Allstate Motor Club Teaches Me to Read Fine Print

All marketers are liars
— Seth Godin

Do you always read the fine print? I do most of the time, but not when it’s the type of fine print that comes in the mail after everything is paid for, and you’re already a member/customer.

Today Allstate Motor Club has taught me a lesson that has changed the way I approach the fine print.

After late evening shopping I decided to wash my car, and went to a local automatic car wash. Drove in, got presoaked, turned the engine off not to suck in the smell of the chemicals from the outside, got soaped up, rubbed, and mostly washed.., but when the time came for me to roll further on (for final rinse and drying) my truck wouldn’t start. I tried several times and realized that my battery has gone dead on me. What a bummer! There I am sitting in my car in the middle of the car wash, and the car wouldn’t move anywhere. So I pulled out my Allstate Motor Club “deluxe plan” membership card, and called them for help (I had this membership for almost 10 months, and they have helped me out 4 times in the past). The system didn’t recognize my membership number, and I was put through to an operator who informed me that my membership was canceled because I “used up all 4 service calls per year” that I was entitled to. “I had a limit of 4 calls per year?” – I asked. “Yes, Sir” – was her eloquent reply.

Wow. No, this is understandable from the economic standpoint (why pay for anyone’s service more than 4 times a year when you’re charging them only $1/week, or a total of $52/year?), but there are two questions that I have to the Allstate Motor Club as a marketer:

1) Why not make it explicit from the very start?

I decided to sign up with the Allstate Motor Club after receiving an invitation in the mail. Here’s the part of it that advertised the product to me:

Allstate Motor Club

About a week after signing up I received a confirmation in the mail, with 4 pages of fine print, together with the membership cards for myself and my wife. I must admit, I have not read through the 4 pages, and only now I see that on page 3 they did tell me that the use of “your emergency road or towing service benefit four (4) times within any one membership period will result in the automatic suspension of that benefit until the beginning of your next membership period”. Yes, the rule was mentioned to me. But why only after the sign up? Why are the 4 times a year (an extremely important piece of information to know, especially if I have a chance of adding “spouse and teens ages 16-18 living in [my] house”) not neither explicitly mentioned to the customer during the pre-sale, nor during the sale phase? This information is not disclosed before prospective customers at Allstate Motor Club’s FAQ page or any other generic page of their website either.

2) Why not notify the customer of the cancellation of their membership?

When my membership is canceled I’d love to find out about it before I stick my head under the soapy hood of my truck. Shoot me a text message, and email, a piece of mail, something that would inform me that I’m no longer covered by the “24-hour emergency road service benefits” any longer.

I ended up running across the street to the closest Walmart, rushing in 8 minutes before the store closing, buying a new battery, gloves, and a set of tools, and changing that battery right in the car wash. But a lesson was learned. Always, always, always read the fine print; even if it comes in the mail a week after you’ve purchased a product/service.

Edit/Note: Per Darlene’s comment made on January 20, 2010 the number of calls has now gone down from 4 to 3.

72 thoughts on “Allstate Motor Club Teaches Me to Read Fine Print”

  1. That’s too bad, especially when it comes to a lot of services, policies, etc. we enroll in, there is so much paperwork, it’s nearly impossible to read all of the info in the documents.

    Something as important as a the limit of a service such as this should have been made abundantly clear.

    Worst of all, they didn’t even notify you.

    What if you were in the mountains in the middle of winter?

    I will not be signing up with the Allstate Motor Club, thank you.

  2. “What if you were in the mountains in the middle of winter?”

    Exactly, Ron! To say that I was furious (when the voice on the other side of the line told me that they expired my membership) would be to say nothing. First, you hide the fact that there is a limit to how many times you can use the motor club benefits every year (imagine I had 5 cars in the household, and were renting a vehicle every month on business trips), and then you don’t bother notifying the client of the cancellation of service (of course! they are not your customer any longer; so why bother?)

  3. ever do the math and realize folks like you who need their assistance 5 times in 10 months are not the customers they want? better yet, they would go out of business with customers like you expecting hundreds/if not thousands of dollars worth of service for a mere $52 a year…… I bet I know who you voted for last November, GOOD DAY!

    1. You have to read “all” the rules and they can change on ya. I had AAA for a while but used up my services way to soon every year. The other options AAA had did not fill my needs at the price I wanted to pay. So I switched to Allstate which did have the options I wanted. It is a fact that “nowadays especially”, “You Get What You Pay FOR”. There are no real deals that pay off in the long run. I pay $16.50 a month in order to get the services I want from Allstate Motor Club. I have had Allstate for five years now. It is working for me, for now. Insurance is insurance and we need to stay on top of our policy’s.

  4. Robert,

    While I do not appreciate the tone, I thank you for your comment. It’ll help me reiterate the main point behind my post.

    You’re right on the money — if there’s isn’t money in it for the business, why do it? This part I understand 100%. The part that I do not (and will not) understand is why not disclose this to the customer prior to receiving the payment. C’mon! An agreement tucked into the envelope with your membership confirmation which you receive a week after paying the money is not a transparent way of doing business. That’s where problem is, Robert.

    No, it makes no business sense having a customer who is paying only $52/year and making more than two claims a year. Four is generous. But why not spell it out at the outset? Why not turn it into a selling point (instead of having customers get into the troubles similar to the one described above)?

    I vote for transparency. FTC wants transparency with online reviews. Why shouldn’t everyone else want transparency in other areas of marketing?

    Say, I sold you an insurance that would cover most of your medical expenses (and did not tell you of any restrictions – like the number of times you can use is per year). You happily signed up, and paid for it. Used it 4 times for doctor visits, but when you needed an emergency care (I mean, really needed that insurance to work), the operator on the other side of the line told you: “Sorry, but our records show that your policy has been terminated for excessive use”. Would you be happy?

    PS: By the way, I bet you have no clue who I voted for. You don’t even know my citizenship.

  5. I had a different experience with the Allstate Motor Club…

    Paid the membership dues for over 10 years, then when I finally did need a tow, they could not provide service. Left me hanging for 10 hours!!! They are completely at the mercy of unreliable “providers”, and do not keep the customer informed.

