For five generations - nearly 70 years - proud Liverpudlians have handed the trade down to their sons. But soon the cheeky yet menacing call of 'Can I look after yer car, Mister?' will be no more that has been so familar to visiting motorists could be no more, once the job is handed over to a call centre in Bangalore.
'We did a time and motion study with a leading consultancy and the results were clear,' said Darren 'Daxa' Bywater, 15, managing director of Da Stanley Park Crew, one of the leading car minding gangs on Merseyside. 'Car-looking-after is the least cost-effective use of our members' time. We need to adapt to the 21st century before our competitors roll us.'
Under the new system which is being piloted in Toxteth, boards by the roadside in Crew-controlled areas invite drivers to ring a dedicated hotline to place their protection order. This currently costs 50p per minute, though charges can be varied by up to 5,000% and a 50% reduction in the number of kneecaps without further notice.
They will then be be able to choose between three levels of protection: Basic (£10 - no scratching), Standard (£20 - no scratching or twocking) and Advanced (£30 - no scratching, twocking or tyre-slashing, plus Mad Moz will be kept away for up to two hours). They can then pay by credit card and print a receipt to leave on the car, though it would be a shame if that fell off, wouldn't it? Further information is available on a dedicated website, http://www.pleasedonttorchmycarillpayillpay.com.
Bywater told analysts that moving to the outsourced payment system will enable Da Stanley Park Crew to free up more time for key members to focus on core competencies in pimping, drug dealing and nihilistic violence. However, not all customers agree. One, who asked not to be named, said that the added costs of the helpline means that he is seriously considering switching his fortnightly visit to a prostitute to nearby Manchester.
'The helpline sounds good in practice but then you're kept on hold for ages while six-year-olds with flick knives circle you,' added Trevor Willis, 38, a teacher from Warrington who visits his dying mother in Toxteth once a week. 'The staff in India are ever so polite, which is an improvement, but some of them have such thick accents I can't understand a word they say. It's almost as bad as talking to Scousers.'