Get me out of AAA renewal hell, please!

Question: I recently received a letter from AAA saying that my membership was due on Jan. 1. However, I was not to return the statement because “annual dues will be charged to your credit card.” This is the procedure that had been in effect for years.

In December, I received a telephone call from an AAA representative, informing me that the company was unable to process the membership dues through my AAA-branded Bank of America credit card despite trying twice to charge my card. I asked AAA to try again, and to call me if they were unable to charge my card. I did not receive a phone call.

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A few weeks later, I received a letter stating that I was to pay my dues directly because Bank of America would not take the membership fee from my AAA credit card. I did. Then I discovered that AAA had billed my card, too. When I asked for a refund, it told me it couldn’t do that — they could only send me vouchers which could be applied to my membership purchase.

The complete lack of articulation between Bank of America and AAA is astounding. I spent the better part of a morning on the phone with AAA, but nothing has been resolved. Several days ago, I received a letter from AAA asking me to renew my membership — again. Help! — Ruth Marino, Philadelphia

Answer: What a mess. AAA should have been able to deduct your membership directly from your credit card (disclosure: I’m a longtime AAA member, and that’s how it works for me). When it couldn’t, the member organization should have offered a clear path to fixing it, instead of forcing you to spend hours on the phone.

I try to avoid using terms like “Kafkaesque” in describing the bureaucratic problems consumers face, but in your case I just can’t help myself. This is as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

You’d think the fact that you had a AAA credit card would make a difference, but when you hear what happened, you’ll see that it doesn’t. According to AAA, your auto-renew didn’t work because of “keying errors” — in other words, someone typed in the wrong card number or expiration date. By the time the error was fixed, you had already put the charge on another card.

It’s not immediately clear if the policy of offering refunds through vouchers was AAAs or Bank of America’s, and at this point, it doesn’t really matter. The refund should have been immediate, and in real money, not vouchers that must be used for a limited number of products and services.

Calling AAA didn’t make much sense. You need a paper trail, and the only evidence of your problem was a fairly detailed letter to the agency, which, though reasonably polite, was not concise. Such letters are often ignored because of their length.

AAA apologized, credited your account for the $110 overpayment and added 5,000 points to your AAA card.

Did AAA do enough for Ruth Marino?

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