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I would advise anyone considering joining the AA to think again and to use ANY alternative to this ‘organisation’. My partner and I had a terrible and very stressful experience of using the AA and will never use them again. During a trip in Europe, we was in an accident (for which we were not culpable) and our car was not driveable. We had AA breakdown cover and had paid approx. £50 for this privilege. Firstly, the pickup truck that was supposed to remove our car from the crash site, turned up 2 hours late and did not know who he was supposed to be looking for. We were then taken to a garage where we had to wait another 3 hours until the AA managed to arrange for a taxi to take us to a small airport in Holland, where we were to pick up a rental car – courtesy of the AA. The people at the rental company did not know who we were and we were stuck waiting in the rain until the AA managed to get their act together and confirm that we were entitled to a rental car as part of the AA cover. We then drove to Calais where we had to pick up another AA organised rental car and once again, the rental company were not expecting us because the AA had not told them we were coming. To make matters worse, when we returned to Britain (our undrivable car was on the continent), the AA told us that they would not be repatriating our car as it was not ‘economically viable’ for them to do so (it was written off) and that we would have to pay £650 ourselves to bring it back to England. We were furious about this, as earlier the AA had told us that no matter what the value of our car, it would be repatriated at their cost to a place of our choosing. During the next 3 weeks, we spoke to approximately 5 different people at the AA, all of whom gave us contradictory advice and information and none of whom were very helpful. We were also given technical information about our car by an AA technical ‘specialist’ who we have since found out was talking absolute nonsense and had no technical knowledge of the car in question. AA have caused us an intolerable amount of stress and frustration and we have spent a vast amount of money which we could have avoided if it were not for the AA.. To top that off, they take forever to answer their phones and have an automated telephone system that is more complicated than a maze to navigate through. I would rather stab myself repeatedly in the eye than consider using the AA ever again!!!!!
"Are the French colour-blind?" "I beg your pardon?" "Are the French colour-blind? You know, can't tell red from green for instance?" "Sorry I don't follow you!" "And are they challenged in the area of spacial awareness? Like, are they unable to distinguish big things from small things?" "No, sorry, you've lost me!" Every year around this time my daughter, now a graduate with a 2:1 in Photographic Art, arranges a barbecue party for her friends. The house gets packed with people doing whatever 20 year-olds do (don't ask, we are never there to witness the mayhem but the evidence always seems to have disappeared by the time we return). So you will gather, we are politely advised that we might like to amuse ourselves elsewhere during the proceeding (we've been kicked out!). In previous years these activities have taken place during our annual summer break (just me and the wife, no kids these days) and so no real inconvenience. Recently we've taken to having a week early in summer or late spring and another in mid-October. So, we felt that a short break was in order. Finding somewhere to go was not a problem. In circumstances such as these, we head for France, our favourite country, other than England, in the entire world. Taking a dip into the Relais du Silence hotel directory, we came up with L'Ermitage in Saulges, halfway between LeMans and Laval, in the region between Normandy and the Loire. The only drawback was that you cannot book via their website. You have to email them with your request for accommodation and wait for them to email back with what they have available. Of course, you can phone and I do speak French but I feel that if you can be bothered to have a website then you should be encouraged to make it user-friendly. I made this point. They didn't take exception howe ver, and offered accommodation that met our needs. The P&O Ferries website offered a good price (£157) for an up to 5 day return crossing between Dover and Calais and 6 bottles of wine into the bargain. With the weather as it has been and a likely millpond crossing, the extra expense of Le Shuttle just wasn't worth it, despite the slightly faster crossing. By the way, booking via the P&O website is a doddle. So, we were all set. I arranged the extension of insurance cover on the car for the trip. The insurance provides up to 90 days free of charge so long as you notify them in advance. Ah, but what if we broke down? Oh, come on, it's a 9 month old MG ZT 160+ 1.8l 16 valve twin cam turbo that's only done 6,500 miles. What on earth could go wrong? Well, better safe than sorry! Let's get a quote. As I am anyway a (very happy) member of the AA, let's find out how much they would charge. "As you are a member, to you sir, £34.65". OK, that's not as bad as I thought it might be. For peace of mind, let's do it. So, with the prospect of an enjoyable few days in the peace and quiet of the heart of the French countryside at a gourmet hotel/restaurant, we set out at 5.15am on Saturday morning to head for Dover. The first part of the journey passed without incident. We arrived in plenty of time, filled up the tank, and eventually boarded the ferry. Less than two hours later we were cruising down the A16 in the direction of Abbeville and Rouen, our chosen route to our destination. I was having a chance to stretch the car's legs a little. Motorway speed limits in France (indeed just about everywhere in the EC OTHER than the UK) are higher. 130Kph is around 82mph and most cars do far more. There seems to be little by way of police patrols checking speeds on these private roads. When touring down the Rhone valley a couple of years ago we were regularly passed b y French registered cars doing well over 100mph. We stopped for lunch just north of Alencon. Temperatures were well into the late 30s and we were pleased to find a quiet bar, just off the main road on the shady side of the square. Our car had to cook in the sun but, with air-conditioning we knew that it would soon be back to a comfortable 19 degrees once we got moving again. By early afternoon we were once again on our way on the final 100 miles leg of our journey, anticipating a pleasant evening's indulgence. Now, I don't know about you but I've aways had a sneaking suspicion that the Romans and Greeks were right. There really are Gods up there chuckling at us and toying with our lives. Clearly, for whatever reason, we caught there attention. They must have felt that we were in need of some challenges and so it was up to them to throw a few pratfalls in our path. We were pressing on down the A28 from Alencon to Le Mans when suddenly there was a jerk. Although the car was still running, it was as though the power output of the engine had been halved. Looking for a moment out of the rear-view mirror I noticed white smoke billowing out of the exhaust! Immediately dropping to 50mph and pulling over the hard shoulder, the smoke stopped, only to start again within a minute. At that point it became clear we were going no further in this car (chuckle). Time to test the efficiency of AA 5 Star cover. I called them on their French number and was soon transferred to a representative who would be the first of many to get involved in our troubles. We were given a reference number and told that, as the motorways in France are private, rescue services have to be summoned from the emergency call posts every kilometer. Fortunately we were right by one. In a mixture of French and English I managed to convey our plight and the agent at the other end told us that a lorry would be with us in 30 minute s. We tried to find some shelter from the intense heat under some hedges at the side of the road. The low-loader arrived in less than 30 minutes and confirmed for himself that the car indeed was beyond redemption. It was loaded onto the back of the truck (rather disturbingly by winding it up the ramp in first gear, using the starter motor! This looks very alarming but the driver seemed to think it was normal procedure!). We were taken directly off the motorway via an otherwise locked gate and driven about 5 miles to a local Renault garage. Here, for the first time, we encountered civility, concern and help