RAC branded "most useless breakdown company in the UK" by 35-year customer

We all rely on breakdown cover in our most stressful times on the roads, whether on two wheels or four. But what happens when your provider doesn't act?

Will Norman's broken Yamaha.

A motorcyclist was left with what they felt was no choice but to cancel their RAC membership after their experience in dealing with the breakdown service provider when their bike broke down while out on a ride with a friend. 

Will Norman and his friend went for a ride out on 21 June at 19:50, but by 20:25, Mr. Norman’s bike had broken down. 

He had coverage with the RAC, with whom he had been a member for 35 years. However, when he contacted them to explain his situation and request some assistance, they said - at 20:30 - that he would have to wait for 90 minutes before anyone could get to him.

The problems that had forced Mr. Norman to stop were described by him on the phone to the RAC as along the lines of “engine running, gears selecting, but no drive in any gear.” However, the RAC proceeded to send him a text at 20:53 saying that he might have problems with his battery. “I have been told that selling batteries with high mark-ups is a very encouraged pursuit these days in that company,” said Mr. Norman. “Whilst I would like to believe they would have higher standards than this, their stupid and inappropriate text message would have me believe otherwise.”

By 21:16, Mr. Norman received his first text from the RAC saying that the area was busy. However, as Mr. Norman points out, “It’s a Monday night [...] and no doubt there aren’t more breakdowns than usual.” Half-an-hour later and Mr. Norman is told there is a “specialist team” looking into his breakdown. For him, “This is the moment I realise I’m being taken for a ride, that 35 years of loyal membership and expensive fees have effectively been for nothing. This is the moment I realise that the company I have paid money to, to cover me at times like this, is nothing but an incompetent drain on my resources.” He then proceeds to try to deal with the situation himself. 

This involves Mr. Norman taking his friend’s bike to ride back to his own house - forced to leave his friend alone in, as he put it, “the sticks [...] Not ideal, but no different to how the RAC were happy to leave me.” 

Mr. Norman estimates the 18-mile round trip to his home - where he picked up some tools and his estate car - and back to his stricken motorcycle and friend took 45 minutes. In the meantime, the RAC continued to send messages saying that the area was still busy. 

When Mr. Norman arrived back at his bike, he and his friend began to strip it, “first of its fuel tank, then of its front fairing body work (bit fiddly on this particular bike), and finally of its mirrors and indicators,” in order to make it fit inside the back of his car. 

Fortunately for Mr. Norman, he is experienced at working on bikes and has the tools available to him to be able to take the bike apart. For others, the same may not be true.

Mr. Norman and his friend were able to get the bike into the back of his car - “just!” - but “as you might expect one of us managed to pick up an injury.” He cut open his hand, and, because the boot lid would not shut, both Mr. Norman and his friend were forced to breathe carbon monoxide on their nine-mile journey home. 

They arrived back at Mr. Norman’s home and got everything unpacked from the car by 23:10, by which time the RAC had text him to say they “may look to send a trusted partner to you.” 

By 23:30, Mr. Norman is “reflecting on events as I look at the cut on my hand. The most useless breakdown company in the UK has left me to manage and deal with the problem I pay them every year to look after.” In his experience, “This is the 3rd time they have been woefully inadequate.”

In total, it takes three hours and seven minutes for the RAC to phone Mr. Norman, which they do at 23:37. 

“The guy gives this speech about whatever set of excuses/updates he’s been scripted with,” Mr. Norman said. “I interrupt him. I think I asked him if this was some sort of wind up, I definitely asked him if any normal human being would be expected to sit around in the middle of nowhere waiting for RAC to do nothing for 3 hours, without taking action into their own hands. 

“I swore, I definitely swore! And rather than apologise profusely for the horrendously poor performance of his employer, whilst cringing with embarrassment, promising to get this looked into with some degree of urgency [...] he hung on to the fact that I swore, and laboured the point like a broken record that there was no need to be rude.”

After this experience, Mr. Norman phoned RAC customer service the next day and, understandably, ended his membership. Upon completing the online complaint form and cancelling his membership, Mr. Norman received an email from the RAC confirming the cancellation which said he would “no longer enjoy the peace of mind our rescue service provides.”

To that, Mr. Norman says: “Obviously I’m quaking in my boots without this security blanket.”

When contacted by Visordown, the RAC offered the following comment on the situation: “Unfortunately, due to how busy we were that evening we weren’t able to get to Mr. Norman before he managed to find his own solution. We’re really sorry to lose him as a member after so many years.”

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