When his car battery died, 18-year-old Jibril Sheikh just wanted to get a boost and get home out of the cold.
But when he tried to contact Prince Albert’s Astro Towing for help, the high school student was met with less than helpful words.
Late last Saturday, Sheikh accidentally left his lights on while spending time with friends at Kinsmen Park. After his friends were unable to boost his vehicle, Sheikh called Astro for assistance.
His issues started when the Astro truck arrived. Stranded without his wallet or any cash, the 18-year-old told the driver he would need to visit the bank to pay him for the work.
“He told me he doesn’t want to do all that,” Sheikh said. “He just drove away.”
Luckily, a second towing company rescued Sheikh and received payment without issue.
“They were reasonable,” he said. “They were doing their job the right way.”
Sheikh then attempted to lodge a complaint with Astro’s management. When he called their office, he said a dispatcher told him to “go back to where you come from” and hung up.
Sheikh said his phone automatically records audio from calls.
After the conversation, Sheikh said he gave the tape to his friend to post on YouTube, where the video has already generated more than 5,000 views as of Thursday.
On the recording, a male speaker identified himself as a representative for Astro Towing. When Sheikh attempted to explain the situation and lodge his complaint, the other speaker told him to “get a job and get the money.”
“You shouldn’t have phoned a tow truck,” the Astro employee told Sheikh on the recording. “You phone for a pizza with no money?”
Sheikh then argued tow trucks were an emergency service and said Astro should have done more to help a person stranded on a cold Saskatchewan night. The Astro employee responded, “Oh, go back to where you come from.”
“I wasn’t expecting them to talk to me that way,” Sheikh said, calling the dispatcher “super disrespectful.”
Sheikh, who is originally from Egypt but has lived in Prince Albert for more than four years, said the dispatcher must have assumed he had no job or money purely based on his accent.
“That was a hate crime,” he said. “It’s racism and it’s unacceptable in any place in the world.”
Sheikh, a senior at Carlton High School, told paNOW he is considering legal action against Astro and said the employee in question “must be fired.”
The owner of Astro Towing, who refused to give his last name and only identified himself as John, confirmed it was an Astro employee on the recording.
His version of events differs from Sheikh’s.
“Basically he’s slandering my company for no reason,” the owner said. “We’ve had dealings with him in the past where his car’s been impounded in our yard.”
The owner said the matter had been handed off to legal counsel and they requested the video of the call be removed from YouTube.
“If you don’t have money, don’t phone the tow truck,” said John, adding those stranded without money should contact RCMP or mobile crisis services.
“He thinks it should be free,” he said. “Well it isn’t free.”
The Astro owner said the allegations of racism against his company were unfounded because the driver sent to assist Sheikh was a First Nations man.
“We’re not a full-white company, that’s for sure,” he said. “We do employ other people besides Caucasians.”
The owner argued it was impossible to determine ethnicity or race over the phone, and reiterated the sentiments expressed in the original call.
“If you don’t like it here … then go somewhere warmer,” he said.
The full transcript can be read below:
Astro Towing employee: Astro Towing.
Jibril Sheikh: Hello, when will your guys’ manager be available tomorrow?
AT: What’s that?
JS: I just want to make a report, because like, your guys’ customer service is like below negative 600 because you guys are so disrespectful, so immature and so uneducated. ‘Cause like I call a tow truck and he arrived and then I told him I’m going to go somewhere, grab cash from the place, give him his money and he’s going to charge me everything else that he needed. And I had no cash on me so the guy said he was working all day and he didn’t want to do all that and he just drove away two hours ago and I got my stuff… right now. I just want to make a report to your guys’ manager and that’s all. If you guys have to talk to the owner of the company or anyone –
AT: Well then get a job and get the money.
JS: I have money. I did it. Everything was done. I just wanted to –
AT: Well you didn’t have any money. That’s why he drove away.
JS: I didn’t have any cash on me at the moment and I didn’t have my wallet and I had to go to a place –
AT: Then you shouldn’t have phoned for a tow truck. You phone for a pizza with no money?
JS: You guys are emergency service. You guys should have done anything to save someone’s life. This is Saskatchewan. It’s f—ing cold.
AT: Oh go back to where you come from.
JS: Now that’s another r-
[Recording ends mid-sentence as the Astro employee hangs up]
Editor’s Note: Prince Albert Astro Towing is in no way connected to or affiliated with Astro Towing (1988) Ltd., which operates out of Saskatoon, Sask.