whilst we waited. Cold drinks were brought out for us and the "facilities" made available. Once again we renewed our telephone acquaintance with the AA and it was agreed that the car would stay there, to be shipped on the MG Rover dealer just up the road in Alencon, for the problem to be diagnosed. The AA then arranged for taxi to take us the final 60 miles to our destination. We had hoped for a hire car but they told us that, this being High Season in France, there was unlikely to be a single hire car available anywhere in the region and certainly not late on a Saturday afternoon. They would do there best to try to get us one for Monday but could promise nothing. In the meantime, should we need or want to go anywhere, a call to them would provide us with a taxi at our disposal. Eventually we arrived at the hotel, a delightful place in a quiet village of no more than a few dozen houses. By this time all we wanted was a shower, a change of clothes and a beer or three. I am writing a review of this hotel, which I will post shortly. Sunday dawned and, to be honest, we couldn't be bothered to go anywhere. We just wanted to "chill" out, (oh, the irony with temperatures of 39.5C in the shade and 45.5C in the sun) and recover from the ordeals of the previous day. We lazed in the sha de of the trees in the extensive garden, drinking cold beer, interspersed with large volumes of mineral water and reading (me - Nick Hornby's "How to be Good" - recommended; my wife - Terry Pratchett's "Good Omens", co-written with Neil Gaiman - Highly Recommended). And so to Monday. Anxious to know where we stood, I called the AA for an update. They had been trying to contact me but, in order to conserve the battery I had switched off my phone. No matter. They had found me a hire car. They would arrange a taxi to take me to pick up the car in Laval from the AVIS agency. This was the only car they had been able to find anywhere within reach of our location. Also, my car had been taken to the MG Rover dealer. That morning we had wandered down to the river and found a little Creperie that offered salads and crepes for lunch, seemingly an attractive proposition. Unfortunately, absolutely no indication was evident of opening times (how typically French). The country I adore but some (not all) of the inhabitant drive me to distraction. A country which has less concept of customer service I have yet to find! We felt that we had time to collect the hire car and still get back to enjoy a leisurely lunch by the river. Well, those Gods again obviously felt that we were starting to get far too good a grip on our situation and so arranged for the taxi to arrive 45 minutes late (chuckle, chuckle). Full of apologies (traffic! - yeh, right) we were on the verge of telling him to come back later. In the end I just wanted to get it sorted and so off we went. We collected our hire car (a Renault Megane - first time I have driven one) and set off back to Saulges. Driving along, pressing buttons, as you do, we became aware that nothing we did seemed to get the air-conditioning working. It constantly blew hot air out of the vents. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the reason why this was the only h ire car around was that the air-conditioning was busted (chuckle, chuckle, chuckle). Unprepared to drive all the way back to Laval to complain, especially if they only response would be , "It's that or nothing", I at least tried ringing them but they had clearly taken the phone off the hook permanently! I did call the AA to let them know and ask if they could contact AVIS and see what they could do. They had the same result as us. The Big French Silence. Hot and sweaty we arrived back at the Creperie by the river. Lunch? No, sorry, we stopped serving 30 minutes ago! Best we can do you is a baguette (chuckle, chuckle, chuckle...). Hot and annoyed, we chewed our baguettes, drank our beers, ate our Double Chocolate Magnums (some consolation but not much) and left. Monday afternoon the AA called us about our car. The MG Rover dealer in Alencon had concluded that the piston rings were broken. This was not going to be a quick repair. In fact, they advised the AA to get the car shipped back to the UK, to the garage from which I had bought it (SMC Rover in Slough). The only problem was, they were having great difficulty in finding any car transport company that would be prepared to take the car to Calais. Could we rearrange our journey to go from Le Harvre or Caen instead! (ha, ha, ha). Our first reaction to this was, "No". "On your bike." "Sort it." Then my wife and I discussed it. She had been suffering some tummy problems. She needed to be within reasonable distance of a loo. We didn't fancy travelling in the transporter with the car, asking the driver to stop at every services. We wanted to drive there separately and meet up with the car at the port. However, the prospect of driving to Calais in a car without air-conditioning didn't sound attractive. We phoned the AA back and agreed to travel from Caen to Portsmouth. We would travel on the 4.15pm sailing . They would pay the fare (£378). They would get the car shipped to Caen and arrange for a transporter to receive it at Portsmouth and take us home. At that time of night we couldn't get it taken to SMC Rover as they would be closed. I would have to arrange for the AA locally to on-ship it the following day. As it happened, my wife was feeling a lot better the following day so we breakfasted, packed and left at around 9.30am for a leisurely drive to Caen some 180kms away. The journey was trouble free and, with all the windows wide open and travelling that early in the morning, relatively stress-free heat-wise. We arrived in the town of Caen around 1.00pm and found ourselves a Creperie in which to have our long-awaited salad and crepes. Once again, surly service; clearly the waitress wanted to be somewhere else and was letting her customers know it. So, normal French service then! At least the food was decent although my wife's salad came with a fried egg instead of hard boiled as advertised. A complaint was met with the architypal Gallic shrug. "Take it or leave it Buster." We maintained a typical English sang-froid. Paid up (no tip) and left. Now we discovered that the ferry port for Caen is actually 15kms out of the town. This is a twenty minute drive at least. We arrived and started looking around for the low-loader and our car. No sign! We drove around all the car parks on the pre-embarkation side of the terminal. Definitely no MG ZT, at least no red one. And no car transporter either. I went to the Brittany Ferries check-in desk to collect my tickets and ask if they had knowledge of a car left for shipment to the UK. We were introduced to John, the Dispatching Manager. "What sort of car is it?" "An MG." "Ah, the MGB GT sports car. We wondered why that was here." "Well, no actually. An MG ZT saloon. Re d." "Not the MGB then? It's green and gold." "No, an MG ZT. Red." I explained that we were in a hire car and that it was now getting very close to the point where there was no chance of us getting it back into Caen and getting the AA to get us a taxi back to the terminal in time. I phoned the AA and explained our predicament. They agreed to contact the car transporter company to find our where the car was. They also agreed that we could leave the hire car with Brittany Ferries and the AA would arrange to get it back to AVIS in Caen. Had we known the problems we were to encounter we would have taken it there first, transferred our luggage to the taxi and gone straight to the terminal. