In Praise of AAA

Disclaimer:  AAA is a big franchise operation, and I think their roadside assistance is also franchised to independent contractors.  YMMV of course, and my story really only relates to my experience with the specific folks I interacted with.  That said, I don’t know that I’ve ever had a complaint-worthy problem with AAA services.

My wife and I for years have carried a “Plus” membership with AAA.  Most years, thankfully, it’s been an expensive way to get some “free” maps or some discounts on local attractions.  From time to time we’ve had to take advantage of the towing and/or roadside assistance, and usually those events have been worth the price of admission.  We generally regard the membership fee as a form of insurance, so we don’t see it really as any more wasted on years where we don’t need their services than our life insurance premiums are on years when we don’t die.

Anyway, twice in very recent times we’ve had to call upon them, and frankly, both times the service has been noteworthy.  So I will give them some free, positive publicity.

The first time, I walked out to my car at work ready to go to lunch, only to find I had a flat tire.  I know how to change a tire, but frankly I didn’t have time to fool with it and wasn’t really dressed for the occasion.  So I called AAA.  In short order, a neat and clean fellow drove up in his AAA-painted tow truck.  In a friendly and professional manner, he retrieved the spare from under the car, tested and re-inflated it, replaced the bad tire, and was on his way.  Exactly what one could ask for in such a service.

The second time was just yesterday.  The battery died in my minivan, in the pick-up line at my son’s school in downtown Lexington.  In the rain.  And I had errands to run last night.  I called a friend to come pick up the kids (his daughter was with us), and then called AAA.  The dispatcher estimated the usual “1 hour” for the help to arrive.

45 minutes later, the driver calls, apologetically. Traffic was bad, and he was another 10-12 minutes out.  OK.  If you live in Lexington, imagine this.  You are at Fayette Mall.  It’s evening rush hour.  You need to get downtown in a hurry.  There’s a wreck in the Northbound lanes of Nicholasville Road.  How do you get there fast?  The answer is, you don’t.  The route the driver needed to take from his previous call to me is categorically the worst possible driving route in the city at that time of a workday.  So he went around, and it took time, but he did the best our traffic situation would allow to keep me waiting as little as possible.  And then apologized.

Ten minutes later, in the rain, he had diagnosed my problem, tested the rest of my charging system, and restarted the car.  I could limp home now, with another apology for “taking so long” (not really) and a happy “good evening.”  But that’s not all.  He had an exact replacement battery in the back of his truck, at a competitive price.

Another ten minutes later, my car was fixed, good as new, and instead of going home to fix my car, I could go home to fix dinner, get the shopping done, and get on with my life.  All at no charge (except of course for the price of the battery).

In short, I pay AAA to fix my day when this stuff happens and threatens to ruin it. And they do, consistently.  I didn’t get the names of either of these guys, but to them — and to AAA for providing the system within which they work — I say thank you.

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