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Interview with Said Nasrallah

Nasrallah, Said
Mjahed, Khalil
Date of Interview: 
overcoming obstacles; relationships with people and places; tolerance and respect
Said Nasrallah talks about how he started as a student in the US and worked up to owning his own company. He also talks about the difficulties he went through when one of his trucks was stolen.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Khalil Mjahed interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
KM (Khalil Mjahed): Khalil Bou Mjahed with you again, and I am going to conduct an interview with Said Nasrallah from Lebanon.
SN (Said Nasrallah): Said Nasrallah, twenty-nine years old from Lebanon. Um, I came to America in October 1993, on a student visa to study Hotel and Restaurant Management. I graduated in 1996 when I was talking, learning cooking, and the foods, and managing restaurants and hotels in America, and at the same time, I was going to school. In 1996, when I graduated, I asked Immigration again for a new application to study food and service technology, which is to specialize in foods and become a certified chef. I worked in several hotels and several restaurants till the year of 2000, until I graduated for my second degree, I graduated in 2000. After I graduated, I decided not to work for anybody, to work for myself. And I had a lot of connections, and relatives in America, and especially in Charlotte in the car business. They all had car dealerships and stuff. I said that this towing service is good for the Arab society, and good for friends and relatives that have whatcha-ma-call it, and it is a good business, and there is good money in it and it's good. In the year 2000, in the summer of 2000, in the month of May, the 15th of May, I decided to buy the first truck. Business was very good in the first four, five months till the end of 2000, so I decided to buy a second truck. I went and bought a second truck, and worked for around a year and a half with two trucks and a driver, and I had a third driver that worked on the weekends to help us. Business was all good. A friend of mine near my house, around three or four minutes from the house, he had a big parking lot, and I used to park the trucks there. In the third month, the 15th of the third month of 2003, I went from the morning on Saturday, I had two cars to tow in the morning. I arrived at the store around 10, 10 after 10, I looked and I found that the trucks were not there. There were some people that had keys for the trucks, they are related to me, or the drivers that work for me had keys. I called them all. "Any one of you moved the trucks? Any one of you took them somewhere? Anybody, was there any job at night when I was asleep, didn't answer the phone? Broke down you helped him, this, that?" No there is nothing. We knew that the trucks were stolen. The first thing I did, I called 9-1-1, which I called the police. The police took the numbers of the trucks, and the numbers of the plates. "Where were you last night? And what happened with you the next day? And how did you lose them? And where is the address, and stuff, and everything?" The second thing I did was I called the insurance company. I told them that the trucks were stolen because I had total coverage on everything, on robberies, and fire and, you know. And at the same time I had a loan from Ford Motor Credit Company. This company, Ford, is known here. We had taken a loan from them for the trucks, and half the price was already paid when I bought them. The big truck, I had paid for it twenty-four thousand, and I still owed around twelve thousand. And the small truck, I had paid for it twenty-two thousand, and I still owed around thirteen thousand. I called the insurance company. A lot of people told me to call the insurance company. "Maybe they sent somebody to take them because you're not paying their payments." We called the insurance company, I know myself I am paying my payments always on time. We talked to the insurance company, they said, "No, we didn't take them, we have nothing that proves that we took your trucks, or from where they used to get parked. You are a good customer, and you pay everything on time, and we have no problem with you." Then the trucks are stolen. I honestly started to suspect some people. For example, is it possible that I have influenced, because my prices were a lot lower than the prices of others, you know. And I had a lot of good business, so I thought that maybe somebody would try to, I mean upset or something, trying to take them away from me to put me out of the business. I hired a private investigator, which is like a detective, you hire him specially, and, for example, I opened the phonebook and hired one. And there is a friend of mine who recommended him to me at the same time. I mean I put him for around a week, and give him a salary for a week. He goes and sees the people that you are suspecting, if there was any connection to the trucks. We hired him for a week, and he came out with nothing. I let him go. Also, at the same time, the insurance company has hired a detective, private investigator. He came and asked me questions and stuff, and he looked at the store, and took my picture, and he took a picture of where the trucks were parked, and he also asked some people that I know, and some of the companies that I towed for, I mean how, what do you call it? He continued to come and look for two weeks, and me always talking to the insurance, I mean, to see what we want to do. And that time, at the same day that the trucks were stolen, I've had already called a relative of mine in Hickory, North Carolina. This is a small town that is an hour away from here. Also, he has five trucks, he is related to us, and he works with the government, and the city, and the police. I mean, when accidents happen or something on the highways and the streets, you know. He had to give me, lend me a truck of his, and, of course, I paid him his fee, you know. And to regain the business, and for sure the business dropped a little bit. There is a difference between having two trucks instead of one, and you, the fact that your trucks were stolen starts spreading. I mean the business went down a little bit, around 40, 45, and even sometimes 50 percent. Um, we stayed for a month like this, and