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How Good is Your AAA-Rated Auto Repair Shop?

Q. I am writing to you to voice a complaint regarding a AAA-affiliated garage and towing operation. On three occasions I was made to wait three hours for a driver, when told the wait would be "within the hour.'' Then my mother was stranded and had to wait three hours as well. In the case of my own vehicle, problems were not only misdiagnosed, but I was also treated rudely. The company should not be allowed to provide AAA service. I have spoken to several others who have also had negative experiences there. Another concern involves their apparent dishonesty and overcharging for parts and labor. In my estimation, it is the affiliation with AAA that allows the garage to more easily prey on the public. What should we do?

A. Getting a nod of approval from an organization as well-established as the American Automobile Association does count for a lot. Generally speaking, businesses that rate a listing as recommended repair shops go through a fair amount of vetting.

But no matter who screens businesses, problems are going to arise. And when they do, in theory, you are in a better position dealing with a business that is connected with a respected third party. Why? Because it gives you an intermediary to resolve disputes.

"AAA will investigate any dispute arising between a AAA member and an approved auto repair facility,'' said Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for AAA Southern New England. "In the case of a dispute arising from a customer who is not a AAA member, our organization will do everything in its power to bring together the two parties.''

Using AAA the to mediate the dispute will alert the organization to a problem with the business and ought to help consumers get some satisfaction because businesses know the value of the AAA recommendation.

It is similar to using a Better Business Bureau -affiliated business. There's no guarantee they are better, but there is an incentive on the part of the business to let the third party intervene. And using that third party does not preclude you from going to licensing authorities or the attorney general, depending on the problem.

Don't forget that you, as consumers, speak with your money. If you're not happy with how you are treated, you can and should complain. But you should also take your business elsewhere.

This article previously appeared in The Boston Globe . Mitch Lipka is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. You can find him on this Facebook link.

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