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. John got us a pass to drive the hire car into the departure area, even though it was not going on board. We stopped by the ramp onto the ferry and looked around. Still no sign of our car. However, there was a very well looked-after MGB GT, about 40 years old, green with gold detail, but definitely not our car. John drove me around the seaward side of the terminal to see if it had been parked in any other location. Nothing. Now a sense of foreboding was coming over me. I wonder... There was now only 25 minutes left. Once again I phoned the AA. For the first time I was left on hold for a long, frustrating time. At last I got through. "My car is not here." "Hold the line whilst I find out where it is." (There was no way I was letting them off the line!) "They say it's right beside the ship." "I'm right beside the ship and it isn't here. Can you please ask then to describe the car they brought here." "They say it's a green and gold MGB GT." "That is not my car! My car is a red MG ZT saloon. They've brought the wrong car! S omeone somewhere is wondering where the hell their prized MGB GT sports car has disappeared to." (Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha.....) It's now 5 minutes to departure. Come hell or high water, my wife and I are getting on that ferry, car or no car. John speaks to the AA and agrees that we can travel as foot passengers and that he will ensure that the car is loaded for Portsmouth as soon as they can get it there (which will NOT be in the next 5 minutes!), even though unaccompanied. He arranges for the hire car to be driven on board to unload our luggage and driven off again afterwards. We are helped with our bags and boxes of wine, up to the passenger deck, where they are locked away for the duration of the journey. Full marks to Brittany Ferries, who could not have been more helpful. Especially to John (English, not French!) who was the very model of what customer service is all about. Lessons could be learned. The AA agreed to arrange a taxi to take us home from Portsmouth. There was no way I was driving a hire car. I intended to consume significant quantities of alcohol on the crossing and the matter of a driving licence was not going to stop me. A very enjoyable crossing (6 hours) was enhanced by beers and a very pleasant meal, accompanied by wine, for £50 for the two of us. A bargain. Three games of cribbage (I won 2 to 1) and some more reading (Wife - same as before, me - Annie Hawes "Ripe for the Picking" - Highly Recommended - Read the first one first - "Extra Virgin"). Helped off with our belongings at Portsmouth, we were met, as expected and taken the final leg, up the M3 to our little home in the West. Wednesday morning and I am clearly not now going to Nottingham for a business appointment. Fortunately, that much I had predicted and had already made arrangements with a colleague to get it rearranged. But where is my car? Yet another call to the AA. By now the y must be dreading the name Tapper. "Oh God, No, what's gone wrong now!" No problem. The car has arrived in Portsmouth. It's being cleared through. As it's unaccompanied, the UK authorities are being not a little difficult. Typical! The French can't be allowed to have the monopoly on officiousness. Finally it's on it's way and I have agreed with the AA that the car transporter will stop off near where I live and take me and the car on to SMC Rover in Slough; it's practically on the way anyway. But no, Brian the driver tells me on his phone that he's not coming my way. Oh yes you are Buster. The AA agreed! A very off-put driver eventually arrived at the meeting point, muttering that the "detour" had taken him 20 miles out of his way. Tough! This is the first sign of lack of real customer concern that I have ever experienced from the AA, who have previously been unfailingly courteous and helpful. I put him down as atypical and not characteristic of the AA in general. More of a difference from those on the help line who had stood by me all the way from breakdown to recovery could not have been evident. But, as I say, atypical. The car is delivered into the hands of SMC Rover and the keys to a courtesy car (Rover 25 - adequate!) handed over for the duration of the repairs. At the time of writing I am still waiting to here what caused this totally unreasonable failure and how long it will take to repair. For Gods sake, I traded in a Merc for this car so as to be supportive of UK industry! It lets me down within 3 months. This is totally unacceptable. If the UK is to survive in the world car industry then this evidence of gross manufacturing incompetence is unbelievable. However, as for the AA and their 5 Star European Breakdown Cover and most especially those whose job it is to handle the problems of motorists in distress, I have nothing but praise. Nev er once was I dealt with abruptly or with reluctance to help. Every new disaster the Gods threw at us was handled with the best possible resolution in mind. Maybe they just felt sorry for us. They probably wondered how so much could go so wrong in such a short time. So did we. I shall be writing to their Manager to commend them. I hope they get 6 Stars each! And a pay rise. They deserve it.
I just knew when I got into my 6 year old Escort on Saturday morning that something was going to go wrong. I wasn't even supposed to be going anywhere, and didn't feel up to the 200 mile motorway journey in front of me, but needs must and off I set. One hundred miles later my car suddenly lost all power in the fast lane. I won't go into detail here of how I didn't lose my life, I will just say that I made it to the hard shoulder shaking and almost in tears. My engine was running but my car simply wouldn't move. I suspected my gearbox had gone and fumbled in my purse for my AA card. After a rather poor experience with the RAC two years back, I had switched to the AA not expecting much better but feeling smug that I had taken my business away from a company who had displeased me. Saturday was the first time I'd had to call the AA since joining, and I did so with a certain amount of trepidation. THE PHONE CALL My call was answered within about 4 seconds by someone very polite, very professional and very calm. I explained my whereabouts (just past one junction past Bristol) and she pinpointed my position exactly and told me not to worry, they knew where I was and she was putting out a bulletin as we spoke. She then talked me through their standard safety procedure - i.e. don't sit in your car on the hard shoulder, put on your sidelights, hazard warnings and then get yourself on the embankment behind the crash barrier. She then left me with the news that they aimed to be with me within an hour, despite the motorway being chocca with bank holiday travelers, and that they would keep me updated. THE WAIT After 20 minutes I got a call on my mobile from someone else from the AA asking if I was okay and informing me that they still aimed to reach me before the hour was up. After another 20 minutes I got a text reiterating that they should reach me withi n the next 15 minutes. Ten minutes later the AA man himself called to say he was one junction away from me and should get to me in about ten minutes as traffic was slow. Ten minutes later he arrived, smiling and calm. THE OUTCOME My gearbox had indeed gone, and there was nothing the man could do about it. As my membership was Roadside & Relay, my car was hoisted onto the back of the AA truck and I was offered the choice of being taken to a garage, being taken to my destination or being taken home. As I simply had to get to my destination - and knew that once I got there my racing driver brother-in-law would be able to get my car fixed cheaply - I opted to be taken to my destination. I then spent the next 2 hours sitting up front of the truck with a friendly, professional AA man who answered all my questions about his satellite navigation system, chatted with my amiably about all sorts, and took me to the services so I could have a wee and a drink. At my destination he negotiated a very tight car park and got my car in perfect position in my allocated space. All of this was done with a smile and the utmost professionalism. AA vs RAC My experience with the AA was infinitely better than with the RAC right the way through the process from initial call to the professionalism of the man (I don't like calling him 'the man' but I don't actually know what they're called - drivers? mechanics? engineers?) who came to rescue me. I've only had one experience (so far) with either organisation so you could say it's not enough to judge, but it's certainly made up my mind as to who I'm renewing with. COVER & PRICING Basic Roadside Cover, where they either fix your car at the roadside or tow you to the nearest garage, is under £40 per year. Roadside & Relay, where you also have the option of you and your car being taken home or to your destination, is under £80 per year. There are also higher spec covers for higher prices. AA members also get: 7.5% off AA car insurance (though in my experience it's still cheaper elsewhere) 10% off any product or service at AA service centres Discounts on various days out, car rental and airport parking. Free routes from the AA (though anyone can get these free online) and free hotel booking by the AA. (In the interest of fairness, I should point out that RAC prices are the same or slightly less) OVERALL My experience with the AA was a very good one and based upon it I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to others. Like any insurance, it's a pain when you're paying it but if you need to claim just once it is worth every single penny.