    BTW, this incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon in New Jersey, about a mile from the George Washington Bridge. There are more towing companies in this area than there are shade trees… I finally found a towing company using a friend’s AAA card. They arrived in 1/2 hour and were happy to tow the car 30 miles to my regular repair shop. They were very accommodating and the rate was reasonable.

    I will be switching to AAA as soon as possible.


    1. I am a AAA member, and over the holidays had a monetary gift to renew my AAA service. I called to renew it, and they stated … that it won’t matter if I renew because I used up the 4 calls. My membership can be renewed in January. Ok, it was Dec 27th when I called. That’s 4 days.

      He did say that they would come but “you’ll have to make a cash call” Apparently the cash call is going to cost a lot more than the yearly rate.

      Plus, I think he believed I was stranded because I said that I would need the service… (I meant in the “future.” I just wanted to renew right now while I could).

      I am figuring a renewed membership is worth a few days. It’s not like I called and asked them for free service after my 4 calls.. I was calling to pay for a renewal.

      Actually, that might have been an opportunity to try to persuade me to do an upgrade, if I could manage it,instead of busting me for my 4 calls last year. Why quibble over 4 days. Please.

  6. I needed ran out to the store last night to get baby formula. Got there just before the store close. Gathered the twins, went inside, made my purchase, got the kids seat locked into the carrier base, got myself inside to head home and the car would not start.

    Upset? Yes! Worried? NO! I have Allstate Roadside service, or so I thought.

    I was told, “My service has been suspended, because I have reached the maximum amount of service calls allowed.” After explaining to the rep, I have only used the service twice, she placed me on hold for 32 minutes and never returned to the line. Keeping in mind, when asked was I in a safe place, I told her, “I am sitting in a parking lot, where the store is closed and I have infant twins with me.” After noticing I only had one bar left on my cellphone, I hung up and call 911 for an officer to be dispatched to sit with me. The officer came, and he actually gave me a jump. I called Allstate Roadside’s customer service this morning, and they are checking into the service calls and file the complaint. Needless to say, I will never use that company again. AAA Here I Come!!!

  7. Read your notice about Allstate Motor Club. I’ve been a member since 1986. Never had a problem in all those years (obviously because I never used the services more than once or twice a year). I always told people it paid to have this service because it paid for itself after one need. I’m having a change of opinion now. My membership is soon to expire. I think I might just change to another company, esp. since the deluxe membership is now $135 a year.

  8. Just wanted to say I ran across your post when I was trying to find out if there was a limit on my roadside assistance with Allstate. Your post was the first place I found it, after I sifted through all the membership info. online. Does seem like it’s well hidden doesn’t it? I used this service for the first time today and the service was actually pretty good in my experience. Thanks for answering my question and I think I’ll compare with AAA.

  9. Diane,

    I actually think it is or shall we say was well-hidden before I posted about my experience. They don’t mention anything about the limit on their website, do they?

    The main purpose of my original post was not to fuss about their service (I actually quite enjoyed it for the 4 times that I’ve used it too), but to bring to light what I believe is just dead wrong — hiding the important details so well that you don’t learn about them unless you really get into trouble. I do know that such a “marketing” approach has already become a part of the game, but it seems that in cases where emergency may be involved (see Ronda’s experience above), the advertiser must be more transparent from the outset of the relationship.

  10. You’re right that the four limit should be more prominently displayed. Right now I’m checking out different roadside assistance plans and motor clubs including Allstate, and nowhere online (as far as I could tell) is there mention of that four limit, and I scoured their site. However, I’ll probably still go with them. You said you liked their service up until that unexpected news that your plan was canceled, and so far it seems they’re the most affordable (cheapest) who will tow my 16 year old car to my trusted mechanic near my home if necessary. So far I’ve never needed a tow (knock on wood!) I got home or to my mechanic with a jump or push start. So, for me, I’m looking for the best “insurance” that’ll get me about 25 miles of towing.

    Thanks for your posting. Like I said, I didn’t see that limit anywhere on their website, either, and there’s a good chance I would have missed it in their fine print later. At least someone else learned from your lesson, too. By the way, since you wrote this your 12 months would have passed. I was curious about whether you renewed?

    Thanks, again!

  11. My daughter spent 4 Hrs on the side of the road 11 pm to 2 am in downtown Orlando, To have a locksmith tell her her tire would not come off because it was to cold , The guy they sent did not even have a flashlight. Finally they towed the car and I change the tire myself the next day. (Oh yea it was 28 d that night )

  12. Geno – FYI. I was thinking about joining AMC. Called to see if they could convince me to switch from AAA. The rep happened to mention that the membership was good for THREE service calls (up to $100/each) per year. (Guess it’s gone down one service since you started this blog!) After I hung up, I too looked all over the advertisement paperwork and, as you said, there is no mention of an occurrence limit — they just refer to “your $100 per-occurrence Benefit Allowance”. Then I started doing my homework online and found your blog. I think I’ll stick with AAA. Thanks!

  13. You’re most welcome, Darlene. Glad they are mentioning the number of calls now. It used to be different. Too bad they went down from 4 to 3. Thanks for the heads up, D.

  14. I talked to Allstate roadside service today after receiving an offer in the mail. The rep told me it covered 3 visits. If the visit is over 100 dollars then you pay the provider the difference right then and there. There is no service fee schedule so you have no idea what the fee will be for a jump, gas, etc. No thanks. I’ll stay with triple A.

  15. I have read all of the above comments and I must admit that it does give me pause since I have recently renewed my service with Allstate. The question that comes to mind at this point is: have you been able to find out what the limitations are for the same service with AAA?

    Just to be fair, it would be good idea to compare with the other leader just to make sure that by writing this blog you are not unjustly vilifying Allstate to the benefit of AAA if the possibility exists that AAA has the same kind of limitation in place for their service. I’m not jumping to the defense of Allstate so much as I am just trying to ensure a fair comparison of the two.

    On the other hand, I feel that the fact they gave you NO INDICATION that your service benefits had run out until you were in dire need of them again is, not only a bad business practice, but could possibly be downright dangerous to the customer.

