Bob Richey, Tire Dealers Association of Western Pennsylvania member and long-time columnist in the group’s newsletter, recently wrote about his experiences dealing with the AAA and the evolution of its on-road assistance program:
When you mention AAA to most people, I think they would conjure up positive thoughts of a large motor club whose members have the peace of mind that, if they experience car difficulties, a simple call would have them rescued within a reasonable amount of time.
For many years, AAA has also represented itself as a consumer watch group and even certifies shops as “AAA Approved.” To obtain this approval, AAA requires that the garage maintain a certain integrity and high level of customer satisfaction.
To obtain a high level of customer satisfaction in this business, you have to do an outstanding job. Anyone who has been in this business for a while knows that often we perform minor service to a vehicle, like an oil change, and the next day the air conditioning in the car quits, so we are to blame.
AAA, like a lot of businesses, is looking for ways to cut costs and improve revenue, and they have changed their services to reflect that by offering a limited distance towing program or different levels of membership that would allow unlimited towing, for example. But, of course, these higher levels of service come at a higher cost.
As a business owner and manager, and particularly because we do not offer road service or have a towing service, I have often spoke the praises of and recommended to customers that they join AAA to take advantage of this valuable peace of mind.
Recently, I have seen many customers show up with AAA batteries installed in their vehicles. At least a handful of them have been sold batteries from our shop in recent years.
Let me cite a specific example. A steady customer of ours who is quite elderly arrived on Mar. 14 for an oil change and to address a tire with a slow leak, and we discovered a new AAA battery under the hood. This customer owns a 1994 Oldsmobile 98 that has a whopping 24,270 miles on it. We had sold this customer a new battery on May 2, 2009, when the car had 23,200 miles on it. In addition, we charged the battery for him on Oct. 14, 2010, at 23,947 miles.
That means from Oct. 14, 2010, until Mar. 14, 2011, the customer had driven 323 miles.
I had seen this happen before and asked my AAA representative, “What is the deal?” The answer was that AAA’s policy is to get people back on the road. When the vehicle has a dead battery and requires a road call, instead of jumping the car they are going to try to sell the customer a battery.
I would say more often than not they are replacing batteries that are near or at the end of their life. But what about the customer who doesn’t drive much, or in the case that I’m citing, the customer’s battery likely only needed to be charged and if it had needed to be replaced the battery was still under the free replacement period at our shop. Worse yet, I learned of one example that when a customer had a dead AAA battery and AAA arrived for this service call, they did not try to sell the customer a new battery. Instead, the car was jumped and sent to a shop.
An organization that acts as a spokesperson for vehicle repair should not itself offer repair of any kind. It is simply a conflict of interest. If they do offer repairs, they should offer them in a proper fashion that would at least meet the standards of the shops they themselves certify.
Imagine how they would react if I told them that my policy was to replace every tire that has a slow leak, “just to get the customer on the road.”
Article courtesy of TIRE REVIEW.