AAA’s Wrong Way Crisis Management

Dishonest promotion causes reputation damage

We’re always fans of businesses using charitable-type events or offers to promote their reputations. Run things the wrong way though, and you’ll find yourself in crisis management mode instead of reaping in the praise.

When AAA announced its “Tipsy Tow” service for New Years Eve, a free tow service for those who celebrated a bit too much to drive themselves, it was heralded by members and non-members alike, but details quickly emerged that changed the picture, and people’s perceptions, dramatically.

A quote, from the V3 Integrated Marketing blog:

Here’s the rub. And the part where the crisis looms — the information being reported is wrong.

AAA is NOT offering the Tipsy Tow service in every location across the United States (props to my other smart friend Allen Mirales, and numerous others afterwards, for messaging me on Facebook about this – you guys are awesome).

Unable to resist, I slipped on my trusty Sherlock Holmes hat (sorry, I’ve been dreaming of RDJ ever since the first movie came out) and got busy.

When I called 800-22-4357 (AAA-HELP) the number prominently featured in every article I read online about this promotion, I was advised by a harried operator that this Tipsy Tow business is not a nationwide offering.

She advised that the phones were ringing like crazy about this (no surprise there), and the AAA Tipsy Tow New Year’s Eve Service is only being offered California, Hawaii, Texas, New Mexico and Alabama. Really?

“Not in Florida where I see it reported in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel? “ I said. “No, not in Florida,” she replied.

“Hmmm, and not in Rhode Island, where I see it reported in the Providence Headlines Examiner?” I asked. “No, not in Rhode Island” says she, understandably annoyed by my questions. Scratching head, I thanked her for her help and hung up. I’m sure she was glad.

Lying by omission is still very much lying. By playing up a limited promotion to bolster its reputation in areas that were not in fact part of the offer, AAA drew the ire of customers (and potential customers), resulting in a significant amount of reputation damage.

The BCM Blogging Team

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