  16. Mike, back in September 2009 when I wrote my initial blog post in I was driven by only one thing: desire to expose what I believed to be (and my opinion hasn’t changed) less than transparent marketing. Honestly, I had no idea that a few months later I’ll have 16 responses to the post, and the majority of them from people I have never met, but who have also been affected by the same problem… I wasn’t doing this as a review of Allstate’s service, or as a way to say “go with AAA if you don’t want to be sorry”. The whole point was to illustrate if not deceptive, then definitely concealing marketing. I oppose such strategies, but in no way have I ever wanted to suggest that it’s an Allstate-only problem. One can write a book full of real life examples involving other major brands; and if no one has done so yet, someone definitely should! Problems like this must be exposed.

  17. I am not implying that you were trying to vilify Allstate. I apologize if that is how it sounded. However, I am interested in how AAA handles this issue.

    I understand that people generally latch onto a negative and ride it for all it’s worth. That just seems to be the current mindset. A couple of the posts answering yours are pretty clear evidence of that. What I was trying to say is that we don’t know if AAA is operating under the same implied but misguided perception. It would be interesting to find out just what their guidelines are. I find it hard to believe that they can afford to give unlimited road service calls for the price they charge, but I could be wrong.

    It seems that there is a very common marketing strategy currently in use in business and politics that seems to imply certain things that are, in reality not promised. The only way to discover the truth is, as you discovered, to thoroughly read the fine print.

    Thanks for your article. It has started me on quest to research this subject in more detail. I’ll let you know what I find.

  18. I agree, Mike. It would certainly be interesting to compare and contrast the two, and see if AAA’s marketing is any more transparent there. Please do let me know what you find out about the number of service calls that they include.

    As for the fine print, I am still surprised that the agreement with it comes in the mail only after one has already signed up for the service, and made their payment.

  19. AAA benefits may vary by club. AAA is an umbrella organization for affiliated clubs. My club provides four emergency roadside services per year at no charge. The mileage they will tow depends on the plan you have. After four roadside services in one member year, they bill you and/or require you to pay the tow truck operator, depending on the circumstances. They reserve the right to terminate your membership if you receive emergency roadside assistance seven times in one membership year or 12 times in two consecutive membership years. They can do this even though you paid for the services in excess of four. And if you have insurance with AAA, losing your AAA membership cancels your insurance.

    If replacement battery service is available (this is only available in certain areas during certain hours), they do not count that as a service call if you buy a battery from the tow truck operator on the spot.

    This information is contained in the AAA Member Handbook. The service provisions are in somewhat smaller type than most of the type in the handbook.

    I don’t know if AAA notifies you of membership termination.

    I am not happy with some AAA services (nothing to do with the roadside service) and was checking to see if I might do better with another club. Thanks for the warning about Allstate. Guess I’ll keep looking.

  20. We must understand that this is a capitalistic society. The motive of all the services is to get the money first and lie later. Most of these disclaimers are designed by lawyers (I must say [nationality removed by blog owner] lawyers). These lawyers are great at what they do, no doubt about it. So, they save the corporation and they do not care about you. Because that is what they get paid for.

  21. Just one other word of warning. I purchased AMC prior to a long trip as extra insurance. After a couple of months, decided to cancel the membership since it was costing me $13.05 a month (didn’t see the option of $1/week). Anyway, if they don’t cancel you themselves…they don’t make it easy for you to cancel the policy. Needless to say, after 3 round-abouts through their automated phone system, finally getting a rep who told me to call my Allstate agent (AMC is NOT connected to your Allstate agent, but who advised me how to call and to let her know if they gave me any further problems — love my Allstate agent!) Next time I called the AMC toll-free number, got “not accepting calls at this time” (I think they blocked my number.) Called from a different phone and got through to a rep who tried to talk me out of it, I said, No, please just cancel the policy. So he tries again…the third time through this song and dance, I asked for his supervisor and he asked me Why? Because YOU are not doing what I have politely asked to be done. So he starts his spiel again. I was less polite this time and he finally did say he would cancel the policy immediately. Sheesh.

    And to address the issue raised about ‘what do you expect for $52 a year?’ Insurance companies make their money on folks who pay and never need to collect. They have to weigh that against sometimes having to pay more on members who do need to collect on the services. It’s a juggling game and the insurance companies usually win in the long run. In some cases, they pass that along to members. Why can Geico promise lower premiums? Because they do NOT insure high-risk drivers. Period. You have a claim, they drop you. You have teenage drivers, they will not insure them. But at least they tell you about the teenage driver part before you spend your money. I guess AMC keeps its rates low by dropping ‘high-use’ members.

  22. Here is what I found on the Allstate Motor Club website:
    You may cancel your membership at any time simply by calling or writing to our Customer Service Center. We may temporarily suspend or
    cancel certain membership benefits during a membership period for excessive use8 of the benefits and services we provide. Use of your
    emergency road or towing service benefit three (3) times within any one membership period will result in the automatic suspension of that
    benefit until the beginning of your next membership period. If your membership includes one or more paid associate members, you are
    entitled to one (1) additional emergency road service occurrence. Throughout such a suspension period, we will continue to dispatch a
    service provider to you if you call us for help. You, however, will be responsible for paying for the full cost of any services rendered.
    We may cancel your membership during a membership period for any of the following reasons: 1) Failure to pay your membership dues;
    2) Material misrepresentations or fraudulent submission of a request for reimbursement; or 3) Excessive use of the benefits and services we
    offer. If we decide to cancel or to not renew your membership, we will send you (at your address listed in our membership records) prior
    written notice indicating our reason(s). If we cancel your membership, we will provide you with at least 10 days notice. If we decide not to
    renew your membership, we will provide you with at least 60 days notice.
    Looks like you should be an informed consumer and not expect preferential treatment with out paying for the service. You could have choosen a package plan that would have given you better coverage. I am very happy with my Allstate Membership, so is my dad, so is my sister. No complaints, quite the opposite. Get the coverage you need now or could need in the future. ALLSTATE ROCKS!!!

  23. Gayle, thank you for your comment. They must’ve finally added it to their website. It wasn’t there 5.5 months ago when I initially posted about it in my blog. Do you by any chance have a link to the page that has this info? I couldn’t find it.