after that, after four weeks I knew that the trucks couldn't be found, the insurance has to pay me their price. Some problems occurred with the insurance company for paying for the trucks. They are going to pay me the price of the trucks, but there were a lot of tools on the trucks that hadn't been paid for, and they didn't want to pay me for it. At the end I said, "That's it, that's it! I have to go and get the truck and start working alone, start from the beginning." Also, I kept on looking for a month, another four weeks, look some in the newspapers and the magazines to look for a truck at a good price, and a truck that will be good for us to keep the business operational. After exactly two months, eight weeks, I bought the other truck and started from the beginning. I paid cash out of my pocket for it, and, after that, I took a loan with the New York company. And the insurance sent me the money for the two other trucks that, that got stolen. And, thank God, now the business, I mean became like it used to be, but, of course, I am working on one truck not two. Um, after two weeks from buying the truck, I mean eight weeks, the DMV called me, which is the company of highway patrol for the big trucks, and for the shipments of business companies. One of them called me and told me, "Is your name Said Nasrallah, right?" I told him, "Yes, correct." He told me, "You are the president of A-Global Towing," which is our company. I told him, "Correct." He told me, "Do you have a truck made by Isuzu?" I told him, "Correct." He told me, "Is it stolen?" I told him, "Correct." He told me, "I found it for you. It is in Gastonia, North Carolina," which is around 30 minutes away from Charlotte, which is 25 miles. "We've got something on the man. Some people informed us that there is an Isuzu truck which was stolen from a towing company in Charlotte." It is in that place in Gastonia, and it was a mechanic shop. He told me, "OK," and gave me the number of the storeowner. I called the storeowner, I told him, "You have a truck, the DMV called me on it. Do you have it?" He told me, "It is here." He told me that one of our employees went and bought it from a company. I told him, "OK." The DMV told me to go and get it after two days. I called him, the guy, again on Monday. I told him, "Sir, I am coming to take the truck from you in two days." He told me, "No, I can't give it to you because I bought the chassis from one side." The truck was two pieces, the chassis in which the engine and the transmission is in, and the chassis of the car. But the cabin of it was put in from a different company, the serial number, which is, the truck's number is changed. At the end the DMV, the officer that I was talking to, the one from the DMV told me that I have the right to take it, "This is your right you should go and get it." We went there, and the DMV gave me a paper, and I signed the paper and took the truck. On our way on the road something went wrong with the deferential. We called the towing company, also they are my relatives in Hickory. They came over and towed it for us, and put it inside the fence. Because, if I brought it home, I have already got paid for it and this truck belongs to the insurance company now, but it was seven-thirty in the morning and we didn't catch them. We called them at nine-thirty, ten, and we left them a message that one of the trucks was found. And the truck now is in Hickory, North Carolina, at A1 Towing. That is a towing company and the truck is there. And we've put it inside the fence so nobody would steal or damage it, and I get blamed for it. And, thank God, now all the business is available and going very well. And business is like they say, I mean it is almost back to what it used to be, and for better if God wills.
KM: Said, I want to ask you a question. If you were in Lebanon, would this thing with the insurance company have happened to you? And would anybody have dared to steal your trucks without you knowing who he was since Lebanon is small, and you know how families and stuff are there?
SN: I remember in the old times, even during the intensive fighting, if someone stole a car, his car would appear in two days. Lebanon is very small, your acquaintances are plenty, and you always doubt, and your doubt is right because you know who is robbing you. Your son's neighbor is not going to come and rob you, the guy from your neighborhood wouldn't come and rob you, or your town's boy is not going to rob you or the guy from your community wouldn't rob you. The outsider would come and rob you, and you always think of the stranger coming and robbing you. And Lebanon is small like always. You know, I mean in every town you ask one person, you know all of the stories. Who has that car, who is driving the truck, who has-, who is married to who, who is divorced from whom. I mean you know, you know it is a known thing. Um, no, no, in Lebanon it is different, for sure. Especially the truck. You can't hide it in Lebanon. Especially the towing service. There are not many big and modern trucks, and our truck, you know, it was modern. I mean, you know, very, very easy to work with, and I mean it's easy to put a car on its bed and stuff. And I don't think, no, in Lebanon I think it would've been found within forty-eight hours.
KM: And now you are saying that the business became better and perfect, are you thinking of buying a second truck, or enlarging the business, or what?
SN: If God wishes, the second truck is on the way, I mean give me around a month, two months, I guess. And, in addition to the trucks, I am thinking of opening a mechanic shop because it will be convenient for my customers. There are a lot of people that calls me from the phonebook, broken down, don't know where they want to go, and where to come from. Some of them want to go to the dealer itself. You know dealers charge eighty dollars per hour. You know, I could always charge maybe forty dollars per hour and bring the customers to my shop. I am trying to look for a shop where I could do inspection in, which they call mechanic in Lebanon. You do it once a year. And also oil change, and, um, and oil change, and brakes, CV axels. You know, fixing engines, and water hoses, and stuff, and tires goes well with this business. And, if God wills, I am working on it.
KM: OK, Said, thanks for the interview.
SN: Thank you.