Breakdown services Investigated - Dynamic Dave
If you don't want to watch the JC/KL debate, also on tonight is Rogue Traders at 20:30, on BBC1 - Investigating the shady practices of the breakdown service patrolmen. For example telling several customers who's battery's are flat that they need a new one, where in fact all that's needed is a recharge.
Breakdown services Investigated - MisterMethane
I seem to remember reading recently that the RAC are stopping their patrolmen selling spares. Could be a result of this programme
Breakdown services Investigated - Jonathan {p}
I have used the RAC for over 5 years and have never had a problem with them.

In fact a few years ago I was trying to fit a new stereo in my newly acquired car, when the battery went flat. I called the RAC out and the chap arrived, duly charged the battery and then crimped on the connectors for the new stereo and helped me fit it (i was struggling badly) all for £20.

Just in case you think he should have been out rescuing lone females from the motorway instead of helping me, it was the end of his shift.
Breakdown services Investigated - Reggie
In the course of my job a few months ago I was talking to an RAC patrolman, and he told me how "the job had deteriorated as they were now under great pressure to sell spares to customers (who may not need them)". He told me that he refused to do this and was very unpopular with his managers, and under alot of pressure to toe the line. Although I didn't disbelieve him, this programme would seem to confirm what he told me.
It just goes to show that you cannot trust anybody except yourself.
Reggie
Breakdown services Investigated - Chas{P}
Years ago when I worked at a parts factor a patrolman asked me one day whether he could have a blank shop receipt pad!

Presumably he was planning to 'invent' invoices for parts he had gone off to get for his victim.

I turned him down and he went away wondering what my problem was!
Really Astounding Con - Hugo {P}
So who saw last night\'s Rogue Traders on the box then?

This progamme exposed a major breakdown club for selling batteries to stranded motorists, who only actually needed a jump start.

I\'m sure that Mark will not wish me to mention the name of this club, so I will oblige.

Rogue Traders, usually linked to exposing cowboy builders, garages and the like, managed to interview a patroleman who openly admitted to having battery sales targets set. Patrols who failed to meet these targets were either given training by fellow patrols or at worst were councelled by their employer. Those who exceeded targets were promoted. By the way, a £6.75 commission was earned for every battery that was sold.

Oh, and by the way his Patrol van could be seen in the background.

I was astounded to hear how this company that has been trading for decades could actually break trading standards legislation by actually endorsing their employees conning the members into paying for batteries when they are not needed. We look to the motoring organisations to protect consumer interests, not to exploit consumer fears about being stuck in their cars.

The MD was interviewed. Well, lets just say that he made all polititians look like saints. I have never seen a television interview with someone who demonstrated all the classic signs of a liar. He resorted to verbal smoke screens, agression etc.

Suffice to say that the motoring organisation in question have now scrapped their sales and bonus schemes.

Questions

Who can the honest motoring public trust not to rip them off, since one of the motoring organisations has now stooped to the depths that most back street garages would not go to?

What are Trading Standards to do in the way of prosecution should a complaint be received - or are these people above the law?

Most importantly, how can our champion HJ look to make representation over this?

Hugo
Really Astounding Con - HF
Wish I'd seen the programme!
HF
Really Astounding Con - Hugo {P}
I wondered who'd be up this time of night - should have known really!

It was a very good programme, the only problem is you couldn't get hold of the motoring organisation's customer servise number at all!

H
Really Astounding Con - HF
Hehehe Hugo, am I that renowned for my late nights?!!!

Of course, though, you can't get the customer service number - what on earth are you expecting here? Service? Information? HELP?

Come on, though, be realistic - and if you COULD get the customer service number do you really think you'd get a result from that?

Sorry if my opinion's a bit cynical, it's based on experience and I hope you manage to be a bit more successful than I've been of late, in dealing with 'Customer Service' people!
HF
Really Astounding Con - DavidHM
I saw the programme and I do have some sympathy for the organisation in question. If the journalists making the show called out the service and stated that there was no reason for the battery to fail, i.e., they hadn't left the lights on, etc., to run it down, then it was justified to recommend a new battery. I'm not especially technical but deceiving the patrolmen probably wasn't the best way to test their honesty. The commission, given the value of the product they're selling, seems very high.

I'm not sure that your attempt to disguise the identity of the organisation would protect you from Mark, or from the libel laws, although I do think there is a fair point being made there.

Incidentally, I did call out the organisation in question for a flat battery after my car ran out of petrol at night and I left it with the lights on to make it more visible. They came within 10 minutes, charged it, started it, and never recommended a new battery.
Really Astounding Con - smokie
I dislike many of these "consumer rights" programmes as they present a sensationalist one-sided view of what os often a very trivial matter. And are quite offensive to any company representatives who agree to appear. And don't forget these interviews will be edited to show the company in it's worst light.

The programmes all contribute to the "blame" culture which is becoming so prevelant these days, and to people's expectation of only top rate service all of the time. This expectation is unrealistic, yet when it s not achieved, some people expect disproportionate degrees of compensation.

