. I was stationary, sitting at traffic, and became the meat in a three-car pile-up sandwich. Frankly, I could have done without it 10 days before Christmas.
I’m fine – thanks for asking.
I managed to get poor Dave home, despite his injuries, and promptly called my insurer. It was a very business-like and impersonal end for a vehicle that was my trusted steed for more than five years, my constant companion as I travelled around the country. Despite having done 160,000 kilometres, of which I was responsible for about 80,000, he never skipped a beat. I was hoping to get him to 300,000 kilometres. Sadly, that’s not to be.
Anyway, back at home that afternoon I was sitting on the couch, somewhat shell-shocked, when there was a knock at the door. It was the tow truck driver who had towed the guy’s car that hit me.
He was “just driving by” – what a coincidence – and saw my crumpled car in the driveway and wanted to see if I was all right.
I doubt that was the case. He wasn’t interested in my wellbeing – he wanted my business. But how did he get my address, given he arrived after I left?
The guy who hit me took a photo of my licence with his phone. I suspect the tow truck driver either got him to send the photo of my license to him, or he just looked at the photo of my licence and committed my address to memory.
Seizing the opportunity to drum up a bit of business, he thought he’d drop around to see if my car needed towing too. It didn’t, because I’d made arrangements with my insurer to have it towed to its preferred smash repairer to be assessed.
As soon as I closed the door I got that weird feeling you get when something doesn’t pass the smell test. I didn’t believe he was driving by and saw my car.
It rankled that he had obtained my address by cunning means and thought it was appropriate to come to my home, without me having solicited his services, to try to get my business.
I don’t think there’s anything illegal about this. The privacy laws cover the way commercial enterprises use personal information. But I don’t think they apply when a customer gives a business someone else’s personal details.
Even so, there’s certainly something not right about the way the tow truck driver got my information. Even though I appreciate he was just trying to be enterprising.
The driver’s underhand approach sends a big message about the tow truck industry. They must be so desperate for income they are reduced to using trickery to win work. Competition must be so fierce in this game they’ll use any means to drum up business.
For example, you will often find a tow truck driver or two poised at the entrance to the south-bound approach to Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and tunnel, waiting to pounce on an accident that’s just happened so they can supply their services. This ambulance-chasing means of securing new business confirms how hungry they must be for work.
They do provide an essential service – how else are we supposed to get broken down or damaged vehicles to somewhere they can be assessed and repaired or scrapped?
But when you’ve had a car accident you’re in a vulnerable position. The way this tow truck driver tried to get my business took advantage of this.
It’s not a good long-term strategy, because this approach gives tow truck drivers a bad reputation. And if you have a poor reputation, you can’t charge a premium for your services. By acting so aggressively, all they succeed in doing is to create a commoditised market, with no provider offering a differentiated service, for which they could charge more than the market average. To prove my point, what brands in the tow truck market can you name? None? Thought so.
So there’s an opportunity for a tow truck operator to come in, build its brand and become the name people think of as offering a reputable, respectable service in this market.
That business will be able to build connections with insurers, which will send business its way. It will also be able to build its reputation among mechanics, who will also refer business.
Spending time forming relationships with potential referral partners, who can help generate ongoing work, is a much more productive way of building a business than knocking on the door of some poor sod who has just had an accident, a tactic that can generate only a one-off job. Food for thought, tow truck driver, food for thought.
* Dave Grohl is the lead singer of the band the Foo Fighters.My previous car’s name was Ben Harper, the name of another musician. I name my cars after rock stars so I can say, “just going to the shops with Dave Grohl”. You know what they say, small things amuse small minds.
What’s been your experience with tow truck drivers? Are they ambulance chasers or respectable members of the business community?