Triple-A has been American drivers’ friend almost since U.S. roads linked the nation together. It has rescued families from flat tires and worse. It has planned millions of family vacations and sold well-regarded auto insurance. It has always skewed toward older drivers and welcomed their devoted renewal of memberships. Its employees got good benefits and stayed with the organization.
For all those reasons, it’s a shock to hear that-at least in Northern California-AAA is dumping senior employees like so much excess baggage, according to a lawsuit filed by 10 of them. At AAA’s California State Auto Club branch, successful veteran insurance agents report being fired or forced out and replaced with younger, cheaper hires and call center employees.
Drivers who have kept up their AAA memberships for decades should be steamed about this on principle. But there are practical reasons to be angry, especially for drivers with AAA auto, home or boat insurance.
The laid-off AAA insurance agents are the people you would have called if you had a policy question or problem with a claim. Or if you wanted to add your child to a policy. Or maybe just for advice-for instance about whether a rental car is covered or whether your auto insurance is good in Canada.
Where are you going to get that help now? Who you gonna call?
Your file would likely become a “house account,” often with no agent assigned. Maybe the call center kid can find your file, put you on hold and hunt for a manager to help him figure it out. The hourly workers answering the phone won’t know you from Adam.
If the same thing is going on at other AAA chapters, it’s not likely the public will know unless more lawsuits emerge.
The “why” of these dismissals is not complicated. Insurance agents get bonuses when they sell new policies and smaller yearly payments from the insurance company as policies are renewed. The agents are expected to earn your loyalty and keep you in the fold.
The senior agents service up to thousands of policies built up by sales over the years. This takes time, so they may sell fewer new policies.
By dismissing the agents, CSAA gets to keep their yearly servicing payment.
CSAA’s bet is that you won’t care enough to endure the thrash of taking your business elsewhere. The fact that anyone laid off at age 50 is unlikely to ever find a comparably paying job? Not AAA’s problem.
Layoffs off of older, higher-paid employees are nothing new in modern corporate culture. But this is a case when the fallout also harms the customer in a direct way. It’s worth thinking about before you dial the number on the AAA insurance brochure you got in the mail.
Posted by Judy Dugan, Research Director Emeritus for Consumer Watchdog