  24. Yep, limitations clearly stated in the contract.
    So, why not use the money back guarantee. Its right there in the info you first posted. Be satisfied or get your money back. Large print…
    Just a thought…
    Good luck,

  25. Good question, Tom, but if you read my post I was the one who was canceled from the system first 🙂 while the refund applies only in cases when you decide to cancel the policy.

    I am glad Allstate has become more transparent though.

  26. The big one, AAA, has a 4 call limit within one membership year as well, and that is not mentioned on their web site, either. I suppose it is an industry-wide thing, a limitation these companies expect us to just know about, which is why none of them mention this limitation. I have run up against AAAs 4-call limit several times over the years, and the way they handle it is when you call them for service after you exhausted your allowance they offer service at typical cost for the tow or flat-tire/locksmith service provider. It is not really considered “cancelled” service, but it might as well be, since aside from map service and AAA discounts for hotels/amusement parks nothing else is covered until the membership year rolls over and new membership fees have been paid for the year.

    Given that AAA membership fees are very high ($97 for PLUS membership and $50 for spouse for a total of $147) compared with Allstate’s equivalent deal for a couple I think this blog unfairly singled out Allstate for the industry-common practice of not disclosing a call-limit at time of sign up.

    I am well aware that all of these clubs impose such a limit and am in the process of switching from AAA to Allstate in a cost-cutting move.

  27. Of course I did not mean to imply in my post above that the blogger took Allstate to task maliciously or with ill intent, only that had he known that AAA and other auto clubs also impose a call-limit per membership year without telling you so upfront he would have probably vented about this from a meta industry view rather than this particular provider itself.

  28. George, you’re bringing up a very good point actually (BTW, I am the only blogger here, as this is my personal blog ;)). If this is/has been an industry-wide problem, the bigger the need to talk about this. I hope this blog post (and the comments that follow it) will help make another industry at least a little better…

  29. I have been an AMC member for over 3 years and have never use them, not ONCE! Then, last night, while traveling home (SC) from Florida, my tire blew out. I had my 4 year old niece in the back seat and thank goodness no one was injured. Luckily, I had just got off I95 or it could have been a very different story. It was around midnight and I immediately pulled out my AMC member card. I called in and spent 10 minutes on the phone with the automated service because the computer didn’t understand what I was saying, imagine that. Finally, after repeatedly hitting ‘0’, I got a rep on the phone. Surprise! He was foreign with a very thick accent. After explaining what was wrong, I had to repeat to him all of my membership details that I had already TRIED to tell the automated service. Then, I gave him the address of the house that my car was broke down in front of. I kid you not, I was on the phone with him for 30 minutes trying to give him directions to where I was located, even though I had already given him the exact address of my location 4 times!!! Finally, after being on the phone for almost an hour, he said he was going to try to find someone to dispatch to me?!?!?!?! Here, I thought he had already done that and that was what I was giving him directions for. Low and behold, my car battery died while I was on the phone with him. I had left my lights on because there were cars wizzing by and the road/area was pitch black. After about 15 more minutes my hazard lights began to dim. So, I had to get out of the vehicle with my 4 year old neice and use a flashlight to warn oncoming traffic that my car was there. The the rep comes back on the line and says that he cannot find anyone to dispatch to me because everyone was very busy. I could not believe it! Finally, I woke up the people who were in the house near my disabled vehicle and the gentle man that lived there got up and helped me. After being on the phone with an AMC service rep for about an hour and a half, who still hadn’t dispatched anyone, a nice gentleman helped me do what I pay AMC $153/year to do.
    I called and spoke with a supervisor this morning, also foriegn with an accent. He informed me that my experience was extremely rare and that he was going to give me 25% off my next month’s bill of $12.75 for all my trouble… I told him to forget about it and cancel my service.
    So, don’t worry, they don’t just mess with people who use their service regularly. I paid them for over 3 years and only TRIED to use them once and they messed me all up…
    Hope this helps someone. I wish there had been someone to tell me this before I sunk so much money into an unreliable source.

    1. Thanks Carrie for your post. It has helped me. I had a similar experience this week (now in 2011) so the motorclub still has issues with getting reliable help. My car that needed a tow was finally towed by the police (impounded)due to where it stalled at. Wow! huh! I had never used it in the two years that I had been paying for it, which I will not be doing any long cause here I come AAA. Also to those who are reading these post why does allstate motorclub have a roadside service contact number on the cards sent out to members but listed a different one (roadside service contact number) on it website (they seem to reach different places

  30. I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the AMC. They took a significant amount of money out of one of my checking accts., supposedly by mistake. When I contacted them, they refunded all but approx. 45.00 claiming that they would have to further investigate this. Supposedly my card number was similar to an actual members number, however they claim that they submitted my number beginning in May, and that until recently, the card had been repeatedly rejected. This is very suspiscious to me.

  31. Your experience really shows that companies should make the fine print more available to customers. Good customer service to me is when a business — ahead of time — lets customers know of any restrictions on their order or service. It is easy to send out a brochure printing piece with the fine print spelled out in a large, very readable font!

  32. At about 12:30 on Dec. 30th I came out of a restaurant to find that my car battery was dead. At that time I contacted Allstate Motor Club. I was told that they couldn’t help me unless I paid $65 for the jump start. It was my understanding that my membership paid ofr this service. I have had this membership since September, 1994. I have used it several times with good results. I was very disappointed with the way I was treated on this last ocassion. I am a 76 year old widow who needs a plan that I can depend on. I have never been treated so rudely by anyone before this person I talked to on the phone. Just to let you know about my frustration.

  33. Speaking from a ex-Allstate service provider standpoint: they are, by far,the worst paying roadside service provider. Most towers put their customers at the bottom of their list. Their dispatchers are often rude. I have provided towing service to almost all of the roadside service companies and would suggest staying away from Allstate.

    1. As is evident by the constant comments on this post for more than a year, you have really hit a nerve. Reading your post and the comments has been very informative. You are probably saving many people lots of headaches. I came upon your site when I could not find the call limit on Allstate’s site. If I had not seen this, we may have gone through a similar predicament. We almost switched from AAA to Allstate, but will stick with AAA in spite of the higher cost. Thanks for posting this info. I must say, (knock on wood), that in the 30+ years we’ve been with AAA, we have had good service all around so I think we’d better stick with what we know. (P.S. I’m not sure why some are saying that Allstate is now revealing the call limit on their website, because I have been searching and don’t see it anywhere.)

