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Re: The Newest Industry Risk Looms

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In recent a post on TowForce, a cell-phone video showed a tower who was outwardly taunting a highly explosive customer and clearly demonstrated how volatile an agitated customer can be.


I was amazed to watch the tower poking fun and challenges at the customer while at the same time seeing the customer go into a level of rage that could have resulted in the tow operator being assaulted or killed.


I was also amazed at some of the tower's comments that followed. To me, the video (and resulting responses) provided a clear message that maybe we towers DON'T know how to react to upset and angered customers ...


why poke a junk yard dog through the fence with a stick, are we becoming our own enemies?


That video is a great learning tool on what NOT to do and one to be shared at employee safety meetings. 


I've spent considerable time archiving and researching incidents of tow operator fatalities; the first one I recorded was 1934. Of the 126-some odd tow operators and tow business owners killed by violence and as the result of tow related activities. This month, October 2019, goes down as the most violent month (4x homicides) that's ever occurred against industry personnel.


To me, I believe there perhaps needs to be a shift in industry training that includes "how-to handle violent motorists and customers". In that, how can tower's be trained against some psycho with a penchant for drugs, booze, explosive tempers, and with little to no motive?


I've pondered the human element and understand that it takes, "two to tango", where oftentimes a tow operators response is their own immediate heightened aggression.


I want to learn more about the human dynamics that you take to remain calm when faced with a potentially violent customer or motorist? Unfortunately, doing unto others as they would do unto you isn't the focus of modern day society. I believe that cool heads prevail, so, without telling me, "I ain't backin' down", or commenting, "I'll just get' my gun and shoot em' in the face", what simple techniques do you use to handle an extremely violent customer? Do you have any?    R.

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Randall C. Resch

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I kill them with kindness. I try to talk to them calmly to talk them down so to speak. If you don’t show that what they are doing is bothering you they usually change their tune. When they realize that you are there to truly try and help them it seems that most will eventually calm down. Are we armed? You bet, but that has to be last resort and self defense. 

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i always was as nice as i could be . we meet them at there worst a lot of times so why make it even worse .


my favorite line i use to say was " i don't need to be here you called me i can just leave " if they don't wish to play nice after this then i would have just left . never had to say it tho .

ex-tow truck operator . ex- auto mechanic . just a nice guy trying to make a living and enjoy life .

1987 k30 chevy 1ton 4x4 built from scratch truck as my daily driver - work truck .

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Although very difficult to do, I remain calm and even with my voice, try to give off a disarming body posture (without exposing myself more than needed) and plan for a quick exit or duck and cover should the situation escalate beyond control. Most people, even those acting in rage, just want to be heard. If you respond like you are listening instead of trying to match their force with your own agitation and aggressive body language you will usually diffuse the confrontation. I am not perfect and have not always been able to pull this off, but as I get older and it hurts too much to go fist to fist I have learned patience and peace go a long way.


Deep and even breaths always calm me. Even when the other person is screaming and motioning violently, I try to focus on listening to understand (while looking for escape/cover) not just forming my verbal response before they have even finished. If you focus on what they are saying verbally, as well as their body language, you can remain calm and feel a bit more in control. If you let your mind wander into threatened/panic territory you will not be able to control your body language or other responses and will inflame the situation. 


I have had to remove myself from a few tense scenes, it is not cowardice to retreat. I conceal carry yet I have never once pulled a weapon on anybody and hope that I never have to. Pulling a weapon, whether a gun, bat, tire iron or other improvised piece will only serve to make the situation even worse. Unless you are 100% ready to kill the threat because you have no other option to escape never pull a weapon. The machismo of saying you will draw on them or hit them first so they can't hit you is not the professional solution.


I remember as a young man accompanying my dad on tows and having a local competitor draw a gun on him to take a truck wreck from us. Back then scanner chasing was common, so was dialing your competitor from a pay phone and leaving it off the hook to keep their line tied up during snow storms and other peak times. Different world. Anyhow, this guy was threatening my dad with me right beside him, dad was carrying a .38 with a snub nose barrel and never once even reached for it. He simply smiled, walked backwards while holding my hand and climbed into his wrecker. I later asked him about that night and he explained that the profit from that one job was not work killing a man over, nor did he want to go to jail for it (even though it would have been self defense).


He then repeated that lesson for me when we were running our Texaco station during the gas shortage and rationing period. Again, I was at work with dad and an irate commuter came in and used a gun to force dad to fill his tank when it wasn't his day for fuel. Again dad remained calm and simply pumped the gas with a smile, all while carrying his trusty .38 special. He never once had to use it but always had it, proving that you do not have to always meet force and anger with the same.


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