This week, I had to travel to Dumfries, some 55 miles each way, along the A70 and A76. Unfortunately I developed some car trouble along the way, and I was once again in need of some assistance from ?A Man who Can?. It had been a little while since I last contact the AA, and I was observant of some new touches to their service, which inspired me to write this review. I have had AA membership since before I could drive actually. This is because I actually worked for the AA for 5.5 years, between 1987 and 1993. I worked in the Insurance division, but I did get free AA membership, despite the fact that I came under their employ one month before I passed my driving test in 1987. Since I left the AA I have had almost continuous membership cover, initially through a new Rover which I bought in 1994, but I have continued with it ever since. This Morning?s Experience -------------------------------- I was on my way to an important appointment 55 miles away, and about ¾ of the way there, I noticed I seemed to be getting a lot of noise and vibration from my wheels. I assumed it was a brake problem. I am due to have new brake pads fitted, but the ones ordered from the garage were not the correct ones, and my hubby was unable to complete this job. He did take the front wheel off on Sunday afternoon though, when he began the job??.. Anyway, I made it to my meeting, and began to drive back. I was uncomfortable with the clattering and banging going on in the car, and so I telephoned the aforementioned hubby at work, and described the problem. (He was a motor mechanic in a previous life, for Rover, not the AA, incidentally.) He advised I checked the wheel nuts to make sure that they were tight. This I did, and found that one was extremely loose, so I tightened it up. (Something he should have checked on Sunday..lol) However, when I set off again, it did not make any difference. It was time to call out the AA. Between my description of the fault; and his telephone diagnostic technique we had decided in our wisdom that it was a rear brake problem. Ringing the AA in an emergency is easy. It is a free-phone number 0800 887766. There is a simple automate message up front, asking to confirm that it is breakdown services you require. I was immediately transferred to an operator. As is always the case, when you need it, I did not have my membership card with me. The reason was because I had done an on line insurance quotation for hubby?s motor insurance two days ago, and required the card to input my membership number. My card was?sitting by the PC. This wasn?t a problem, and the operator was able to quickly access my membership details, via my surname and address, with my Date of Birth as confirmation of my identity. I described my problem, and at the end of the call, she confirmed the time, and confirmed that a patrol would be with me within the hour. She also advised that they would regularly update me with SMS text messaging, as to the patrol?s progress, and asked me if I would like her to make any calls to anyone to advise them of my delay. A nice touch, although I did not require it as I had my mobile anyway. I left the car and walked to a nearby petrol station a few minutes away to grab a coffee. Within five minutes the AA called me back and confirmed that it would be a local agent who would attend to my breakdown, and gave me the details of the garage. He advised that the patrol man would be there within 20 minutes, and again asked if there was anything else they could do for me. The local agent arrived bang on time, and had me on my way again within fifteen minutes. Two minutes after the patrol arrived, the AA breakdown service dept phoned me for a second time, and asked me if I was OK, which I confirmed in the affirmative. What I particularly liked was the genuineness and concern for my welfare shown by all three operators I spoke to, and trust me - as a previous Customer Service Manager/Director I am more difficult to please than most. (I had not advised that I was a female travelling alone, something I would have done if it had been dark or I felt vulnerable in any way). Female drivers often take priority, and I genuinely felt that the staff had my break down as the most important one that they needed to deal with that day. You may feel that sending an agent patrol out instead of their own isn?t good customer service, but as with all things I see it as a matter of supply and demand, and it is obviously more cost effective to cover rural areas with such supplementary patrols, rather than relying on their own to cover long distances over slow A and B roads. Incidentally the AA have twice the amount of their own patrols than any other breakdown organisation in the UK. Previous Experiences -------------------------- In the last five years, I have called the AA out on two other occasions, and received great service both times, although without the little finishing touches that were received today. I broke down on the same stretch of road in 1998, only that time it was dark and in the deep of winter. I was attended to well within the hour, and once again it was via a partner company, only that time the AA had not telephoned me to let me know in advance. However, as the patrol had my name, I was reassured with their presence. The other time I required their assistance was my own silly fault! I had gone to work and parked my car in the basement overnight, as I was going out for a leaving drink. The next day I went back and found I had left the interior light on, and had a flat battery. The service was prompt and efficient despite it being a bank holiday. Membership packages --------------------------- Membership packages start from £40 for single membership, although this policy is the most basic and will only cover you if you break down away from home. You will not b e covered if your car needs to be relayed to your home destination either, but will be taken to the nearest garage, if your car cannot be repaired at the roadside. Adding the relay services pushes the premium up to £79 for a single person. Adding Homestart pushes the payment up to £112 and the Rolls Royce of cover also includes the Relay Plus option. This increases the amount to £141 for a single person, but covers you for car hire for two days, or overnight accommodation, depending on your circumstances. These different levels of cover are now branded Option 100 for the most basic to Option 400 to the most comprehensive. You can also opt for joint cover, which works in at approximately £20 more than single cover. With the AA, the driver is covered and not the car, and so you can be driving in any car, not your own, and still be covered. You can actually opt for a Vehicle based cover, where any driver is covered for one vehicle too, if you prefer that option. Family memberships are also available, and these are great value if there are several drivers in a household. You can include up to two children under 21, providing they reside at the same address. This option costs between £96 for Option 100, to £209 for Option 400. It is also worth noting that these prices quoted are for continuous cover. This means that you authorise the AA to take an annual direct debit for your membership each year. One off, annual memberships do cost slightly more. You can opt for monthly payments for your membership, but this does incur an interest charge, currently over 24% APR. The AA is now part of the Centrica group, and it is possible to part pay for membership with reward points from the Goldfish credit card, which is another member of the group. The AA offers a wide range of motoring related services for members and non members, including detailed route planning on line, car inspections, loans, European breakdow n cover, accomm odation bookings and insurance. Being a member qualifies for you for selected discounts on additional services, with up to 7.5% discount on some of their car insurance panel. Their website is www.theaa.com, and many services can be booked and paid for on-line. Happy Motoring! Helen Bradshaw April 2003
I should really update my Clio RSi op, as I called it "Cheap Performance." However, having owned the car for 8 months, I have spent approximately £1,200 on repairs and modifications(!) Having spent so much and having got my car through its MOT (without any further cost,) I assumed my car was pretty reliable+ I have been a member of the AA for some time (on and off a total of about 7 years). When I lived at home with my parents, I was included on their AA cover as a 'family member,' and so my card said "Member since 1983" on it (even though I wasn't 17 until 1994). Now a member in my own right, I had cause to ring the AA for the first time recently. I had noticed that just after rainy weather, or when there was a fine drizzle in the air, my car seemed to lose power, particularly when I was driving up hills. I had mentioned this to people at work, and on tooyoo, and had many suggestions as to the possible cause, such as the clutch, water in the distributor cap, spark plugs and all sorts. I found that if I could get sufficient acceleration, I managed okay, and once I had been driving more than a few miles, the problem disappeared. So, I had forgotten my car had a problem, and I was therefore very surprised when one day, out of the blue, it cut out at a roundabout. This was a fairly busy roundabout, but I remained calm and tried the ignition again. When nothing happened, I put on my warning lights, jumped out of the car and somehow pushed it onto the pavement surrounding the roundabout. I'm not quite sure, on reflection, how I managed this! Annoyingly, nobody came to help me, so I guess I must have looked like I was ok! I was still half hanging over the outside lane of the roundabout, but traffic was moving past me reasonably. I rang the AA (the number being clearly marked on the back of my card) who confirmed my address and my current location (though my mind went blank and it took me a whil e to recall the street and roundabout name.) It was a drizzly day and apparently there were many call-outs and I would have to wait some time. It was 11am on a weekday and I may have to wait 2 hours! It was absolutely freezing cold too, but I was assured that, as a woman on my own and because I was partly blocking the road, I would get priority treatment. I was told I would need to show my AA card as well as another form of ID. I asked whether a credit card would do and was assured that this was fine. After 40 minutes, I received a text message to say that the recovery vehicle was on its way to me. I was impressed by