Sometimes I wonder why people get into customer service. I also wonder, sometimes, why one pays for a service that doesn’t deliver.
Let me tell you a tale of AAA, the American Automobile Association. The company that offers benefits when you join — such as roadside assistance. The company that comes and fixes flats or tows you, if needed.
The backbone of a company like that are those who handle the phone calls. I’ve been a member of AAA for several years (my card says 2011, but I was a member before and had a break somewhere in there) and really haven’t had any issues. In fact, a couple of years ago, when in Watertown, I had a flat. They told me it could take upward of 1:30 for somebody to come. By the time I cleaned my trunk a bit and got the spare out, the guy was there.
The service was so good, I tipped the guy happily.
That brings us to this past Saturday. Three of us were heading to the Binghamton area for a wrestling show. We picked up our third member in one spot off Interstate 88. As we hit the Interstate, something seemed off. Turns out, I ran over something and got a flat.
So there we were, on the side of I-88 with temperatures in the mid 20s. One of the guys with us can fix tires without issue (his father used to own a tire shop), but that wasn’t the point. It was cold — and the service I have is paid for. So, I wanted to use it.
That was my first mistake.
I quickly call AAA and get their roadside assistance people. The first person I talked to was female (shame on me for not remembering names) and I explained what was going on. The basics — side of an interstate, need help etc.
Over and over, I was asked where I was.
“What city is that near?”
“But what city?”
“I’m in Bainbridge. It’s the town I am in.”
“Can you spell that?”
“I can’t find it. Can you please hold?”
I didn’t even have time to answer, I don’t think. I was then on hold for a good 3-5 minutes.
Next thing I know, a male picks up — “AAA, can I help you?”
Turns out I must have been put back in the queue.
But, before I tell you how this conversation went, allow me to go to the AAA website and quote what it says about roadside assistance:
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, emergency road service is designed to assist you when the vehicle you are either driving or riding in becomes disabled. Whether it’s a flat tire, a dead battery, an empty gas tank, or practically any other reason – as a driver or a passenger, in your own car or someone else’s – as a member, you are always covered. Even in a rental!
And this is what it shows for the flat-tire service:
A wheel with a flat tire will be replaced with the member’s inflated spare tire, at no charge. Special lug wrenches or keys needed to remove the wheel cover or wheel must be supplied by the member. If the spare is not available or in need of repair, the service station will tow the vehicle. Dual-wheel vehicles are not eligible for tire service.
OK, with that out of the way, allow me to continue. So the second person I talk to at least tries to get more info. I explain it more times than I think is needed, but if it gets somebody here, then so be it.
I had to explain what an onramp to an interstate was.
Even then, I got: “I’m sorry, sir, I am not familiar with your area.”
I gave him the exit number. I told him where we were. He finally seemed to get it and found a place. It was in a town about, oh, 10 miles away or so. I was told it would take up to an hours. So it was 3:26, they should be there no later than 4:26.
After I questioned that and asked about it, he repeated — in a stern voice — “Sir, it’s now 3:27. They will be there no later than 4:26.”
I didn’t want to explode. I accepted it. We waited.
Mind you, there was somebody in the car more than capable of quickly changing this tire. But this was more about principles. A situation where you want to get what you pay for.
Something tells me, if you are reading this, you know where this is going.
Yep, 4:26 came and went. At about 4:30, I called back and got somebody else. This person seemed genuinely apologetic and concerned and said he was going to find out what was up. He put me on hold and came back a minute or so later.
Seems he called the service in question who then noted they didn’t have anybody who could go change a flat. My response?
“So, basically, nobody was coming and nobody was going to tell me?”
Solid work, AAA. The company can’t blame the service company, either. There is no reason AAA shouldn’t monitor every situation. We pay for a service. Deliver.
The person then told me he could try and find somebody else. At that point, said friend was starting to jack up the car. I said fine (the guy was going to call me back), but noted if we had this changed and all, I was not going to be a happy customer.
He called back about 10 minutes later, noting he had somebody who said they could be there in about 45 minutes. At this point, the lugnuts were being tightened.
I noted that. And also noted I was extremely displeased with the service — well, lack of — that I received. I told him I’d like to know who to contact and he said he could put in the complaint for me and asked if I would like a call back, to which I said “Absolutely.”
He told me I’d hear back within 48 hours.
That was Saturday, at about 4:45 p.m. So, 48 hours would be Monday at 4:45 p.m., right?
It’s now (as I am writing this) about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday. So, like 96 hours later. I haven’t received a call or any sort of communication.
Solid, right? Customer service is right up there.
I’m seriously re-considering any membership with this company. This has nothing to do with me or this situation. But what if it had been my mother? Or one of my aunts? Or my sister-in-law when she had been pregnant? Put yourself in my shoes here. What it if it had been your mother? Your grandfather? Somebody else?
This goes way beyond three guys going to an event and just wanting to stay warm and use a service that was paid for. This comes down to looking at the big picture and wondering what happens if this is somebody who couldn’t do what we ended up doing. It was cold. I was on the side of an Interstate. What if somebody’s phone was dying and they got enough of a call to set up the initial service call? And nobody comes?
There’s a lot that can go wrong here.
I firmly believe I deserve more than a small apology here. I need an explanation. I need to know why this happened and how AAA will make sure it doesn’t happen. People pay for this service. Some people may have panicked in this situation. Some may have continued to wait.
This isn’t a joke. It’s serious. And something drastically bad could have happened, if the situation had been changed.
Being it’s been so long, I’m not holding my breath AAA is going to call me back. If it gets past this weekend, I may end up calling. And if that’s the fact, I’m going to be extremely annoyed and peeved.
I’m beyond disappointed. And that’s a shame. Until here, I’ve been pretty satisfied with AAA. Now? Not so much — in more ways than just a failed service call. This was a fail on a much larger stage.
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