Infidelity Pays

Last year when our Mazda’s insurance was up for renewal, I leapt onto one or two of the plethora of price comparison web sites to see if I could better my car insurance price. I was very pleased to see that I could save myself about £100, one of the most competitive quotes being from the AA insurance services. I decided to go for it. One factor which encouraged me in that direction was that the AA was offering a 30% discount on AA membership if I bought it at the same time as the insurance. Good ol’ Mazzie was 9 years old and, though he had been reasonably reliable, I thought a spot of breakdown and recovery cover now might not go amiss. I went for that too and still saved on my old insurance premium.

[Aside: I was less ecstatic when my new insurance policy arrived from the AA and I noticed that the policy number began with the letters "SAG". Sure enough, it was a Saga policy sold to me through the AA insurance services. I felt a little older – but that’s another story.]

Anyway, a few days ago my AA membership renewal notice arrived in the post. The price had increased from about £70 to £102. Ah ha, now that I am an existing member, it strikes me that I’m not getting the 30% discount any more. The AA web site still mentions "up to 38% discount" on breakdown cover when you buy online but, of course, here I am, an existing customer, simply being renewed.

Armed with a competitive price from Green Flag (£60.90) for comparable cover, I phoned the AA and told them I wanted to cancel my membership. "Why?", they asked. "Because I can save £40 with Green Flag", I responded frugally. After an explanation of why the AA did not consider Green Flag to be direct competitors (unlike the AA, Green Flag does not have patrols wasting fossil fuels constantly driving the length and breadth of the country), the nice lady on the phone put me on hold while she went "to see if I can do anything about your renewal premium". […Irritating musical interlude…] Click! Magic, they could now renew me for £71.40. Looks like a phone call got me my 30% discount back.

It seems to be too frequently the case in our current incarnation of the world (version 5 release 15) that discounts are offered to new customers simply to entice them into the fold. It used to be the case that existing customers were rewarded for their loyalty whereas now the faithful customer tends to be penalised in favour of the new sucker customer. Price comparison web sites are a typical case in point: we are actively encouraged continually to jump ship and grab introductory discounts. Do companies no longer care about repeat business? They should do; it should be easier and, therefore, cheaper to hang on to existing customers than to win new customers, or so I was taught. Am I missing something?

Much as I love Aleksandr and all his pals at www.comparethemeerkat.com, I can’t help but think that there is something vaguely twisted about a world that favours the fickle over the faithful.

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