  34. Richard Robbins

    I left AAA and Joined Allstate in 2007 and almost never used their services but felt the need to have membership should I need it. Fast Forward to yesterday, June 2, 2001 approximately 12:45 P.M.

    I had an appointment to get my eyes checked, it was good but when it tried to leave my car did not start. I have never had my car towed by Allstate in the four years I belonged.

    I called and got someone in India. He said a tow truck would come to take my car to the shop in 1:10 minutes, that was around 12:50 or so. To make a long story short I was stranded there until approximately 3 P.M. and the tow truck did not show up by the time my car finally started and I left for the shop.

    I called back 3 or 4 times and got someone in India every time and got more excuses and more times frames that the truck would arrive. After dropping my car off I started home and got a call from the tow truck driver asking where my car was. I told him, “At the shop, he was cordial and said thank you.”

    The next call I made was to Allstate Motor Club, option 3 and next option 5. That’s the option for canceling your membership and getting the 9 months left restored to your account. The lady I talked with to cancel was in India too. I guess they are trying to save money but how can you save if you’re going to mess up with people who have been customers for 4 years and finally needed a tow and could not get it done?

    AAA is looking really good to me now. Think before you leave anyone or seek membership from Allstate. They may be better in your hometown but in Charlotte, NC they are a bust as far as I am concerned.

    Not only was I stranded with my car but the weather was 90 some degrees, “ouch!”

  35. Victor Sinclair

    I wanted to thank you for your blog posting Geno. I found the post when I was researching switching from AAA Plus. AAA prices have been going through the roof and I felt I had reached my tipping point after 17 years of being a member. @ $173.50 for AAA Plus for me and the wife, I was ready to say “uncle”.

    After reading your post and all the comments, I just got off the phone and renewed my AAA Plus membership. I have experienced getting the run around from Allstate’s East Asian CS reps when I had a problem with my homeowners insurance. There’s nothing more that I’d like to avoid than to do that song and dance while stuck on the side of the road.

    I know horror stories of Indian CS reps taking 3x as long to work simply issues are common place, but there is a time and place for everything. At 1am on the side of the interstate in some armpit of the country is not the time for that type of hassle and aggravation. I’ll pay extra for the stateside service reps. Not to say that they can’t be inefficient or won’t be rude at times, but at least a lack of communication is one frustration I’d have remove from the table when I need emergency car service.

  36. We have bee Allstate Motor Club members for over a year and had never used the servce-until today. My husband’s Jeep broke down on the side of the road on 95 southbound in Northern Virginia during DC rush hour traffic-not safe. I called the Motorclub, got some guy who couldn’t speak Engligh. He asked if my husband was safe-my response “Of course not, he’s stranded in rush hour traffic-that is why we are calling you-he needs a tow”. My husband sat on the side of the road for more than 3 hours because Allstate was dragging their feet. He had to call back in several times and explain where he was, had to talk to a supervisor, we even called our local Allstate agent and he had called into Allstate too. At first they refused to tow our car home because we had taken out the highest level RV policy (because we often tow horse trailors) and said they would only tow to the local repair shop of their choice. Well, my husband is a mechanic, so he can fix our own car, and our house was approximately 30 miles or less from where he broke down. Even though our memebership said “unlimited towing” it mean unlimited to what Allstate says. Had we taken out the “cheaper” policy-supposedly they would have towed to our house-like we needed. So much for taking out a Roadside assistance policy. We have paid 2 years of premiums, just to be left stressed, stranded on the side of the road. We will be looking into AAA service now after this disaster of a mess.
    Thanks for all your great help (NOT) Allstate!

  37. To whomever started this thread: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Like many other posters here I was concerned that AAA was getting too expensive. The AAA is no longer the American Automobile Association. AAA is a corporate name that means nothing, while trading on a past reputation. I have had some troubles with them over the 30+ years I have been with them but nothing like what I have read here.

    Nationwide, my insurance company, offered a plan for a very low price. It seems they use a service called Cross Country, which is re-branded by a number of companies. You cannot sign up on your own. As I see from this thread, and as I have read elsewhere, being a member could jeopardize my insurance rates.

    Allstate is another issue. I had no idea they could be so bad. Given that they are (or were) associated with Sears, and given that Sears is now K-Mart in fancy clothing, I would not touch them, period. Sears Craftsman tools were always the best. The first thing K-Mart did was change manufacturers to someone who “was just as good as the original one”. Then they started using in-store advertising: Attention, shoppers…. No, I won’t buy anything there.

    What else is out there? Not much. I guess as much as I have come to dislike AAA in some ways I will stay with them, at least until they move to an overseas call center.

    1. I’ve been with Allstate since they bought out the previous company, that I can’t recall the name. Maybe Amoco Motor Club and with them for years as well.
      I was surprised once, while out of gas sitting in a bank drive through. That’t when I learned of their 4 call limit. Amoco was very generous, towing a friend’s car I was driving in Jackson, Alabama to Atlanta, GA.
      I last used Allstate a few months ago to have my vehicle towed from my home to my mechanic. No problems with Allstate. Always get American customer service on the phone. And they transfer me to the most available towing service. I talking to tow drivers, they have told me that Allstate pays them faster than other clubs. The only issues I’ve had with them are the tow truck drivers writing longer tow mileage than they actually did. Allstate routinely send me a form, after a tow to see where it was towed to, just to see if the driver made it up. One driver I had to pay up front for some reason I don’t recall, and he pocketed the money. I found that out because Allstate refused to reimburse me. I explained the situation, we both contacted the tow company and found out the driver had been fired. Allstate worked it out with the tow company and I got reimbursed.
      My only gripe with Allstate is they are more expensive than AAA by around $50 for their premium package, which I need as I travel to my elderly parent’s home that is over 150 miles from me and I don’t always have cash (no credit cards) in the amount needed to complete a tow of that distance after my Allstate distance limit is used up during the tow. That has only happened once and fortunately my work flow was good at the time so I had the cash and rode with the tow driver from Gainesville, GA to Madison, GA.
      I just saw a 30 minute commercial for AAA this morn and it seems they use their own tow trucks now. I have seen the AAA trucks around Atlanta, often as of late. Since their premium service is so much cheaper and I don’t thing I would need an arrest bond that Allstate has, I will call them to see if they can persuade me to switch. Only concern is getting my money back from Allstate as I just renewed their middle priced plan a few weeks back.
      From looking at both sites and plans side by side, AAA looks better with one 200 mile tow and 3 100 mile tows. But I assume they are the same as Allstate regarding service calls. If you call for gas, dead battery or a tow, they are all counted against the limit of four calls. So I carry extra gas and keep up on my battery, saving calls for heavier emergencies.
      Thanks for the blog as it was interesting to see some of the comments.

