How AAA might go to A minus


In a time when companies are finding their market shares being eaten by online monsters like Google the best thing isn’t to try and duplicate the lack of features they offer but offer more features.

I was a AAA member, no longer. Why do I need them when I have Google? Sure, they offer auto coverage when I get a flat tire, but I use them most for maps for trips. Google has devastated that market. So what does AAA offer? Trip Tickets that look like they were printed on my aunt’s ink jet. These are worse than subpar. Instead AAA could offer me the best, most detailed maps and reminded me that Google can’t compete with them. AAA has not only ignored quality products it has given up a market they owned for decades when they don’t need to.

Here is one more reason AAA is no longer a company I subscribe to. When I took my kids to Disney Land we went to a highly recommended hotel by AAA in Anaheim. We stayed there long enough to find one of the worst hotels on the strip. We moved down the street to the Courtyard by Marriott and into a hotel that was nearly a condo. It went from a possibly horrible vacation at AAA three star hotel to a wonderful vacation at a great hotel.

The hotel might have been nice in the 1960s but not in 2008. What year did AAA last visit that hotel? When the company,AAA, that you rely on to give you recommendations no longer has any credibility then they are in even deeper trouble. Consumer Reports is one of the most respectable companies in America regarding their recommendations and that is because they constantly check these products and test–what about AAA?

If I was AAA I’d do the following:
1. Quality maps and services for travel. Don’t just cede to Google the mapping game. Also, GPS trip planning is another option. If I have a GPS system have your service agents program my GPS trip and all the stops from gas stations and recommended places to eat and sleep.

2. Start incorporating deep reviews by users. Not just stars and ratings. Get the ratings from members and every time they go or stay some where give them points for rating everything possible and change the actually AAA ratings based on a cumulative rating. Also, put users photos in the books and on the site–including video. Wouldn’t it be great to have member travel videos about their trips and what they did? AAA shouldn’t take reviews from non-members–that way they aren’t skewed by hotels, restaurant companies and/or their friends.

3. AAA should release their reviews internationally based on their internal reviews and member reviews. AAA should become the Consumer Reports of hotels, restaurants, family entertainment and recreation. This would then allow AAA to charge yearly travel fees for reviews, etc. only ala Consumer Reports.

4. AAA has to makeover their entire website and rethink their web approach. Customer service isn’t a bad thing so don’t only expect your users to just go online and do all the work. Older members don’t even get online. But the web is the only way to get new members. There are lots of people out there like me who do a lot of research for trips and don’t want to be disappointed.

Moral: AAA isn’t defeated yet, but if they don’t move quickly they’ll find themselves in a long line of companies like newspapers who are trying to figure out how the future came and left them wondering how they missed the boat.


  1. Hey Charlie,
    I found your blog by accident. I Googled “AAA testing GPS on customers.” I guess I’m lucky that they don’t stick too closely to the search criteria or your article on AAA wouldn’t have come up.
    I stayed for a long time checking out your other articles too, and I really like your writing style. It’s as if you were just talking to some friends sitting around the den.
    I REALLY enjoyed : What does John McCain and Exxon have in common? and sent the link to a few friends. I’ll be checking in regularly from now on. Lindy

  2. Lindy,

    Thanks for the compliment. It’s nice to know someone cares, especially when taking the time to write these posts. I hope you continue to enjoy.



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