Customers Who Pay with Pennies
By Randall C. Resch
Let's say a vehicle is towed for expired registration that sits in your yard for a week before its owner arrives. The price of the invoice is $530.68. Enter "Joe the Jerk" vehicle owner, who, with a gigantic smirk, appears at your window and declares, "I'm paying with cash."
With a solid whump, Mr. Jerk slams $530.68 in unwrapped pennies on your counter demanding the release of his car.
This situation has become all too familiar with motorists opting to pay for parking tickets, tax bills, even towing charges, with pennies. What you or your employees do in the next few minutes may be the difference between a simple transaction or being sucked into a stupid and costly lawsuit.
Was this scenario a set-up? Yeah, but tow companies should be aware of Joe Jerk's game by being mentally and operationally prepared to respond.
In the same manner tow companies must accept large bills and be prepared to make change, refusing to accept payment (rolled vs. unrolled) could be a bad decision on your part. Loose change, rolled or not, is considered legal American tender.
Calling All Cars
Calling the police may not result in them being on your side, especially when your company is a contract tow provider. Does your contract say you're obligated to accept cash and certain credit cards for payment? When Mr. Jerk draws the police into the fracas, the police generally become powerless by refusing to get into the middle of your civil problem; they're only there to protect the peace.
I say let Joe Jerk bring his change and gladly accept it; but, Mr. Jerk might as well bring a sack lunch and a blanket because, I too have a sense of humor. It's going to take a long time to count all that change, especially because I'm not really smart with big numbers. With an amount that big, I'm most likely to lose count.
This is a game that the Joe Jerks of the world think will easily frazzle a tow company's staff. Not accepting payment will assuredly get you into hot water and it's a lawsuit they're setting up just for you; one you'll most likely lose. While it's not my intent to tell you how to respond to the local jerk who bestows their change collection on you, turning their perfect plan back on them is one to have ready before they arrive.
And who's to say that Mr. Jerk's penny collection isn't $2.12 short? I'm almost sure the count was accurate. Oh well, I guess it's going to have to be counted again; someone better tell Mr. Jerk it's going to take a little more time.
And, oh yeah Dude ... sorry for the delay.Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operation's Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line. Randall was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 2014.