Rant over, I saw much of the programme, but hadn't realised the deceit by which the presenters had flat betteries, and once again, I think a reputable organisation who give valuable assistance to thousands of motorists day in day out have been the unfortunate victims, rather than the motorists belonging to that organisation.
Really Astounding Con - ChrisV
Hugo,
I also found this episode worrying viewing, but I tend to agree with David & Smokie. It was difficult to tell how truthful these people were when the patrol reached them. In some cases the headlights seemed to be on, in others they weren't.
If they were stating that the battery had gone flat for no reason, it seems that it would be wrong for the service to jump start them and send them on their way. In that case the battery would almost certainly get them home, but fail to start the car next morning.
Having said that though, the incentive scheme to sell these batteries was worrying and I'm glad it was scrapped.
Chris
Really Astounding Con - Andrew-T
I'm with you all the way, Smokie. My pet theory about the pervading aura of general malaise today is that there are so many people whose job (usually overpaid) seems to be to tell others how to do theirs. A modern version of the drone. How long will the economy support their number?
Really Astounding Con - Hugo {P}
"Rant over, I saw much of the programme, but hadn't realised the deceit by which the presenters had flat betteries, and once again, I think a reputable organisation who give valuable assistance to thousands of motorists day in day out have been the unfortunate victims, rather than the motorists belonging to that organisation."

Complaints of this nature had been received by the programme, which is why they embarked on that episode.

In my view, the batteries could be run down just as easily by mistake, rather than on purpose. It's quite feasable that a motorist could leave their lights on and run the battery down over a few hours (I know because I've done it). In addition the patrols concerned actually had all the equipment to test the condition of the batteries, and I assume they knew how to use it, however, in 6 out of 16 cases they justified a replacement battery.

If you had seen all the programme you would have seen one example where a battery was replaced because it was apparently the wrong power for that car. Surely anyone with a basic knowledge of car mechanics would at least be able to arrive at a sensible decision as to what wattage was required.

In addition another patrol restarted the car several times saying 'I bet it won't start the next time' On the 3rd or 4th attempt it failed to start. Also the lights were flashing when he did this. To start the car properly all services should be switched off.

In addition, the company was exposed for having sales targets, a fact which they did not deny. Also some of the prices they were charging for these batteries was a little extortionate.

The only sympathy I could have for some of the examples I saw was that the 'motorist' was a little guilty of prompting a sale of the battery.

Maybe this is a warning to organisations such as this one that they must achieve a fine balance between customer service and profitability.

I wouldn't have placed this thread here had it not been for the company policy that was adopted. If it had been just down to a handful of patrols and the company had taken timely action to resolve this issue then fair enough.

I make my apologies to any affected patrols that simply want to do a good job and service the customers' needs. I certainly do not make my apologies to the company concerned.

However, if all of you out there think I'm wrong, then lets have the debate. After all this is what this forum is for

All the best

H
Really Astounding Con - Glutton
So people are being unrealistic when expecting companies to serve the consumer well??!? I'm sorry, but that is a load of baloney.

In the UK, we pay far more for goods and services than the majority of the Western world and, from my experiences abroad (both on the Continent and in the US), we have to put up with the lowest levels of service.

Yet, when we encounter shoddy service (which seems the norm, rather than the exception) we are expected to accept it. Well, in the US they only expect the highest standards of customer service (at much lower prices) and will scream blue murder if they are treated shoddily.

I think it is good and about time people in this country have decided that enough is enough, both in terms of service and price and are making companies sit up and take notice.

I see no reason to condone Rip Off Britain
Really Astounding Con - JamesH
In my opinion, both the breakdown company and consumers have lost out.

If a car did have a genuinely duff battery, some people will be willing to pay above the shop price to save the inconvenience of going to a car accessory store (made more difficult by having an immobilised car) or seek out a garage to do the job. The breakdown company had another opportunity to earn more money, which ultimately keeps them in business and people employed.

On the other hand the position may have been abused by some breakdown operators. I agree with Glutton that there is no excuse for poor service or dishonest advice.

Since the company have equipped the vans with room for the parts, couldn't they have kept selling them but scrapped the commission and other sales rewards. That would have taken away the incentive to mis-sell.

James
Really Astounding Con - Robert Fleming
From an entirely self-interested perspective, I think it's a shame this 'scam' has been exposed.

The more batteries the RAC sell to people who haven't a clue, the cheaper my membership fee is.

Like any other company chasing shareholder 'value', they have a legal duty to make as much money as possible, any which way they can. The really astounding revelation about the RAC's strategy was that they were stupid enough push it beyond a defensible position, resulting in scrapping the scheme altogether.

And what about those people who genuinely have killed off their battery? "Sorry Sir, I no longer keep spares in the van, because my company exploited our position to the extent that we can no longer be trusted. How about a tow to your local garage?"

Really Astounding Con - Glutton
Shareholder value??!? Surely in this case, this is an incredibly short-termist attempt to increase "shareholder value".

As illicit practices are uncovered, people will switch membership from this organisation to others.

Isn't that ultimately destroying shareholder value? As consumers are able to switch brands with relative easy, I would have thought that an expose of illicit trading practices would not be great.

