TL;DR - AAA is shit now. They show really late and their dispatch hates life and happiness. Lexus customer service was nice to me.
I’ll admit it: sometimes I’ve owned a car where my own skills were not enough to keep a car going on the road. I’ve forgotten jacks at home and let spare tires come along without enough air or messed with a part that did something stupid to the car I was driving, or drove over something I shouldn’t have but didn’t see.
It is with these set of situations in mind that I wound up eventually acquiring a AAA membership. They were on sale, I had some spare cash, maybe I’d even pick up a discount or two. I don’t really experience or cause a lot of car-crippling incidents, but one does eventually run into a sticky situation at the side of the road and you might need some help if you don’t have many friends who are just aching to help a person in need.
At first the service was reasonably prompt and thorough.
Over the 4 years or so I had a AAA membership I have seen the tow response times go from “estimated 30 minutes” to “estimated 1 hour” to an upper bound of my current record for pickup wait, which stands at 6 hours, with my most recent encounter being at 4 hours.
I live in a populated suburb of Phoenix. A lot of people get towed here. Towing companies are everywhere. Response time should not be an issue. And yet it is.
Last year I had had enough. Response time was incredibly poor, and while most of the drivers were nice, I wasn’t sure if their dispatch understood basic reading and writing skills, much less their computer systems in front of them. Hell, I was on the phone with them twice that night, and they kept insisting to ME that I had a Lincoln, not a Lexus. Who the fuck does that? You’re going to insistently tell me I drive a Lincoln when I’m staring at the Lexus badge on the trunk? I gave you a VIN that starts with J, fuckface.
So I cancelled. Just in case, I picked up roadside assistance coverage on my car insurance (10 bucks every 6 months) and lo and behold Lexus also has their own roadside assistance package which I conveniently happen to qualify for - for free. Cool.
The car got a really bad flat and these lugs are not moving the way they should (have I really gotten that out of shape?) and my shite wrench is going to strip these things. Ok, for me pride is not an issue - I’ll just have Lexus tow it to Firestone and they’ll patch up the tire too. Great, let me see how well their customer service works with their roadside assistance service.
I’m happy to report that Lexus’ customer support is absolutely fine - with the exception that they contract out their tows to a local AAA dispatch.
So they call AAA dispatch, confirm my information, pass me a reference number, truck will be along in an hour, and I wait. An hour goes by, and I receive a call from AAA saying that they’re slightly delayed. Ok, no big deal, I figured something like that would happen. Don’t mind waiting another half hour or so.
Half hour later, I get another message from AAA saying a truck will be there in 45 minutes. Um, ok? At this point in for a penny, in for a pound so I tough it out. I try again a little longer with the shite wrench on lug #2, and it’s not moving. All I have are these shite tools from the built in spare tire well under the trunk rug. They’re not working. Ok. 45 minutes, I have patience.
I start walking to and fro to get a little cardio in while I wait. 30 minutes later, I get a robocall from AAA dispatch saying that they’re 30-40 minutes away. At this point I just stopped giving a shit and wait another 30 minutes while playing with my phone.
At that point I get another call indicating that they’re 20-30 minutes away. Really. At this point i call AAA dispatch myself ready to tear some unwitting supervisor a new one - in my formal polite voice, of course. I’m not a monster.
The rep on the line has no idea what to tell me. My reference number doesn’t work, my information pulls up my cancelled account. “No kidding,” I state. “I cancelled because you were always late, and then Lexus sends me here anyway.” He nervously puts me on hold to discuss football game updates with his supervisor while ignoring me.
While I am on hold wishing for the power to call in airstrikes to locations of my choosing, Lexus calls me back and asks me how the tow went. And I unload on him. “I’ve been here 3 hours,” I state, “and the robocalls tell me 30 minutes each call every 30 minutes, and the AAA rep I contacted I don’t think understands how to read and write. I’d like some kind of sane update please.”
The Lexus guy, to his credit, is the most apologetic I’ve ever heard anyone who was trying to help me over the phone. Are there workshops in polite results-action based groveling? This guy was a pro. I suspect he’s used to dealing with cranky old people who have just driven through a dry cleaners because they forgot the brake was in the middle left.
Lexus guy - his name is Anthony, nice guy - says he’ll put me on hold and reach out to AAA himself. I wait a few minutes and he comes back, and tells me he’s got a GPS indicator of where the truck is, and that he is 20 minutes away, for real. I ask him what went wrong. He says the first tow company dispatch called, their truck broke down.
The fucking irony.
I half expected Alanis Morrisette to jump out of my trunk and start shouting about rain on a wedding day.
The truck comes in 20 minutes. Lexus guy calls back as the truck arrives to make damn sure the truck got there. I’m pleased by the attention I’m getting. The tow truck driver had been sitting in standby about 5 miles away for the last hour and a half. He’s a consummate professional, gets the car on the bed in no time flat, and drives to Firestone, chatting with me about his life. He’s been a tow truck driver for 37 years, ever since he was 19. He’s got a pension. Amazing. He says he makes good money and that he’s on salary, and he’s got pretty smart opinions on just about everything - I learned some interesting trivia on the ride.
What’s the moral of the story? Never ever be in a situation where you need a tow from AAA, unless you love waiting around.
AAA Dispatch - a special section in hell waits for you.
Thanks Anthony, and Ken, you guys did good work, and this tubby middle aged car enthusiast appreciates it.