this, as I was beginning to wonder just how long I would be sitting there. A few minutes later, the AA man rang me and asked whereabouts I was on the roundabout. Very shortly afterwards, I saw the AA van coming down the hill towards me. All in all it took him about 55 minutes to get to me after my initial call. Given that they were very busy and I was told up to 2 hours, I was satisfied with their response time. During this time, I tried the key in the ignition several times. The last time I tried it, it sounded better and I thought that perhaps it would start soon. When the AA man arrived, he didn't ask about anything to do with the car until he had checked my identification and seen my AA card. Annoyingly for me, when he turned the key in the ignition, it started first time! I felt a bit silly, but he assured me that Renault Clios often have problems with their ECUs/electronic chips and that this was what it seemed to be, given the problems I'd been having in wet weather. When water gets in, they misbehave. He said he had seen this problem many times and that there was nothing he could have done, had my car not started when he tried it. The units themselves are too complex to be opened at the roadside, and generally the whole unit needs replacement or servicing by an auto-electrician. Apparently a brand new ECU would cost in the region of £500! I'm not sure whether this was actually the problem, as he insisted that the problem would get worse and that I would have to get it sorted soon. Since then, it has only felt temperamental once, and hasn't broken down in the two months that have passed since I called out the AA. However, I was pleased that he followed me to my destination, to ensure I got there safely. +++Option 100+++ All in all, I was impressed by the service I received. I thought it was good value for money for £43 on the basic "Option 100." There is a limit to how many times you can call them out in a year, termed as "high service use" by the AA, but if you call them out the maximum number of times (6,) each callout only costs about £7. £43 is no small sum, but is peace of mind, especially if you own an older car. The benefits of Option 100 are that the AA will fix your car at the roadside or tow you to the nearest AA recommended garage. The main drawback is that if you break down at home, they won't come to your aid. I've heard of several people pushing their cars more than 1/4 mile from their house, just so that they can get the AA out. At present, if you take out Option 100, you get 1 free home start included for the year. This has got to be a good deal, as the only other AA option with "Home Start" included costs £115 ("Option 300.") Additionally, if you pay by direct debit, you save £5, making the basic cost of cover £38 for the year. +++Option 200+++ This is the same as Option 100, but the AA will take you and up to 7 passengers to any one UK mainland destination (relay). So if you're travelling somewhere and break down, the AA will take your car to be fixed at an approved garage (if they can't fix it at the roadside) and take you and your passengers to your original (or alternative) destination, as you choose. The cost of this is £82 (or £72 if you pay by direct debit.) +++Option 300+++ As I previously mentioned, you get Home Start with Option 300, as well as the benefits of Option 100 and 200.) Any time you break down at home, the AA will come and attend to your car (so long as you haven't reached high service use.) However, the AA will not relay you to any UK mainland destination if you break down at home. The cost of this top of the range service is £115, or £100 if you pay by direct debit. +++Joint cover+++ Joint cover costs more, but not as much as twice the single cover. In each case, it costs approximately £20 more to add on a joint member. If you compare this with the RAC, (perhaps the next largest breakdown service) who don't charge anything for a joint membership (as long as that person lives in your household,) the RAC seem to have the edge over the AA. The RAC do similar cover to Options 100, 200 & 300, being Roadside, Roadside & Recovery and Roadside & At Home at pretty much the same prices as the AA (give or take £3-4 in each case, not taking direct debit discounts into account.) If I was taking out a joint membership, I would go with the RAC, although the AA reckon they have the largest breakdown patrol force, with over 3,700 patrols. +++RAC or AA?+++ Further benefits of the RAC include being able to use your RAC card throughout the year at Moto service stations to get a 20% discount on all purchases (except fuel and cigarettes.) However, if you are a member of the AA, you will get a reduction on their other services, such as car insurance. I am shortly to renew my breakdown membership and seeing as I wish to have a single membership, I will choose AA Option 100 because of the 1 free 'home start' deal they are currently offering. Although I was pleased with the service I received, I didn't find the AA service to be exceptional. If it were not for the free home start offer, I would choose RAC membership for the 20% off Moto card and free additional membership for others in my household benefits. (+ Probably best to say here that the word 'cheap' related to the cost of the car, being such a good performer, rather than relating to the cost of maintenance etc.)
What would you do if it was late at night, and there was smoke pouring out from under the bonnet of your car? You are alone, and there are no other cars about, only the distant lights of a garage forecourt save you from being engulfed in complete darkness?.would you scream? I wouldn?t, and not just because I am brave?I would call The AA. The AA are now so much more than just a breakdown company, the range of products they offer is vast. They now offer breakdown cover, car, home and travel insurance, loans, a hotel booking service, information service, a wide range of books and travel guides and a brand new and used car buying service, as well as having bought all of the Halford?s service centres and rebranded them all under The AA name. Now that they are owned by Centrica, the company seem to be growing at a rapid rate. The membership product which they offer gives you breakdown cover, and on first glance there seems to be so many options that your head starts to spin, but as they all build on each other, they are really simple to understand, and you can choose personal cover (where you are covered no matter what car you are a driver or passenger in), or vehicle based cover (where your car is covered no matter who is driving it). Option 100 is the most basic level of cover. This covers you more than ¼ mile from your home address, and if the patrol cannot repair your vehicle, then you will be taken to your home address or a garage whichever is nearer. Option 200 has everything from Option 100, with the added benefit of Relay, which means if the patrol could not repair your vehicle then you and up to 7 passengers will be relayed with your vehicle to any one UK mainland destination. Option 300 has everything from Option 200, with the added benefit of Homestart, so if you break down at or within ¼ mile of your home address you will be covered. If the patrol cannot repair your vehicle, you will be entitled to a local recover y to a garage. Option 400 has everything from Option 300 with the added benefit of Relay Plus. In the event that the patrol cannot repair your vehicle, and you invoke the Relay part of your membership, you can then choose to have either a a hire car for 48 hours, overnight accomodation or onward travel. All of those options can be Personal or Vehicle, and if personal is chosen, you can then choose either single (only named member), joint (member and another person resident at the same address) or family (member, joint member and up to 2 other people resident at the same address aged under 21.) You can choose to pay via a one off payment, or monthly direct debit for which you pay 13.62% interest, and the prices start from £40 for Single Personal Option 100. I have Option 300 family cover, and my 2 year old daughter is covered even though she does not drive. It means that if she is out in the car with a relative then they are covered if they breakdown. In the last year I have needed to call the AA out 3 times, and they have always arrived promptly, and repaired my fault, which ranged from cracked radiator to a binded break The patrols are always friendly, and they have chatted with my wife and I and made us feel very reassured. I would never change companies, because they have been so impressive. I have also now taken out their new Parts and Labour product for only £48. If I breakdown and I need to be taken to a garage to have the car repaired, I would normally be left with the repair bill, but with this product I am covered for £500 worth of parts and labour, and all I pay is a £25 excess. I can claim 3 times in a year, which I think is excellent value. The AA have the largest patrol force (3700 at the last count) compared to all of it?s rivals, and the average time to get to you is 35 minutes after you call, which I think is highly impressive, and on the number of occasions I have had to use them they ha ve always arrived within this time. They also repair 80% of vehicles at the roadside, but there has not been one occasion when they have not been able to repair the fault on my car to enable me to carry on my journey. All of the above facts are backed up by the 2002 JD Power Survey, which ranked The AA in 1st position ahead of the RAC. (Results can be seen at www.jdpower.com). More information on all the products mentioned can be found on the website which is www.theaa.com