  38. I understand Geno’s and the others’ concerns with the 4-per-year limitation of service calls not being disclosed in advance, but I wonder if all of the motor clubs don’t have some kind of a limit of service calls that they will pay for, they would almost have to I would think. I do agree that they should make this information more clear (I was not aware of it myself until just now). Perhaps they should offer different levels of memberships depending on a person’s likely usage of their services…at the very least, they SHOULD notify a member of their membership lapse/cancellation due to over-usage BEFORE they end up having an emergency. For myself, I have had nothing but positive experiences so I will not be cancelling the service.

    From any company’s point of view, they probably would rather not have overly frequent users as much as less frequent users of their service, still they certainly run the risk of alienating all of their customers if they’re not more upfront about their policies!

    …Just another thought or two on this, with any company or service, there are always horror stories of terribly bad service, etc, people tend to vocalize their negative experiences more than their positive experiences and in Allstate’s defense (because I have not had a negative experience with them), I just wanted to point that out. I wonder if there aren’t a lot of complaints with AAA as well…good luck finding any company or service that doesn’t have some lapses of good service. I mean this with no disrespect to those members who have had horrible service from Allstate, if that had been the case with me I would be not happy about it either! What I like about a motor club membership vs adding towing to auto insurance is that (usually) you don’t have to pay upfront and hope that you are reimbursed, in my case I don’t necessarily have that much cash with me and I don’t use credit cards (just debit cards).

    …What I like better about Allstate is the fact that they are considerably cheaper than AAA and you get an associate membership for a family member for no extra charge. I do think it’s a bit unfair singling out Allstate for what it sounds like is an industry-wide practice and the thing about “fine print” is that as much as I hate to admit it, I tend to think that few people really read it like they should (myself included!). Unfortunately, it’s probably a harsh reality that more and more companies are outsourcing their customer service call centers to countries like India because of the immense cost savings. Perhaps the cost savings are enough for these companies to take the risk of customers having less than positive experiences with foreign customer service reps.

    1. Doug, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. When I first put together this thread, I couldn’t imagine that it would get such a number of comments… Thank you for writing up one of them.

      My concern (just to make it clear) wasn’t about the “4-per-year limitation of service calls”, but about the lack of clarity from the outset. Hence, the All marketers are liars quote from Seth Godin that the post started with.

  39. Wow, your post has been a benefit to me. After reading so many comments over a two year period and going w/o any such coverage for years myself, I know beyond a shadow of doubt after receiving Allstate’s invitation today, I’ll continue my present course. May not be wise and I’m sure one day, I’ll get burned but nothing is a solid guarantee. Geno, you have done a nice community service and I appreciate it. You saved my bacon. Once an important deception is discovered, I always wonder how many more are lurking about. Thank you my friend.

  40. Geno – Thanks very much for this blog. I got an AMC application in the mail today and decided to check it out online before making a decision to switch from AAA. After reading all this, I willl stay with AAA. I also have Hyundai Roadside Assistance that I got for free when I bought my Tuscon earlier this year. I have only used AAA once, a couple of years ago, for a lockout, and everything went very smoothly. I am especially disturbed by AMC using customer reps in India who do not speak English very well. We are all pretty fed up with that everytime we have to call anybody’s customer service! I have looked through all the AMC literature that came in the mail today, and there is absolutely NOTHING about any limits on how many times you can use the service before you get canceled. I was really close to switching from AAA to AMC before I read all the comments here, But now I will stick to AAA and its higher costs. Thanks again!

  41. The same, nearly exact thing happened to me. They canceled my membership and never told me because I’d maxed out the service. And I read through the fine print and found nothing about that. However, they let me start a new membership without hesitation, and I’m pretty happy with them.

    I think Allstate Motor Club is an incompetent operation, but I still think it’s a good deal.

  42. I have Allstate Motor Club And IT IS THE BEST!!! I have the platinum or Premium or whatever version Allstate motor club has. And I love it. They have towed me numerous times this year. Funny thing though i never really had to use a tow truck much previous to having them. I’ve actually used them 6 or so times in the past 4 months. Maybe you should have read the fine print and also paid a few extra bucks. You can’t get the world for $52 dollars a year. I pay more with Allstate motor club than when i had AAA , but Allstate motor club offers much more!!!

  43. Mom_w_too_many_cars

    I joined the Allstate Motor club in early 2007. I used it once or twice the first year. The next year, my son got his license and my daughter went off to school and my husband died, I used it maybe 5 times that year. The next year was about the same, only they cut me off after the 4th call and I had to pay for the 5th one out of pocket. So I called them and increased my service to “Unlimited”, between myself and my kids, we at one point had 8 vehicles, I needed unlimited and I PAID FOR IT.
    I think this year I have used them 3 times, and I just received a letter signed “Sincerely, Loss Control Allstate Motor Club”, they have cancelled my policy for USING IT. I never paid only 52 bucks a year because I was never on the policy alone.
    It is like homeowner insurance, they screw you when you need them. However, I received the letter of cancellation on 12/5 and they are making it effective 12/15, so they are standing up to their 10 day notice policy that I guess is new. I’m thinking about having every one of my cars towed for service over the next 10 days.

    I’m headed back to AAA, and they make their policy clear from the get-go. My kids are now grown, I have Toyota roadside assistance and my daughter has Mazda, so I really only have to cover my son and my non-Toyota truck. So be it.

