AAA never showed up, so do I deserve a refund?

By | December 7th, 2016

Brenda Huber was on vacation, driving through Scottsbluff, Neb., when her car got a flat tire.

She called AAA for service and waited on hold 20 minutes while the auto club tried to figure out what to do about Huber’s request. After two hours, AAA called Huber and told her that it could not find an available tow truck because of a major accident on a nearby interstate.

AAA suggested she try again — the next day.

So Huber paid a passerby $5 to help her change the tire. The next day, Huber had the flat tire repaired at no cost, but paid the technician a $10 tip.

When Huber returned from vacation, she wrote AAA to complain.

“Since I paid and they did not perform the service, shouldn’t they try to make it right?” she asked.

AAA said they would investigate and offered to reimburse her, if she had receipts. Unhappy with the offer, Huber told AAA that she wanted a full refund of her $200 membership. In turn, AAA offered a 20 percent discount on the cost of her membership for the following year.

Huber rejected AAA’s last offer, and AAA told her it would call her back by a certain date, but it never did. Huber feels that because she paid for service and AAA didn’t provide it, AAA should refund her full membership fee.

Even a basic AAA membership provides 24-hour roadside assistance. And when you pay for a AAA membership, you also pay for the peace of mind that the 24-hour roadside assistance provides. So, it’s understandable that Huber would be upset when AAA wasn’t able to provide her with the roadside assistance. But, it also wasn’t AAA’s fault that a major accident on a nearby interstate had tied up local resources.

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The AAA Member Benefits note that roadside assistance for tire service is limited to changing a flat tire, if there is a servicable spare, or towing the vehicle to a repair facility if there is not a serviceable spare. The member benefits do not extend to the cost of repairing the damaged tire. So, Huber would have had to bear that cost regardless of the AAA service.

The AAA Member Benefits also promises that members will be reimbursed for roadside service covered by the membership, rendered by non-contract providers. In Huber’s case, that would entitle her to the $5 she paid the passerby to help her change the tire.

The AAA refund policy states:

AAA reserves the right to cancel membership for material misrepresentation or for substantial breach of your contractual duties or conditions. If we cancel, we shall give you at least 10 days’ notice, and shall return the unused portion of your annual dues. If you ask to cancel, your membership will expire without renewal at the end of the current term, but no dues will be refunded.

As far as the refund Huber is requesting, AAA’s refund policy covers its right to cancel a membership. But for the member, the cancellation and refund policy isn’t a refund policy. It allows for cancellation, but without the refund of the dues. Basically, if you’re unhappy with AAA’s service during your membership period, there is no cancellation remedy. AAA says just don’t renew your membership.

AAA adhered to its policies when it offered Huber reimbursement for her $5, and when it refused her refund request. But did it do enough?

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