Notes from a Tow Show First-timerfor Mechanic / Body Shop, Repossession Agency and Wreckers on Tuesday, May 11, 2010 by Erin Miller
This year the Professional Wreckers of Florida (PWOF) International Tow Show was held in Orlando, Florida, at the Hilton located in Downtown Disney from Thursday, April 15 to Sunday April 18, 2010. I have been with Auto Data Direct since September 2009, and this was my first chance to attend one of these events. It was to my benefit that I attended the conference with ADD’s President, Director of Operations and head of Customer Service, who have varied knowledge and experience with the towing industry. The experience with customers and co-workers was both educational and enjoyable, and allowed me to see all the services, products, and companies involved with the towing industry. I was overwhelmed by the number of vendors and guests who attended, and impressed with the sponsored activities, exhibits, and demonstrations.
The indoor area sprawled over two massive banquet halls, with a connecting walkway that took over an entire wing of the Hilton hotel. There were booths and displays throughout the hallway, and traffic was directed into the two huge banquet rooms, which held various vendors' displays. ADD’s booth highlighted the services and products that we provide for towing companies, including real-time access to Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas motor vehicle records for owner, lien holder, and insurance information, certified lien letters, multi-state vehicle search, as well as junk and salvage vehicle reporting to NMVTIS.
Because I work in Customer Service with ADD, I was most excited about putting our customers' names with faces. It was nice to have users drop by to say hello and let us know how helpful ADD services are to their business.
Throughout the show, we were able to take breaks and walk around to view the exhibits, which was truly an educational experience. Because I coordinate ADD’s social networking, I took advantage of this opportunity to take pictures, visit with the vendors and guests, and tour the outside exhibits. The displays throughout the hotel were abundant, with vendors including Tow Times Magazine, Copart Auto Auctions, Geico Insurance, and Towing Guru, all of whom offer a variety of services to the towing industry. Common opinion was that splitting the exhibits into two rooms made the conference look smaller than previous years; nevertheless, according to PWOF Registration there were 1600 registered guests by Friday.
In addition to the vendor displays, there were also a range of seminars provided, including continuing education classes, discussions on ways to promote businesses, as well as a Florida lien and title workshop, which I was interested in attending. The lien and title workshop was presented by Susie with the Seminole County Tax Collector’s office, and focused on the TL-26 (Florida’s Towing Manual), Mechanic Liens, Certificates of Destruction, and Repossession and Recovery Letters.
ADD offers these forms, letters and services to our Florida customers, and is was exciting to see some of our users in attendance, improving their knowledge of Florida laws and legislation and not hesitating to be vocal with questions or comments. In fact, there were so many references to ADD’s services during the workshop that our head of customer service, Cheryl, (who is also our resident towing expert) was asked to come back for the second session to answer questions! I’ve known that ADD works closely with County Tax Collector offices all over Florida, but it was really great to see the interaction in person.
The outdoor exhibits were set up in the Hilton parking lot, and there were so many, they ended up spilling over into the neighboring Holiday Inn parking lot. The exhibits included tow truck demonstrations, tow trucks for sale, activities for children, as well as food, drinks, and musical entertainment. While the exhibits did not go on display until Friday morning, the PWOF Tow Show Kick-Off Party began Thursday evening, with food and drinks and The Caribbean Chillers' Jimmy Buffet tribute show. It was a sight to see! Hundreds of people getting to know one another, enjoying the food and music, and milling around checking out the tow truck displays. The Caribbean Chillers really fueled the crowd, and it was great to feel the energy they projected while I walked around and took in the sights. The kick-off party was a hit, and I could still see the flashing of tow truck lights from my balcony until 11 p.m.
Over the course of the show the outside demonstrations were extraordinary. One exhibition included a flipped car resting on its roof, rigged to be turned over using two tow trucks, connecting attachments, various tools, and a lot of skill. These demonstrations kept guests amused before the big raffle tow truck give-a-way. The raffle was a big draw for guests hoping to win the beautiful, brand new Hino 258 tow truck. There were additional prize drawings leading up to the grand prize, and ADD’s president, Jim Taylor, was lucky enough to walk away with a beautiful basket of wine, cheeses, and wine accessories.
By Saturday evening, the majority of the people I spoke with were tired, but happy to be at the show, and Sunday was a short day with fewer show attendees. Most of the attendees spent the day walking around, visiting or revisiting vendors, purchasing souvenirs, and closing up shop. My favorite interaction of the last day was with a man who had not been able to make it to the tow show until Sunday. He was frantically going from booth to booth gathering as much information as he could. I could tell he wished he had more time to visit with vendors and understand each service offered.
It was bittersweet to pack up our display for the trip home. While I was exhausted from four days out of town, I was saddened to leave the conference. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about the towing industry, became closer with my co-workers, and left with a greater understanding of the needs of the towing industry.
Check us out on Facebook to see photos of the PWOF Tow Show!