    I highly recommend Allstate Motor Club. They are reliable, they are pretty fast at responding, and they don’t ask a lot of questions. Other than the monthly fee, I never paid a thing. And, they tow you where you want to go, not to the nearest garage!!!! Go for it, and enjoy it until they cancel you! Share your policy with your friends. The guys on the truck don’t care whose car they are towing.

    The last time I used them was in August, I was in Baltimore, they made me wait for 3 hours, and they sent someone who was clueless. There was no chance I was going to renew anyway, but I thank you all for posting to this review!

  44. Look into the distance that is allowed under basic AAA towing!
    Also, Most “add-on” programs like Progressive Insurance, Geico, and AT&T Wireless are provided by Asurion.

  45. After many years with AMC I found myself with a stalled SUV in downtown Chicago. This was winter of ’10 – coooold!!! I got out, pushed the truck off the road, and confidently (silly me) dialed the number on my trusty AMC card. After a long wait (I understood – it was cold after all…) a young lady with a pronounced Indian accent came on the line. I told her which intersection I was at, gave her the address, and after a few minutes was notified that she “couldn’t find” it. She offered to “look for it” again. ??? After spelling out the street names twice, I was told the “address is wrong.” I was so cold by then that I gave up, called my mechanic and paid him $125 for a tow. Adios AMC!!!

  46. I recently just bought insurance on my first truck a few months ago. They actually sold it to me today. After reading your comments, I have decided to discontinue and cancel. I felt really pushed by the sales rep and felt locked-in that I had to pay monthly. They were even compeled to say, if you do not call this number, we will continue to bill you. I have called them already and left them a message and stressed that I will be discontinued and do not need their services. It really made me feel uncomfortable.

  47. AAA has the same restriction unless you sign up for their premium memnersjip package. That package also only tows you to the nearest authorized AAA repair facility.

    If you ever need help whiole towing a trailer, you better have the Good Sam motor club, otherwise your out of luck.

    Bottom line, this false advertising for failure to disclose before the deal is transacted. After the money exchanges hands if too late. What if you got a mortgage and the bank said good news your approved. Then a week later you find the interest rate is 50%.

  48. Different AAA clubs have different policies. The comment by Dennis got me to checking on the policy of my club (Northern CA, Nevada, Utah). The web site is somewhat confusing as to what is covered, but it was explained to me when I sent the club an e-mail. Depending on the mileage you have under your class of membership, AAA will tow you at no charge to anywhere within that mileage limit at no charge, provided you have not exceeded the 4 allowed calls per membership year.

    If, however, there is no place you want to go within that mileage limit, then you are charged for the excess mileage EXCEPT if there is neither an AAA approved repair facility nor an AAA contract station within that mileage. Then they will tow you to the contract station that responded to your call or to the nearest AAA approved repair facility at no charge.

    Let’s say you have a five mile limit on your towing, and you are in the proverbial middle of nowhere. It is 25 miles to the responding contract station. You can be towed to the contract station at no charge. But if you live 25 miles from the breakdown and want to be towed home, you would be charged for the additional 20 miles.

  49. Good day to all of you, I wanted to post a complaint and a WARINIG in regards to Allstate Motor Club.

    I was a member in good standing with a Platinum Elite membership, which allows me unlimited tow and use of other services. Unfortunately, I used the service twelve times in two years and that is when I received the dooms day letter. I tried to address this issue to no avail. The funny thing is that I informed Allstate Motor Club that I have a very long commute to work over ninety-five miles one-way. Therefore, I need a service that I can use if my vehicle broke down. Unaware of the limitations of my membership I received a letter from Allstate Motor Club Loss Control Dept stating that I had excessive usage and therefore they had to cancel my membership. So, after several calls into customer service I realized that one, Loss Control Dept was a ghost department with very little access to the public and unlimited actually meant to the discretion of the company.

    Therefore, I decided to inform the public when dealing with Allstate Motor club caveat emptor- “Let the buyer beware”.

  50. Look up “contact of adhesion”. This is a legal term and it means the party that drafts the contract is responsible for the terms and conditions. Leaving out a major clause of contract is serious.

    Also if you use the term “bad faith” with an insurance company it scares them. Motor club is not insurance, but you could report them to state insurance comission.

  51. Debbie Williams

    Thank you! Thank you for this blog. I almost switched to AMC, but after reading this long string of posts I decided not to switch! I did enjoy printing out some of these posts, attaching my own cover note and mailing back to Allstate in their free postage-paid envelope. Since they mail me the same offer every six weeks or so, I guess I’ll keep sending them your blog as long as they continue to mail me free envelopes. 🙂 I’m sure gonna miss those two free watches!

  52. Everything that has been said about Allstate Motor Club can equally be said about AAA! AAA has left me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the night because of a “technicality”. What it all boils down to is customer service is no longer a priority of many companies.

  53. WHOA! Was almost going to switch from AAA to AMC. But then decided to call AMC first with their toll free number. Got someone who I couldn’t understand, and she couldn’t understand me either. I know it’s all about jobs going over to foreign countries to save $$, but we’re talking ROADSIDE HELP NEEDED ASAP. Glad I saw this blog, because if the person taking in the SOS HELP call can’t understand you, then this is LESS THAN USELESS.

  54. Well, at least AAA does spell the policy out in black & white in there handbook (in the one for my state, anyway):

    “In fairness to all members, roadside assistance
    should not be used as a substitute for proper
    vehicle maintenance. To help control membership
    dues, AAA has an annual four-call limit on
    roadside assistance usage per member. Primary and
    Associate Members in the same household are
    each eligible for four calls. Multiple service calls
    for the same problem will be counted separately on
    your service record.

    After the fourth call in a membership term,
    you may continue to call AAA to arrange for
    service, but must pay the service provider at
    the time services are rendered. If you discover
    that you don’t need roadside assistance after you
    have called, please notify us so the call won’t be
    counted against your four-call annual limit if we
    haven’t dispatched assistance. These service limits
    enable AAA to continue providing reliable, highquality,
    cost-effective roadside assistance.”

