It was about 7 o’clock on a nondescript Thursday evening. Darkness had fallen, but the weather was dry and clear.
Not the kind of night you’d expect to get into a traffic crash.
Or course, who ever expects to get into a traffic crash?
Danielle Norman, 25, was driving. Her boyfriend, Chris Bralek, also 25, was in the passenger seat.
They were heading to the Hibernian Club on Brown Street in Akron for the group’s weekly drawing. Chris had made pierogis to contribute, as he does once or twice a year.
As they headed south on George Washington Boulevard, just past the entrance to Derby Downs, a deer on the left edge of the divided highway decided it would much prefer to be on the right side.
The area is not well-lit, and even with the ultra-bright Silverstar headlights Chris had installed in Danielle’s 2007 Chevy Cobalt, they didn’t spot the deer until impact.
“We were going about 30 mph, so it wasn’t pretty,” Chris says.
He was talking about damage to the car, not the deer, a large doe that apparently should be employed as a running back for the Cleveland Browns. It continued on its merry way into a patch of woods, barely breaking stride.
The car most definitely broke stride. It skidded to the right, slammed into the curb and came to rest halfway on the grass. Eventual repair cost: $3,400.
The two humans were unhurt, but obviously shaken.
The good news, they figured, was that Danielle’s car insurance policy included towing.
So they fished out a 24-hour roadside-assistance hot line for Allstate and made the call. No one answered after about 30 seconds, so they hung up and tried again. Same result.
Then they called the company’s claims line and reached a live person. They were told a tow truck would be on its way soon.
The couple was in a precarious position, halfway onto a darkened street in an area where drivers tend to use a heavy foot on the accelerator.
Chris’ sister, Megan, arrived with flares and waited along with them. Shortly after her flares burned out, an Akron police officer came by and joined the group, lights flashing.
Nearly an hour had passed since they were told a tow was on the way, so they called the claims line again. This time, they say, the person who answered asked, “Is your vehicle still at the scene of the accident?”
Chris thought an appropriate response would have been, “No, I put it on my shoulders and carried it home.” But, showing remarkable restraint, Danielle replied, “Yes. We can’t drive it.”
Allstate’s response rocked her almost as hard as the deer.
“Well, it has to be in a secure location,” the rep said. “We can’t tow it from the scene.”
How do you get your car to a secure location if you can’t drive it?
They didn’t have time to sort it out at that point, so Chris — now fuming — called a private towing firm, which showed up in 10 minutes.
Danielle has a business management degree from Kent State University and is pursuing a second degree at the University of Akron, where Chris is also a student. You wouldn’t think these folks would need remedial training in telephone conversations.
And, as it turns out, they don’t. Apparently, a whole bunch of people at Allstate do.
Allstate spokeswoman Shelley Frost said she tracked down a recording of their first conversation with an Allstate rep and discovered the rep provided faulty information. A tow was not in the works. The rep has since gotten re-educated, as it were.
As for the second call, Frost said, “It came in about an hour later, presumably to ask where the tow truck was. But we do not have a recording of that call.”
Well, isn’t that convenient, Chris says.
“It’s unfortunate that they ‘lost’ the final call. That was the most relevant one. The phone monkey said, ‘We won’t tow from the scene of an accident. The vehicle has to be in a secure location.’ And that’s verbatim.”
Oddly enough, Allstate spokeswoman Frost says the company offers two types of towing plans — via the Allstate Motor Club and as an add-on to a standard policy — but neither of those agreements contains any wording about “secure” locations.
Odder still: In an earlier conversation, another Allstate spokeswoman, Meghan Cass, who works in the same office as Frost in Farmington Hills, Mich., told me the problem was that the Akron folks were calling the claims line rather than the roadside assistance line.
“What should have happened is the call should have [been transferred to] Allstate Roadside Services, who would have been able to assist with coordinating a tow. ...
“With claims, they only tow from a secondary or secure location.”
At this point, I don’t have the foggiest idea how Allstate’s towing policies work. Apparently, half of Allstate doesn’t, either.
Danielle’s local agent, Sharon Ayers of Brecksville, was no help. She couldn’t find time in her extremely busy schedule to respond to two phone messages I left with her secretary over a three-day period.
The good news is that Allstate has reimbursed Danielle for the full amount of the tow: $58.71.
Boy, that was easy.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.