I feel a little mean writing a slightly negative review based on just one experience, seeing as in the past and for many users, the AA is an absolute godsend. So read this with the proviso that I think that their overall service is second to none and well worth the money. I took out an insurance policy with them on another car that I own and got a twelve-month complimentary membership. Now, in some people?s eyes I guess that you could say that, as my membership was gratis I should not really be moaning, but I only took out the very slightly more insurance expensive cover because it had the free AA membership included. Ok, on to the ?incident?. I was driving along in my car about two miles from my home when all of a sudden I lost power steering, power assist on the brakes, most electrical functions and, most worrying, the temperature gauge shot almost to the top of the red band. As luck would have it I was turning off the road into the DIY store that was my ultimate destination so was able to come to rest and turn off the engine. Further investigation and prodding around inside the engine gave me no clue (it is a big engine and I have no real knowledge on the internals of cars). So I called the AA. They even sent me a little text message letting me know when the patrolman would arrive. I was suitably impressed and somewhat hopeful that when he turned up (all within twenty minutes) he would wave his magic tools at my car and it would miraculously revive itself. This, obviously, didn?t happen. The patrolman then had me drive the car (with no power anything it was a right pain) over the road to the halfords/ AA service centre. They very obligingly let me stow the car there overnight and the AA man took family and me home again. Ok, so far so fairly marvellous. Next day, turn up at Halfords AA service centre to be told, hmmmm (much sucking of teeth) it?s a Saab and the drive belt has gone, going to be expensive this, cannot do it for a few days, have to orde r the parts, etc. Needless to say I needed the car quicker than that so rang around the local Saab dealerships and managed to find one in Southport, which is fifteen miles away. Cool, I thought, rang back the AA and they said, nope, too far away, you only have basic cover and that means within 11 miles only. I protested mildly and was told, sorry, could not help. Then had a whispered consultation with the staff at the service centre and they stated that the garage ?might? be within 11 miles, give or take. So, rang back the AA and, after a little persuasion, they agreed to come out and pick up the car to transport it to the Saab service centre. As it was, the service centre turned out to be 12.1 miles away but the guys in the tow truck told me not to worry, so I didn?t! So, in overall conclusion, the service was great right up to the point where they told me I did not have the right cover to tow my car more than 11 miles, had I known this I would have upgraded the service beforehand. It?s a minor gripe, but I think you would agree it adds objectivity to an otherwise positive opinion. Thanks for reading *Begin update* Ok, so tonight my wife managed to fill her car with diesel. Not normally a problem except when your car is petrol driven. So, we managed to siphon all the diesel out (gave it to the nearest taxi driver, he could not believe his luck, it was £25 worth). When we put some petrol in, of course, the car would not start, so i called the AA out. Here is the good part, he was there within 15 minutes and, rather than simply tow me to the nearest garage where they would have charged about £100 to drain and clean the carburettor, spent nearly an hour with me attempting to get the damm thing going. I think that this, coupled with his very friendly manner, equates to service above and beyond what i would normally expect, so AA get a gold star from me. *end update*
D’oh! Dunnit again. Left the lights on this morning went back to the car at lunch so we could go home and collect hubby’s gym stuff but the battery’s flat! (Between you and me, I reckon that Mr Fishbulb turned the lights on so we didn’t have to go to the gym) Anyhoo, since about May(ish) this is the 4th time we’ve left the lights on on our car when we’ve hopped out to work – maybe we’re so committed to our jobs the second we get to the car-park that’s all we can think about or maybe it’s because the little beeping thing that tells us we’ve left the lights on stopped working (hmm… this was also about May this year – what a co-incidence. Back to today, after Mr Fishbulb got cross with Mrs Fishbulb, L I remembered something about ‘Green Flag’ cover – I think Mr F got it included with his bank account. Turns out, after a bit of searching on the internet and a few swift telephone calls to LloydsTSB that we are covered by the AA! Cool I thought as I shivered and remembered the day we got stuck in the rain for three hours after work and STILL didn’t get the car going! LOL. One quick phone call later and after repeating the names of the streets where our car was currently residing we were told “someone will be with you within the hour – wait by the car” So, off we trot, Mr & Mrs F hand in hand into the sunset….oh no that’s not right, we scurried across the (never ending) car park in the rain, without coats or brollies L and sat and waited in the car. Even though Mr & Mrs Fish have only been married for 11 months they soon ran out of things to talk about and decided to play games with their mobile phones rather than have a strained conversation. Mr Fish was playing his game when he was interrupted by a “Bzzzz” someone had sent him a text – but who? Not Mrs Fish!! IT was the AA, an automated message telling us that the patrol man was on his way and gave a time that he would be with us by. The time they estimated he would be with us was 14:20 – now we had only made the initial call to the AA at 13:45 – Brilliant! At 14:10 we received a telephone call from the patrol man who was right the way at the other side of the centre of town (don’t worry, it’s just three straight roads, didn’t take him long to get to us) he had been given the wrong street details after we had explained several times and spelled out the names of the streets where we were. He was a pleasant man, we gave him directions and within a matter of moments he was with us. Boy was I pleased to see that bright yellow van – that’s the great thing about these guys, they might not see you, but they’re difficult NOT to spot so I started jumping up and down in the middle of the road waving frantically. (Mr Fishbulb was not too impressed) A rather happy man hopped out of the AA truck, (obviously after stopping it) and after a brief explanation as to my idiocies, he grabbed this huge……. (hehehehe… for the ruder readers, insert pun here) … metal contraption which was not unlike a giant metal brief case with jump leads on it. I thought that we might have problems starting the car as it was parked quite tightly between two others and you would have needed rather a long set of jump cables to get it going. Luckily he had this device to aid him. He hooked it up to our car and within about 3 seconds (I kid yee not) he’d started it and was packing up to leave. We were kindly reminded that we shouldn’t leave our lights on when we’re not driving and given the advice to “drive around for a bit, charge her up” All things said, I cannot fault this service, they were quick, well within the time promised, polite, helpful and most importantly did t he job! COVER TYPES & COSTS Cover with the AA starts from just £40, so even if we didn’t have this free cover I would definitely join. They have four main types of cover package. Option 100, Option 200, Option 300 and Option 400. OPTION 100 Roadside cover – simply that as long as you are at least a quarter of a mile away from your home they’ll come out and sort your car out. Fix it or take it to the nearest garage or to your home. Single £40 Joint £58 Family £96 OPTION 200 Roadside & Relay. You get everything that Option 100 has to offer along with free transportation for you and up to six other people to any destination in UK (assuming that they can’t fix your car at the roadside!) Single £79 Joint £99 Family £139 OPTION 300 Roadside, Relay & Home start. You get everything that Option 200 gives you as well as….go on, guess, yeah you’re right. Home start. For those of you (like me) who leave the lights on at home too when you hop out of the car in the evening. Single £112 Joint £134 Family £176 OPTION 400 Roadside, Relay, Home Start and Extended Relay. Guess what you get with this cover well, the same as Option 300 plus a courtesy car if yours in not repairable along with a night in a hotel if you need it. Single £141 Joint £165 Family £209 If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure you are I’d probably recommend Option 100 or Option 200. (I have been known in the past to push my car about half a mile away from my house so that I could call the RAC out!) LOL – luckily I live at the very end of a very straight street that’s on a slight hill. Obviously it’s ‘horses for courses’ and if you travel a lot via airports for example for business then perhaps Option 300 or Option 400 are better suited to you. But for your aver age schmuck then you can’t really grumble for £40 for roadside assistance. The one thing I would recommend is, changing your roadside cover yearly for example from AA to RAC then back again. My RAC cover was £89 last year and to re-new my cover £85 but as a ‘new member’ they were offering the exact same cover for £39 – I did ask them why, but they failed to answer me. So generally, as a new member, you can reap the benefits of a discounted membership. Also, did you know that if you use your cover it puts up your premium. So if you called your roadside assistance people out 6 times during the course of your membership, they then put your cover up for the next year – a bit like car insurance. This is something they often omit to tell you – so make the most of your cover and just change companies when it runs out. I have always had RAC cover (apart from this year when it ran out just after Christmas and I couldn’t afford to re-new it) but have never found their service to be of a particular high standard. I was left waiting in the snow the Christmas before last for nearly 5 hours. My mobile battery had gone dead, I also only had a T-shirt on and I asked if I could wait by a telephone box in the shopping centre (which I was parked next to and they said no, I had to be by the car – if the patrolman turned up and I wasn’t there he’d have to go on to the next person and I’d have to ring up again and re-book him) In conclusion (PHEW, I can hear you thinking!) The AA have offered an excellent service to us today, with some nice touches like the text to say they were on the way so we didn’t have to wait in the rain. You can find full details of types of cover at Http://www.theaa.co.uk they don’t just do Breakdown cover these days, you can get all sorts of advice on the website on driving, travel news hotels, holidays – you can even set up traffic news t o be delivered to your mobile via SMS! As well as all this they also offer loans & car inspections – if their breakdown service is any guide at all this is definitely a website I’ll be visiting in the future before setting off on any journeys. I would happily recommend them and am so very glad we’ve got their cover. Now, I’ve got this horrible feeling I’ve forgotten something…….