    And based on that, it sounds like AAA won’t leave in the lurch, at least. They’ll still send assistance –it’s just that you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket. Which, really isn’t so unreasonable. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s the not leaving me in the lurch part that’s most important to me.

    And, I don’t know that AAA doesn’t do so, but no one has mentioned that AAA sends its operator jobs overseas to India.

    1) Like it’s alreay been mentioned, that’s just common sense when we need the operator to be able to communicate with us in at a stressful time, and the operator needs to be familiar with how things are in America.

    1) If they don’t ship jobs overseas, good on AAA. Or is patting a company on the back for not doing politically incorrect to say?

    And thank you for your blog and info, Geno! =)

  55. I just received the notification that AMC are about to renew us for the third year. We signed up for the Roadside Advantage program which is $52. Last year they charged $69.95 and this time my notice is for $96 yet they still advertise their service as $52/first year.

    Apparently the ‘first year’ annotation means ‘this is what you sign up for but once we get your credit card on file we’ll keep bumping it up every year until you notice what we’re doing and complain’.

  56. I checked into Allstate after receiving an email. I wasn’t aware of it. I saw a very high review online (higher than AAA) so I went to their website to compare the two. Of course, no info about how many svc calls or how many miles so I called them. I got an OUTSOURCED CS rep who told me 3 calls, $100 limit per call. I told him I want to know how far $100 will tow me, and he told me that I would have to join, then call for service when I’m broken down. Then they can tell me how much my tow will cost. I’m with everyone else and will stick with AAA. They are transparent in their benefits.

  57. geno, i agree with you and all the posters who’ve got sour taste over allstate… even all these years later. i recently tried to use my allstate card in an emergency at night and got sent to an operator in india. then they hung up. then other operators. i thought i’d go insane. the police ended up taking my phone and telling me i was right the guys were nuts. did not speak english. allstate tows phones switch over at night and just network into foreign countries and local guys who don’t want the low price allstate pays. they keep you sitting there because they don’t care
    aaa is all about the assist, the discount, this TYPE of business. allstate is all about NOT providing that because they are an auto insurance company. and just by virtue of that, they can dispute a claim, and will. that’s why they DONT WANT to tell you about excess tow limit… they get to keep your money and not provide a service.

  58. I have been an AllState member for two years now. I’ve needed assistance only once until now. However, I noticed that my bill has gone from $52 to $92. Apparently the $52 was for the first year only. I’m quite sure this was not disclosed to me at the start and was sneaked in with a lot of other offer leaflets in small print.

    Do AAA members have the same problem?

  59. Galoob, I can’t answer your question because AAA is an umbrella organization for dozens of local clubs. Each club could have a different policy. My club (Northern California, Nevada, and Utah) even has different services and costs for the three different states in which it operates. You have to check with your local club.

    I will say that I have been a member of my club for 37 years and do not recall any real cheap promotional one-year offer, although 37 years is a long time to remember! For me, there are three levels of membership offered, depending on the services I want. I think the current charge per year is $57, $91, or $119. All levels allow four emergency roadside service calls per membership year with towing, if necessary, at no additional charge. The towing limits per call are 5 miles, 100 miles, and one call for 200 miles and three calls for 100 miles, depending on the level of service you choose. There are other benefits that change with your level of membership (e.g., reimbursement for meals and lodging if your car breaks down on a trip, locksmith service).

  60. Pingback: Auto Clubs and Roadside Assistance Programs | notwiredthatway

  61. I am another Allstate Motor Club member that is not happy with their service. When my car overheated on a Sunday evening it took 4 calls and 20 hours to get a tow. It was 30 degrees outside and my wife and I would have froze if not for a helpful family who took us into their home, gave us a ride to our house and let us leave our car in their driveway overnight until we could find someone in the morning to come fix it.

    Why did it take 4 calls? The first call he person could not figure out where we were so did not know who to call to come help.

    The second call they figured out where we were but could not find anyone open. This was about 5:00pm on a Sunday. He suggested I try the phone book and Allstate would reimburse me for the tow if I found someone. This really pissed me off as the main reason I have their service is not for the free tow but so I have one number to call if I need help.

    The third call was next morning from my house. I never spoke to anyone at Allstate but their automated system put me in touch with a towing service. They said it would take 1 to 1.5 hours and they would call back when they were leaving so I could meet them at the car. The never called back.

    After waiting 3 hours I made the 4th call. This time I talked to an actual person who said they had no record of my previous call. He was finally able to get my car towed.

  62. I really appreciate this post. I also received this exact letter in the mail today. I was kind of excited! I was talking to wife about signing up and decided to look at some reviews first. This is true evidence that the pen (or keyboard) is very powerful. Once again you probably saved me making a mistake.

  63. I filed a claim in January of this year for damaged tire rims; I emailed pictures of the rims and copies of the receipts, and had Walmart call in to verify the claim. I have been unable to speak to someone in the customer service department until today; the phone system let me know that due inclement weather, they were having a heavy call volume and to call back later before automatically hanging up on you.

    The person that I talked to today told me that the claims had not been filed correctly and I had to resend all of my information. I was also told that I would have to send in the tire rims by mail. This went against what the customer service associate first told me in January. If Allstate Motor Club needed more information to finish filing the claim, why was I not contacted?

    The only reason I kept my membership in this club was to be compensated for my claim. I feel that they strung out this claim so I would have to pay for another month of membership fees. I feel that personnel did not do their job correctly and that they advertised falsely by claiming to provide hassle-free 24/7 protection and customer assistance.

    Not worth the hassle!

    Also, check out the Better Business Bureau’s Online Complaint System if you want to complain about your service!

  64. I do billing for a Service Provider towing co. One being Allstate, which is an umbrella for other crooked motor clubs; AT&T being one of the crookest. All of them lie and cheat. Not only to their customers but also to their Service Providers. Many times they make their customers pay an overage charge [costs above their benefit limit] when they’re not over their limit! How would you like to pay $25 or more out of pocket when the service cost didn’t even reach the benefit limit? And that’s just one criminal act. They lie and cheat their Service Providers all the time, and get away with it most of the time! That’s the way all Insurance Companies operate. In the game of lying and cheating, Insurance Cos are the greatest of pros.

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