The Assmobile Association

9 09 2007

Charlie changed to the AA last year, solely because they offer a roadside recovery service for deaf customers via mobile phone text. Despite all the technological advances with hearing aids etc, he and his wife Ros just cannot use a phone or mobile – so in the past they have had to suffer the palaver of texting someone else to phone AA / RAC / Green Flag or whatever and communicating via a third party – time consuming, frustrating, and prone to problems.

So Charlie thought, AA cater for me – I won’t have to rely on someone else.

The AA was put to the test on 9th July one late evening in atrocious weather, it was raining cats and dogs, gale force winds – the lot. On the M11 Ros had a tyre blow out, not the nicest experience – but she didn’t know what it was at that point, just that the car went bananas, there was a horrendous noise, vibration and loss of steering control (the car didn’t tilt funny enough so she didn’t think it was a tyre blowout at the time). Fortunately she wasn’t going very fast due to weather, so she pulled over. As she was near an exit, she coaxed the car off the M11 as she didn’t want to be stuck on the hard shoulder. It was dark, awful weather and all that – dangerous, especially as there was so much surface water and a lot of cars were skidding about. She could have pulled up to a motorway emergency telephone and used that, if not adapted for deaf people it could have been left off the hook to alert the police, but of course, in the thick of it, you don’t think of all the options, do you? Especially when you have been told a service will be provided – you have an expectation, and that stops you thinking beyond their help. Being an isolated and forested area, she took what she thought was the best option available to her.

Well, Ros thought, let’s just get the AA out. Charlie was working abroad and their daughters were out. So it was up to the AA. It wasn’t a very nice place to wait, a forest on one side, an empty industrial estate on the other. Ros got in touch with the AA at about 6.30pm, she was told they were busy but they would have someone with her by 8.30pm. She told them where she was, the type of place and that she was on her own and was not very happy waiting that long, and that she could only communicate via text. She was promised they would be there as soon as possible, just due to conditions they were very busy – what can you do? They did ask if she had somewhere safe to wait – but no there wasn’t.

So she waited and waited with her Hearing Dog but there was no sign of anyone. Her mobile kept ringing, it was an anonymous number so she either ignored it, or answered it and stated “Please don’t call me, text me” – in case it was anything to do with the AA.

9pm came and went – no AA. So she chased them up and was told that their contractor had been to the location and that she wasn’t there, neither was the car! When she reiterated where she was and they double checked they had gone to the right place (which they did per landmark) and confirmed they had done so, they then told her the contractor had phoned her and said she had told them she was “in a meeting and too busy”. I won’t repeat what she said……….

Cutting a long story short, they promised a patrol – it was now 11.30pm. Ros was asked again if there was somewhere safer to wait, when she said no and that she wasn’t prepared to wait any longer in that location, they agreed she should get a cab home and what they would do is get the contractor / patrol to pick her up from home and take her on their van back to her car. They promised they would text her in ten minutes before their arrival to warn her they were on their way. Not a bad solution in the circumstances so she got a cab home, and waited and waited.

Again Ros’s mobile kept ringing, she did the same as before – she couldn’t text back as it was an anonymous number. Her home phone then started ringing, it wasn’t Typetalk so she answered it in same way. It was about 11.45pm by now and the phone woke her daughters up. They took over the phone and established it was the contractor again, demanding (apparently shouting) to know why Ros was not with the car, they were there and she wasn’t. Ros’s daughter tried to explain what had been arranged, but the contractor refused to pick Ros up.

So she got into her other car and drove down to the breakdown location. The chap put the spare on car and said it was ok to drive, even though the wheel looked ‘wonky – and still does’, made a HORRENDOUS noise which even Ross could hear, had wires and cables hanging out of the back – so no lights etc. The contractor refused to load it onto the van and return it to her home – even though she does have recovery service. She had a slight problem – 2 cars, 1 driver! After ten minutes of arguing with him, he agreed to follow her home in one car, when she left that car, he would drop her back to the other! She had to drive a car at about midnight, no lights, wonky steering, awful noise.

To cap it all the guy ‘rang’ his head office and said they’d never had a call about her car earlier, that first call was 10.30pm and she should count herself lucky they got there in about an hour or so!

She has written, faxed and emailed a complaint but thus far no joy. Despite more faxes and emails and promise to investigate within 72 hours, it’s still not answered let alone resolved – this is from 9 July.

I asked a few people what their experiences were.

* Julie broke down last year but her (hearing) husband was with her. She thought she would try out the AA text service while her husband looked at the engine. The AA replied straight away, saying they had received her text and to standby. A few minutes later the phone rang. As her husband was with her, he answered it. It was 8am on a Sunday morning and someone arrived quickly, the problem was sorted quickly so Julie never got round to questioning him about why he rang when she had originally sent a text message. If Julie had been on her own then it would have been hit or miss if she could have understood AA man on the phone.

* Dean is with the AA and has used their text number four times. He texted and got a reply within minutes – no problem whatsoever. However, after that, service went downhill. A mechanic phones after the initial text reply!

* Teresa is with the ETA (Environmental Transport Association). She says she has been very happy with them over the years. They can be contacted by text. She thinks they’re very good, they encourage people not to use their cars unnecessarily, they invest in planting trees to off-set CO2 emissions and campaign for cleaner air and greener cars, whilst the AA lobbies the government to build more roads and doesn’t really care about the environment.

With luck, inaccessibility to a breakdown service shouldn’t happen to many more deaf drivers. The Highways Agency are replacing roadside phones in England with technologically superior phones, which deaf people can use. Installation is expected to be completed by 2009.

Charlie made me laugh. He said…..

    We’ll have to get together and do a new AA advert – all those yellow jacketed men coming to the rescue singing “You’ve got a friend” then we add the subtext – “Unless you’re Deaf!” – cut to deaf person texting and mobile ringing in response!!

Have YOU had good or bad experiences as a deaf customer with the roadside services?

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6 responses

9 09 2007
Kyle

I’ve not had a problem in using the AA in the seven years I’ve used them and I used them lots!

Any text messages were responded to quickly, and it was all done purely by text messages. One time, my car won’t start and we were getting snowbound up a Scottish mountain – took them 90 minutes to scramble a 4×4 up – quite impressive considering it was whiteout!

One time, I was in a tricky location – the street names were not on their mapping system and due to the road layout, it was not easy to explain by text only to describe how to get there. Even with that, they eventually arrived to help!

Maybe the cases above were just unique in the grand scheme of text callouts for deaf customers?

9 09 2007
Diane

I have no problems in using the AA too. I use IP-Relay to contact the AA thru my sidekick pager. Again it depends on the area where I go to. It is a gift from my parents for my birthday every year!

9 09 2007
Fintan

I have never had any problem with the AA and that’s why I stuck with them.

Just bad luck really!

10 09 2007
Ewan J. MacLeod

Absolutely 100% ridiculous. AA need to get their act together. I’ll blog this for their attention on SMS Text News.

11 09 2007
SMS Text News » Archives » Stupid AA have a STUPID text messaging service

[…] The Assmobile Association « I look so I can hear…. Charlie changed to the AA last year, solely because they offer a roadside recovery service for deaf […]

11 09 2007
Mr and Mrs Mobile » Blog Archive » Stupid AA have a STUPID text messaging service

[…] The Assmobile Association « I look so I can hear…. Charlie changed to the AA last year, solely because they offer a roadside recovery service for deaf […]

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