A cautionary tale


#1

I hope this story can save others from the experience I had this last weekend.



I was traveling with my wife and 9 month old to get away for the weekend. We were traveling in the Audi A4 Avant that we purchased last year.



I found that one of my tires had a slow leak and was almost flat. I changed it for the full-sized spare. Down the road, on the interstate, I hit a piece of debris in the road that punctured the side of the back tire.



We were in a bad spot. There was no shoulder on the emergency lane where I had to stop. Vehicles, including very large trucks, were speeding by at 80 mph mere feet from the side of the car. This is where I would have called AAA for help. However, one of the percs of buying a new Audi is the Audi Roadside Assistance. I let my AAA membership lapse knowing I could count on Audi, a company that professes to provide exceptional customer service.



I called the Audi service and got Andrea (in Tuscon, AZ) on the phone. She was very pleasant and sounded concerned for our predicament. She offered to send a tow truck to tow us back into town. This, unfortunately, was not an option with a 9 month old in a car seat. The other option was a tire change. This, too, was not the solution to our problem, having a nearly flat tire in the back. She asked what I would like them to do. I responded that ideally, a plug for my leaking tire would be best. Short of that, I needed air for that tire so that I could make it the 2 miles to the next exit. A truck with a compressor or even a can of Fix-A-Flat would work. Anything to get us off the side of this road.



After being on hold for a while, she returned to tell me that there was nothing they could do. I could get towed or have my tire changed. Anything else was more than they could offer me. I was shocked. How hard would it be to help me inflate the tire? Too hard for Audi, apparently. They willingly left us there with no apparent options and no willingness to help me find one. They were, in short, no assistance at all.



Fortunately for us, a State Police officer arrived as I was changing the unsalvageable tire for the merely almost flat tire in hopes of riding on the rim for 2 miles. He had a small $15 air compressor in his trunk and let me use it. I got enough air in the tire to get to a service station 2 miles away. He was a life saver and a great guy.



Upon returning, I called Audi to let them know of my experience. I thought they would be appalled at our stranding. Alas, they were not. After speaking to Patricia Menko in customer service, I was put on hold for a good 5 minutes or more. She came back to tell me that, in-fact, that was all they could do for me. Leaving me on the side of the road with a small child was perfectly acceptable to Audi. I don’t even know how to address this with Audi anymore. They are fine with this level of care. All I can do now is to let others know.



So to all Audi owners and perspective owners out there, do not depend on Audi’s roadside assistance to actually assist you if you need more than the very basics. Their calloused response to me on both occasions, during and after our ordeal, lets me know what kind service I can expect from Audi. This is when it really counted. When our lives were actually in real danger. They did nothing and then told me that it was exactly what they should have done. I really am amazed.



I hope this can help someone else avoid what we went through.




#2

A preacher was stranded atop his church with flood waters getting higher and higher. He turned down a boat ride saying that the Good Lord would take care of him. A helicopter came by and he turned it down with the same answer. He drowned and went to heaven. He asked the Good Lord why he wasn’t saved. God then said “I sent you a boat and a helicopter, I don’t know what more you could ask for.” There’s a lesson in there, but you have to have the eyes to see it.


#3

This is a two-fold cautionary tale. Much more than not trusting Audi roadside support, make sure that you check the pressure in your spare tire as monthly maintenance! This tale has been told more than once, DO NOT ASSUME that your spare tire is ready to go!


#4

josh–Apparently his spare was in decent condition because he had already mounted it in place of a tire with a slow leak. When another tire was punctured by road debris, the OP literally ran out of tires with which to replace the punctured one.

However, the lesson in all of this (aside from not trusting Audi Roadside Assistance to help) is that one should not drive anywhere without a spare tire–except to a tire store–and one should definitely not set out on a trip without a spare tire.

While I really empathize with the OP regarding the dangerous situation that he experienced, I have to ask:

Was it responsible of you to set out on a weekend getaway (with an infant!) without having a serviceable spare tire in your trunk?


#5

While I am sympathetic to your situation, I don’t see why you turned down the tow truck. First nearly all carry an air tank and could have changed the flat for you back to the slow leak tire, filled it with air and followed you back to town. Second, you could have gotten towed to town and could then get both tires fixed or replaced.

When travelling with small children, it is best to be prepared. I carry a rechargeable air compressor from Sears (about a $40 investment), so I can add air to my own tires when needed. It is invaluable in situations such as this. The only difference is that I haul horses, not little kids anymore.