Never ever did I think I should ever join any organisation which would rescue me in any way... My first car was a G reg Cavalier, which completed 130K miles before I sold it on 3 years back then I had a H reg Sierra TD which had 134 on the clock before it decided to give up the ghost just around the time I was changing it anyway...Now I have a Peugeot 306 XND, a M reg machine....with 113K on the clock just now. I'm confident it won't break down, it done 110 miles per day up until recently when my job moved.... So why did I join the AA... The other half has a Corsa, T reg with 30K on the clock....both of us drive it.... Last year she called her AA club out 4 times.....everytime they fixed it at the road/house.... The faults I here you ask of? Locked keys in car, dead battery -radio left on, dead engine -drove through a little puddle in the road and finally my favourite in a friends car which died and she called her AA club to get them to sort it which they did - loose wire... So I never thought about it, being a bloke and all...cough splutter...then I met a RAC person selling their memberships and they had a 2 for 1 offer, My partner's was due for renewal and the AA offered a better deal for the 2 of us.... Hence I'm a member of the AA.... I'm sure that all the organisation have there good and bad points as well as people reporting bad service at times, it happens lets be honest!!! I'm not getting any money for promoting the AA here but lets put it this way I have never had any issues with either the AA or RAC and so would opt for one of these. I worked for a No.1 retailer and if you breakdown in their carparks or petrol stations you can call the RAC, I always watched the way the RAC dealt with the call and subsequent visit and deem them to be of the same level of assistance as the AA. Some of the other breakdown organisati ons only offer a rescue facility and some small print is worth reading... Better to join before you do break down as if you leave it until then it would cost you more to join...
We joined the AA last year and paid £75 for an admittedly fairly good servuce. We used thm once when we had just moved. But we hadn't rung them to update our address details so we told the nice friendly AA man this and he took all the details down. Or so we thought. But then last month we bought a nice new car that had 3 years AA cover as a free extra, so of course we didnt need to pay anymore. Anyay we hadn't received anything from them so didn't think anything of it. The the other day we noticed that £75 had been taken outm of our account!! After many phone calls to our bank and to the AA it transpired that they did no have our correct details after all so a reminder letter had been sent to our old address, and when they had not received a reply they assumed we still wanted the service. So to cut a long story short they eventually refunded us just £57!! What a rip off!
I have been with the AA for over 11 years as both a motorcyclist and car driver. I have always received prompt and courteous service in the half dozen or so times I have used them. Advantages Service beyond the call of duty: One Sunday morning I found that my BMW 316 would not start and obviously had a flat battery. I called the AA and within 45 minutes a patrolman arrived. The day before my car had been in for a service and had a front foglight assembly replaced. I was suspicious that my flat battery was linked to this in some way and informed the patrolman of this. The patrolman confirmed that I did indeed have a flat battery and that it was not holding any charge and would need replacing. He then spent a good fifteen minutes checking over the cars electrical circuits to ensure that there were no shorts etc. Once he was certain that all was OK he stated that he did not have an appropriate battery on his van but would jump start my car and lead me to a garage that should have one in stock. Bearing in mind it was a Sunday morning and I live in a fairly sleepy town I was not confident of finding anywhere open. However I followed the AA Van to an ATS about 3 miles from my home. The patrolman waited while a battery was fitted, ensured everything was OK and also made sure that I got the AA 10% discount on the battery! (AA members get this discount on everything at ATS) I was extremely satisfied with this level of service and have not yet had a bad experience with the AA. Disadvantages The AA is not the cheapest recovery service around although joint membership is better value for money and the fact that you are covered rather than the car can come in useful if you're travelling in someone elses car as a driver or passenger. Overall I believe that value for money is more important when selecting a recovery service than mere price.
I am gnashing my teeth in rage & frustration over the sheer arrogance of the AA Insurance services. I must, therefore, point out that this opinion IS in regard to the AA in general, but with specific reference to the insuarance 'branch' of the service. Now, if you were to buy a bus pass, or a train ticket, or anything that has a subscription period , ( other than the Readers Digest, of course, because you will NEVER EVER get rd of that esteemed journal once it sinks its corporate hooks into your post code!), and then discover that you no longer require the services for which you have pre-paid, then you simply cancel your subscription. Hey Presto! What then happens is that what remains of your money is returned to you, albeit often with a little something deducted for administration etc. Fine & dandy, UNLESS you happen to insure with the AA, that is! I had occasion to be forced ionto changing my car insurance from one organised by the AA, as they imposed a ridiculous series of petty restriction and cumbersome hoops that I, a mature, safe, convictionless driver, had to jump through in order to obtain insurance for a fresh car, simply due to the higher performance of the new car. I therefore sought cover elsewhere and was most pleased to discover I was able to arrange insurance by telephone, with better cover, more comprehensive radio, glass, travelling abroad and excess for a LESSER annual premium than the AA sponsored one I had held previously. The crunch came, though, when I rang the AA to cancel my insurance, only to be told that despite having 5 MONTHS of my cover left to run, I would not receive one penny back, as I had not held a policy with them before! If I had held a previous policy then would be able to recieve some of my money back. I consider this to be blatantly unfair and discriminatory, and am minded to pursue this through official channels, ( I probably won't though, as I will lose momemtum once my anger has diss ipated a little). The thing is, I like the AA, I have found each and every patrol person that I have had occasion to deal with to be efficient, courteous and professional. It is the beauraucratic element of this patronising, nanny-state like organisation that irritates me. The letters that you recieve that tell you snottily that you have used the service 4 times this year, once more and you will be expected to pay and will, furthermore, be paraded around the streets wearing a sandwich board stating ' I ABUSED THE AA'! So, the moral of this opinion is, use the AA for what they are good at, ( breakdowns), DO NOT use them for anything else, as they are not so good. 'The Third Emergency Service' ? ? ? I don't thnk so!
