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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 1/21/12

The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Association

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Having been a loyal American Automobile Association member since gettng my driver's license in Ohio in 1953, I was very happy to be among the first to become insured when that new service was first offered in New England.  When we moved to Georgia, and when shortly afterwards AAA South Insurance began to peddle their own policies, I was happy to take out both homeowner's and auto insurance with them.  And then, I filed a claim when my passport and some euros were stolen on the metro in Athens, Greece in May, 2010 -- a small claim which I was assured by AAA South Insurance staff would have no impact on my homeowner's rates.  And that was the case on my first policy renewal in 2011.

Then, while calling AAA South on a routine matter, I discovered accidentally that AAA South Insurance was raising my annual homeowner's cost by some 50% due in large part to this small claim, which I had been told would have no impact.  After numerous calls to their customer disservice, I reached supervisors N.C. and J.S. (initials used to protect the guilty) and finally got an email from AAA South Insurance Preident L.P. (appropriate initials, as he sounded like a broken LP record.)  Nobody expressed the slightest regret for our loss and resulting rate increase (in violation of those promises), nobody even thanked me for being an AAA member for nearly six decades; they wasted the money their parents gave them for charm school. Nor would they budge an inch from their wrongheaded position; they stonewalled.

What it took to enlighten me was a final email from L.P. telling me that they would no longer communicate by email because my computer might have a virus -- a concern which he expressed by email to that same computer, when he could easily have faxed me, as AAA South Insurance has my fax number.  So, L.P. risked that imaginary computer problem by writing from his computer.  That's sort of like taking a cruise on a ship you think is dangerous to see whether or not it sinks.  People who do things like that are generally a few tires short of an eighteen-wheeler, a few beers short of a six-pack, or a few pages short of a book.  Well, you get the idea, anyway.

So now I realize that it is not mere wrongheadedness or wrongful stubbornness which causes key staff at AAA South Insurance to make bad decisions which they then refuse to rectify in the slightest -- they simply do not know any better.  Sadly, they are probably doing the best they can.  And, when the National AAA operation disavows any responsibility for this member abuse, alleging they are a totally separate entity, while some of their own staff actually use AAA South email addresses, that misrepresentation is not their fault either; they are probably doing the best they can, too. But their best is not good enough, by a longshot.

Still, there is no excuse for this type of misbehavior. But then, these people can't even send a trip routing all at once; for years, I have had to call them repeatedly because they sent a routing by bits and pieces, as they admit.  Nor does it excuse the cutback in such basic AAA member benefits as towing services, whose mileage allowance has been drastically reduced so that they can sell you "AAA Plus" at a considerably-higher cost.  So, if you're looking for ways to cut costs in this tight economy, here is one area of saving worth considering; there are other auto clubs offering better benefits at lower cost.  Not only that, but staff at those other auto clubs are probably even sharp, member-focused, and honest too!

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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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