South Beach Tow
Handle the Truth
The real, never-before-told stories behind the Tremont Towing family
Q: How did you get into the towing business?
A: I got into it by accident. I had gone through what I call the "the state of Florida educational institute" because I was a bad boy. When I got out, I tried to find a job... my girlfriend (now my wife) introduced me to the owner. I started 25 years ago... with chains and wood.
Q: Is it true you drive around the city on a scooter, looking for tows?
A: Actually, I do. You couldn't get to places if you're looking for repos with a tow truck, so you can go inside facilities and check for cars you're looking for. We still do that; it's usually the most effective way to get to a closed-in place with a guard gate. In the old days, you had a [roadside assistance] symbol; you have to be more innovative. I've run around to the lots and see if the car has the stickers it's supposed to.
Q: What's the worst part of trying to manage all these big personalities that work under you?
A: I often say I should have a psychology degree or something. All my drivers are high-end drivers; they come in with their own personalities and problems. The most difficult thing is when I brought my son in, which gave everyone something to complain about, but then they realized I held him to a higher standard than them. They all have their idiosyncrasies and multiple personalities; one minute they're nice and calm, one minute they're screaming. It's challenging but I love a challenge especially after doing it for so many years.
Q: How did you get your teeth knocked out while on a towing job?
A: Oh yeah, that was a wonderful experience. (sighs) That was in the early days of our company, we towed 80-90 cars on a weekend. I saw a silhouette coming toward me: it was of an aluminum bat, which I still have, and although it only knocked out one tooth, the rest were loose and had to come out. He knocked me down, I got up and took the bat, then I hit him and that's the last thing I remember... I woke up with a bloodied white shirt in the hospital. It ended up being just a bum, not a customer, and he was probably just trying to rob me. Back then in the early 90s, there were a lot of homeless people on the beach.
Q: Is it true you once found a couple of decapitated heads on the job?
A: Back in the Miami Vice days, we towed an abandoned car from the lot. It smelled like dead people, so we popped open the trunk... body parts. It was somewhat unusual to find bodies in trunks, but that was during Miami's glowing period.
Q: The fans want to know: how do you keep so trim and good-looking?
A: (laughs) I don't know how that question got in there. I used to weigh 525 pounds, I had gastric bypass surgery and it helped me lose the weight. At this point, though, I'm at my most un-injured time in my life.
Q: What's the funniest thing that ever happened to you at Tremont Towing?
A: I've had strippers do stripteases, I've had rappers rap to me, country singers sing to me, I've had so many weird things. I've had every kind of proposition, some that were new to me. People that are in a tight spot, they'll do anything. I had a guy who played the spoons, which was very entertaining. I had one person that sang better than you would hear on an album, she had a beautiful voice. The rapper was funny - first of all, he didn't rap very well. Rapping is about rhyming, but with him dancing, it didn't work. My daughter came up with four better lines [than him.]
Q: Have you ever given a car back without actually taking it?
A: I have a steadfast rule. I see people that are actually handicapped or someone else who needed to be helped, people with babies, pregnant women. You can't do that to them. We did a repo at 4am and this woman came running down and looked about to pop; she had two other kids. But the bottom line is, if I don't get [their car], someone else will. Avoiding the repo doesn't work.
One time, I gave a guy the car back and he hit me with his cane anyway.
Q: How do you deal with a customer that's crossed the line from mad to crazy?
A: There's always a line: they can't touch me or any of my employees. You can yell, you can call me this that and the other thing. I put the touchers down as quick as I can without hurting them; nobody has the right to put their hands on me. I've had a lotta tolerance for pushing. I'll take a lot, but once I react, it's very quickly and it's not to hurt them but to gain control. I have been hurt several times.
Q: Which tow truck driver is the biggest headache for you?
A: There was a real pain in the ass who [I won't name] that didn't respect anybody. He got into so many disagreements and didn't want to work for nobody or help anybody. Then there's another guy, he used to disrespect the dispatchers. I told my daughter, "Put your foot in his ass." She stopped him from even using the bathroom, and he got the point. Eddie is one of the best drivers I've ever had, but he's definitely a Sybil, he's definitely multiple personality. He's a high-end driver, though, he always got done what needed to get done, although I often had to tell him you're a sarcastic a**hole. He makes me a lot of money, though; I can't take that away from him.
Last but not least, I got to give it to my son. I've told him a hundred times, I've forgotten more than you have learned. There's always a situation you'll run into you haven't seen before. Deal with it.