Shannon Stark’s mother is about to leave for Venice, but there’s a little problem with her trip. Someone overcharged her by $400 for her accommodations, and she’d like to get that taken care of before her vacation begins.

Seems like a reasonable request. But finding the right person to talk to about the overbilling issue at her Northern California AAA office hasn’t been easy.

She explains:

I know from reading your columns that the best first step is to send a polite email explaining the situation and proposing a realistic remedy (in this case, refunding the difference).

However, as far as I can tell, AAA doesn’t actually give you an email address, so much as they give you a form you can fill out and send.

I’m trying to find an actual email address I can give my mom, so she can cc both the agent she’s been working with at AAA, and someone higher up who might be able to take care of this more expediently.

We’re leaving next week on Thursday, so she really needs to clear it up by then.

To this point, she’s just been trying to clear this up over the phone, but she’s definitely just been given the runaround, and like I said, I know from reading your columns trying to get this fixed over the phone is not the best course of action.

AAA is not as centralized as, say, an American Express affiliate agency. You can’t go to the AAA site and readily access someone at the national level who can ensure a refund will be processed quickly.

Certainly, Stark’s mother shouldn’t have gotten the runaround about her erroneous charge, but even if she were able to reach someone at AAA headquarters in Heathrow, Fla., it’s possible her query would have been bounced back to someone at the chapter level in Northern California and that she’d end up dealing with the same agent who was allegedly stonewalling her.

Actually, I think AAA’s strength is its lack of centralization. The various chapters are always advocating for their own members, while the agencies have greater autonomy than other sellers of travel. (I am actually a big fan of AAA, as well as a longtime member.)

I asked AAA about her issue. I just heard back from Stark:

Once you got involved, things moved very quickly. A AAA representative was on the phone with me three or four times that afternoon, confirming various pieces of information, and called back Friday morning saying he was overnighting the check as soon as it was processed, and we should have it by Tuesday.

All in all, the people who contacted me where very professional, and very concerned with making sure the problem was taken care of, and in a timely fashion.

I’d like to think that’s the way AAA does business in general, but I know from experience once you get involved … so thank you VERY much for all of your help.

I think Stark’s mother would have gotten the problem fixed eventually, but I’m grateful to AAA for making it sooner rather than later.

(Photo: abmiller99/Flickr Creative Commons)