Friday, April 26, 2013

Roadside Assistance for the Urban Advocate

So, for many people, it seems like my last post on AAA's lobbying efforts is news. Better World Club, admittedly a competitor to AAA, keeps a long list of AAA's egregious pro-car lobbying stunts, most of which have extensive third-party citations. But let's say you're convinced-- AAA is a major force for the highway lobby, and you want to give up your membership. But you also don't want to find yourself on the side of a road somewhere, with a broken-down car and no money for a massive tow-truck bill. What's an eco-conscious person to do?

The best alternative would be, of course, to give up your car altogether. Here's how to do that.

For those not ready to take the leap, one alternative is the aforementioned Better World Club. They provide similar services to AAA, including towing, maps, travel planning, and the like. Unlike AAA, they'll also cover either your motorcycle or your bicycle without a corresponding automobile membership. (For whatever reason, they won't cover your motorcycle and your bicycle without an auto membership though, which is why I'm not a member.)

Another likely possibility is your auto insurance provider. I have roadside assistance coverage on my scooter through Progressive, for something like $3 a month. Note that coverage through your auto insurer will likely only cover the insured vehicle, so if your friends give you rides in their clunker a lot, maybe stick with something else.

Finally, there are some unlikely places that might offer you roadside assistance. There are credit card providers that offer the service, as well as cell phone providers. My wife and I had-- and frequently used-- service through our cell phones through the first year of our marriage.

Ask around-- it's more likely than not that you can get roadside assistance without handing your money over to the highway lobby.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Open Letter to AAA

I got a letter in my mailbox today from the Automobile Club of Southern California. You can guess that I didn't enclose the requested registration certificate and $49 membership fee. Here's what I sent back instead:

Dear Ms. Sabins:

I received your offer of pre-selected membership in the Automobile Club of Southern California today. I note that you began your letter with "Dear Fellow Driver." I am writing now to inform you that your membership selection process has gone horribly awry. While I am an enthusiastic participant of the United Airlines MileagePlus program, from whom you seem to have gotten my address, I am not, in fact, your fellow driver. Indeed, I do not own an automobile, and I am unlikely to do so in the future. The only vehicle I'm certain to use on any given day is my bicycle, and I like it that way.

Moreover, I was a former member of your organization, and I informed your employees at the time of my reasons for leaving your organization. Collectively, the Automobile Association of America is one of the largest anti-environmental and anti-active-transportation lobbying organizations in the nation, as you are no doubt well aware. AAA has a long history of advocating against progressive transportation policy and for sprawl-inducing freeway construction, road and parking lot expansion, and subsidies for the auto and oil industries. Your organization is one of the principal foes in the fight against the catastrophic specter of global climate change, a bastion of oil-economy cronyism in a world that desperately needs more forward-looking solutions.

I also find your organization's recruiting tactics reprehensible. The average AAA member does not know about the lobbying arm of your organization. Indeed, the letter that you sent me does not speak at all about the disproportionate influence that you wield in Washington. Instead it speaks of all the benefits I will receive from membership in the Club, including gold-plated roadside assistance, maps, travel guides, DMV services, and discounts. Your organization has built itself into a lobbying powerhouse, commanding the "53 MILLION" members you so enthusiastically tout, by lying to them in order to use their membership to inflate your power in Washington. Members join for the towing, and are unknowingly used for the political ends of your organization and the industries who support you.

In conclusion, I will not be returning the enclosed registration card, along with my "bargain" of a $49 payment. Please remove me from any and all mailing lists, customer databases, and lists of "selected" new members immediately and in perpetuity.
Alethea Nelson, MA