I can’t believe it? Since joining this breakdown organisation almost a year ago I have found cause to call them out to my rescue twice in the last fortnight! Below is detailed the first call for help, which at the time of writing was the only time. But before I had a chance to post this op I find myself rewriting some of it to tell you all about my second encounter with one of Ray’s buddies, (confused? You will be!!!) Read on…. We had never seen the need to join the AA before. Hubby is a skilled mechanic and is able to diagnose and fix most of the ailments that our various vehicles have had. But as we began to venture further afield on our forays to various Trials biking events, as some of you will know by now both hubby and smallest son partake in this sport, that we began to consider joining up. I did question the validity of doing so, arguing that, as he was such a good mechanic wouldn’t it just be throwing money away? He replied that “Yes” he could fix most things but, “What would happen if we were miles away from home, ie: on the way to Cornwall for our holiday with the car well loaded, 2 Trials bikes on trailers and it just so happened that I am not able to fix it?” result: three very disappointed ex-holiday makers and a whacking garage bill to pay for towing us home! I had to admit that he had a good point so he went ahead and contacted the AA, selected his preferred option. I believe that there are at least 4 options to choose from, all giving you varying degrees of breakdown cover. These range from the basic cover which will mean that they either fix your car for you on the spot or get you to the nearest garage or home if they can’t, and the all singing, dancing option whereby they will either put you up in a hotel or loan you a car for the next 48 hours until you are able to get your vehicle fixed. I believe they operate in Europe too? But do check this out on their web site. I went to ‘ask jeeves’ and forgot to note it down…sorry!! I am happy to say that the Cornwall holiday passed without any vehicular hitches, asides from the fact that the lads up-ended their bikes several times (sometimes in streams!) but the AA couldn’t sort that one out! However for the first time last week I had cause to call out the “fourth emergency service”! After finishing work I decided to pop in to visit my Gran who lives the other side of town. I stayed for an hour or so and then said my goodbyes (Boy I don’t half waffle when I have a story to tell, don’t I! I bet you are all thinking that right now!!) so I jumped into my little old Peugeot and turned the key….nothing!! Huh?? I mean it was turning over, just not firing up. I then progressed from talking nicely to her, to shouting, ending in, “You poxy F****** car!!!” turning around to see my Dad, who lives next door to Gran, standing there..oops! He had a go too, thinking no doubt that I was totally clueless when it came to starting up my own car, bless! But it wasn’t going to play for him either. Nah nah nee nah nah!! So I then had a brainwave, ring the AA!!! Digging into the depths of my Shaun the sheep rucksack I found my virginal AA card and went into Dads house to ring them. The system was very straightforward with the nice lady at the other end of the line asking me a few questions, like my card number (hey I am well used to that when I use my other plastic friends!!) make and colour of car and location, of course. She then informed me that assistance would be with me within the hour. I had told her that I was safe inside a house and that I would not be with my car, so she took my Dads ‘phone number for the AA man to let me know when he was there! Less than an hour later I was happily ensconced in a conversation with Ray, the AA man, our heads under the bonnet! He diagnosed an e lectrical fault, Yes I had thought that was what it was…I did honest! He said that it might work if he took the offending part out and gave it a clean but he wasn’t all that happy to do that in case it packed up again on my way home. So he asked me where I lived and said he would take my car home and me. He had spoken to my hubby on my mobile, at my request so that he could tell him what the fault was. I mean I am a woman (although not blonde but very definitely scatty) and I wasn’t going to remember all the technical terms now, was I?!! So I got a ride home in the cab of a big yellow AA van with my ‘baby’ up on the ‘specs’ behind me! The whole thing had taken less than 2 hours from my first calling them to me being on my way home, albeit not the way I would have chosen! I am pleased to say that the problem with the car wasn’t terminal and although Ray had said that it was going to cost about £90 to replace the faulty part (Yikes all the writing I was going to have to do on here to raise that kind of money!) hubby managed to fix it within an hour of me being home! And she is still running beautifully, Kaz says with the legs tightly pressed against the ‘wooden’ computer desk! Although hubby was able to fix it at the end, he surely would not have been able to diagnose it in the first place. See there are myriads and myriads of electrical diagnostic equipment available these days, much of which hubby does not own, having graduated from the self-taught school of mechanics where the only tools needed were a spanner and a jack! So I now start to tell you about the second meeting with the nice men in the yellow vans. I will try to make it a bit shorter, I promise! I had left work and once again was on my way to visit my Gran, only this time I didn’t even get as far as her house! Picture if you will: rush hour traffic on a town’s busy by-pass. Add to that picture a w hite Peugeot saloon, windows wide open, stereo on full blast sat patiently waiting in a huge queue of traffic. Try NOT to picture this scatty woman at the wheel humming away tunelessly! Ok time to move, albeit a bit slowly, clutch in, go to change gear and then…Crack!!! Bloody hell!! Where the **** has the clutch pedal gone?? Mild panic sets in!! Quick hazards on, you ain’t going anywhere just yet gal! I was stricken!! I realised that some cable or adjoining mechanism to the clutch pedal had obviously snapped!! Not having been taught how to drive off without using the clutch, as I am now reliably informed is possible but NOT AT ALL RECOMMENDED!! I had no choice but to stay put! My panic subsided a little when I realises that all I had to do was to get out my little bit of plastic (which at this time was far more important to me than any of the other bits pf plastic nestling there!) and ring for help. My panic soon came to the front again when I discovered that I had forgotten to recharge my mobile up the previous night, d’oh!! I the decided it might be prudent to get my car a little bit nearer to the kerb so I proceeded to push her, unaided. It saddens me in this day and age that not one person stopped to offer me help….? I was rescued by a very delicious looking member of the public who happened to be walking past at the time and offered me the use of his mobile. Now here I feel I ought to add that if you are in a strange town and you break down and have cause to call for assistance from a breakdown organisation, may I recommend that you take note of some of the road signs around you, or familiar landmarks? I have lived in this town all my life but dooyoo think I could tell the woman at the other end of the ‘phone exactly where I was!!!! Descriptions like, ‘there is a field and a river at one side of me’ followed by ‘lots of roundabouts’ do not explain your location very well at all to someone in a head office, probably the other side of the country at all well!! Add to that, ‘I am standing by my car, it is a broken down white Peugeot with its hazards on’ do not help either! What did I think they were going to do? Scramble a helicopter to search for me? But I was in a state of minor panic by now, and just wasn’t thinking straight. Yes to be fair it is debatable that I ever do!!! The lady in the AA office said she would telephone my husband to let him know. Thank god she did, cos’ when he rang me a few seconds later, on my mobile, just before the battery light flickered and dimmed, I was able to screech at him. ‘I am halfway between North Station and The Avenue of Remembrance’!! Where did that come from??? I had just spent almost half an hour on a strangers mobile ‘phone (my Samaritan had now disappeared, having been assured by me that I was now fine thank you) not knowing where the hell I was!!! Fortunately it wasn’t much longer before ‘Ray’s mate’ arrived at the scene! He towed me to a safer place where he could have a look at he clutch. That was a hairy moment too! I have never driven so close behind another vehicle before, it was like being blind; I couldn’t see a thing except the immediate back of the AA van! I was very lucky in that he was able to fix it there and then in less than half an hour, the whole thing had taken a lot longer this time on account of my temporary ‘blonde moment’ in the direction giving! Steady on all you blondes, I am only kidding! So the morale of this story is, and I have nearly finished honest!: I would recommend you join the AA (or indeed any other breakdown organisation, but the AA is my choice) if you intend to travel any distance. I NEVER thought I would have the need of them. Be aware of where you are!! Keep your mobile topped up with credit…and fully charged! ! So this last couple of weeks has been very interesting for me. Two very nice men, as well as a hunky passer by have rescued me, in the short space of a fortnight!! Hmmm….now could I make a habit of this?? Only kidding!!!! Thank you for staying with me to the end, and I promise that I will try to make my next op not quite so long!! Kazzie!!