I would have thought the biggest creator or "shareholder value" would be to get customers and make sure they keep coming back.
Really Astounding Con - J Bonington Jagworth
"..they have a legal duty to make as much money as possible, any which way they can"

Really? What law's that, then?

I wouldn't touch the RAC with a barge-pole after hearing about their sales targets and biased diagnoses, but then I wouldn't anyway, as their 'get-you-home' service doesn't extend to the Isle of Wight (they leave you in Portsmouth), while the AA's does.
Really Astounding Con - Dynamic Dave
Mark,

Is it worth attaching this thread to the one I posted Thursday?

www.honestjohn.co.uk/forum/post/index.htm?f=2&t=98...3
Really Astounding Con - googolplex
Didn't watch the programme but sympathise with the breakdown people on this one. I've been sold a battery in similar circumstances - saved me having to book in at a garage & get the job done, or do it myself. I was extremely grateful and the battery still does the trick 7 years on. In my experience the AA has been far more helpful and trustworthy than any garage - they tell it how it is without (batteries aside) you fearing that they are about to try and flog you something.

Splodgeface
Really Astounding Con - gibbo
it,s a fine balance here because when you run a commission scheme i.e car batteries sold etc you can befairly sure you are going to get staff selling unneccesary merchandise to bump up the old take home pay
i am 100 per cent sure the said organisation knew this but i have to say all of my dealings with these guys has been A1 and i admit i (an honest member of the public he he ) put some charge in the batt drove just over 1 mile away and these guys towed my car onto my drive and they put on a much needed new alternator(i knew that this was duff several hours previously) at only part cost,well they shoved a few quid on top but who cares when there are no dreaded labour costs .
i think overall they are a good bunch to be with but as there is with the general public there are a few peeps that swing the old conmans lead sometimes.
Really Astounding Con - BrianW
When the alternator failed on my previous car the AA patrol fitted a new battery, accompanied me 15 miles or so home and swapped the batteries back, recommending me to charge up the old one when the alternator was fixed.

I have no complaints about that at all, no attempt to sell me an un-needed battery.
Brian
Still learning (I hope)
Really Astounding Con - Andrew-T
Three years ago battery in wife's Dturbo failed suddenly on approach to Runcorn bridge. RAC man restarted car and suggested it should get her across bridge to ATS, where a new battery would be cheaper. Perhaps their incentive scheme had not started then.
Really Astounding Con - drbe
I saw the programme and have somewhat mixed views, there were patrolmen who were obviously going over the top. But (whoops shouldn't start a sentence with a preposition!) what is the patrolman to do - the honest ones - that is.

Incidentally when Which? magazine tested breakdown services the AA came out a clear winner, with the RAC nowhere.
Don drbe
Really Astounding Con - Mark (RLBS)
These things worry me......

I only once had first hand contact with one of these consumer shows and it was appalling.

It happened to be a situation I was already investigating for someone else in the insurance business.

They did a fairly extensive report on one show wiht an update the following week. It was full of distortions, half-truths, facetiousness, misleading statements, etc. In fact, everything they could get away with but just short of anything the insurance company could action. And the apology, when it was issued, was some 8 weeks later and thrown in to the middle of the credits and barely noticable unless you were looking for it.

Ever since then I take all consumer programs as occasionally good entertainment, but not all that relevant to either thr truth or real life.

However, there have been thousands, if not millions, of reports on television and I had contact with only one.
Really Astounding Con - chris p crisps ©
Mark You have hit the nail right on the head its all done for cheap entertainment.

chris
Really Astounding Con - smokie
Wife's company was targetted on one of these progs one week. They build houses, generally very well. Bloke featured on programme had whinged and whined about everything since moving into his house. He was one of the first to move onto an estate that was still being built. He wanted the company to give him sonething like 50% of his house cost back, due to the continual noise and inconvenience caused by the rest of the estate still being built. He knew damn well that would be the situation from the day he exchanged.

For some reason the company had given him free this that and the other, and some (considerable) cash too. He still found it in himself to get featured on the programme ("5 minutes fame?"). The company was NOT given an opportunity to reply, as the programme was trying to compile a list of Britain's Worst Housebuilders and it would not have suited their purpose.

Not even sure these programmes are occassionally good entertainment. Well, maybe for red-top readers...personally, I don't enjoy them.
Really Astounding Con - Hugo {P}
I guess you and Mark have hit the nail on the head here.
I'm sorry to read of your experiences.

Many programmes are created for entertainment and bedevelment. I know of a few high profile investigators who have lost their reputations for creating stories to fill their time slots.

However, I feel that there is still a need for honest investagative journalism.

The Breakdown company did:
1 - Have a commission system for parts which was in my opinion, open for abuse.
2 - Pressure their patrolmen to become sales reps.

They have now stopped this and, whatever your stance on this issue, surely you would agree that the membership has now become better value for the consumer.

Incidently - did anyone see the previous episode of Rogue Trader, when those driveways were being laid? Now there IS a case for this type of programme!

H
Really Astounding Con - Thommo
Is it just me who finds this really, really depressing.

Is there no one in modern Britain you can trust? Must we be constantly on our guard against rip offs?

As I said really depressing...

And why did they stop it? Because they got caught.

 

Value my car