#6

Huh? As you stated in the first paragraph of your response, the OP DID have a serviceable spare in the trunk at the start of the trip. I guess the most cautious thing to do would be to hunt down a tire store or service station immediately to get the slow leak fixed before continuing the trip, but I doubt most people would do that.


#7

You should have had the the tow turck come out for you and they would have most likely had an air compressor in the truck. Audi doesn’t have there own tow service, neither does AAA, they subcontract out to the local guys. Worst come to worst you could have had your wife and 9 month old ride with the tow operator and you wait behind, but most likely you could have all crammed into the cab of the tow truck.


#8

vaaudia4, when Audi offered to send you a tow truck, why did you assume it would not a second row of seats for your child seat? Why didn’t you take the tow truck offer and call for a taxi at the same time?

Audi didn’t comit to solve all of your problems on your terms. They comitted to send you a tow truck or change the flat for you, one of which would have solved your problem if you simply had added a taxi cab to the equation. Your wife and child could have followed in the taxi. Your lack of problem solving skills isn’t Audi’s fault.


#9

It is really not clear exactly when the OP mounted the spare tire in place of the one with the slow leak. It is possible (as I interpreted it) that he did so before the trip, since any responsible person would certainly check inflation pressures prior to a trip.

It is also possible that he mounted the spare after the trip had begun. The exact sequence of events is unclear.

However, I still contend that when one is on a road trip, it is not a good idea to drive anywhere without a spare time–except to a nearby tire store. And, driving without a spare tire, with an infant in the car, is just not prudent. As proof that this is not prudent, look what happened to the OP.


#10

Good point, AAA will send a tow truck with a second row of seats for children/infant car seats if requested. I’m sure Audi would have as well.

When you start asking for the impossible (a plug for the tire? you want to have someone come and do a tire repair on the edge of a busy highway?), sometimes communication can break down with customer service.

Also agree that you shouldn’t drive anywhere except a tire shop when you’ve run out of useable spare tires.

Any tow truck sent to you would have been able to help you out in someway. Good thing the trooper came by.

I don’t find Audi at fault here, sorry.


#11

I would add that if you are driving around with an infant, you might add a full-sized spare to the trunk, giving you two spares, one of which can be left on indefinitely if the tire stores are closed on a Sunday.


#12

I was thinking along the exact same lines. Great story.


#13

Sounds like a cruddy start or finish to a trip. Stuff happens. Audi well their contracting entity did what they were supposed to. Maybe the response did not make you feel good or was delivered well. Anyway your safe and likely are buying either a can of fix o flat (ruins tires btw) or a cheapo compressor at Wally World.


#14

Yesterday afternoon, the responses to the original post came in at an incredibly fast rate, thus showing how strongly board members reacted to the OP’s gripe. And, clearly the responses were not in agreement with the OP.

I realize that it is a very human reaction to try to attempt to place blame on another party (in this case, Audi Roadside Assistance), but the consensus is that Audi did attempt to render assistance, and the OP did not act in a totally rational manner when he rejected their attempts to assist him.

Hopefully the OP will re-examine his actions and his reactions and will come to the realization that HE (and some inanimate road debris) is to blame for this situation becoming a dangerous one. Hopefully, he will not place his infant in danger again by driving for long distances without a serviceable spare tire.

“Things” happen, and if one is not prepared for these events, bad outcomes can result.


#15

Thank you all for your responses. I believe that some have missed the point of my posting. Regardless of precautions that one takes in embarking upon a trip, there are the occasional circumstance that necessitates the assistance of others. Short of carrying 2 spare tires, I did take reasonable measures to ensure our safe travels. Our trip required the changing of 2 tires. The lesson of preparing for a trip is a good one and I will always check and double check before leaving again. Your points are well taken.

However, if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in a situation that requires you to call on others for help, I would recommend not relying upon Audi Roadside Assistance. They explicitly told me that they could not send someone to inflate my tire. My concern about putting my child in a tow truck cab is also not unreasonable. Have you seen some of those trucks? In hindsight, I could have taken my chances and plead my case to the driver who arrived, but again, that is not the point.

Audi Roadside Assistance was not helpful. If it is their policy… fine. I post to let others know that this is their policy.


#16

I realize that the responses you got were not sought and that you only wanted to warn others about your experience. I too have been suprised in similar fashion on this site. If you decide to add a full-sized spare, I suggest you go to a used tire store or a junk yard to find a good used steel rim. Don’t buy a used tire though. Get the cheapest new tire you can find to mount on the rim. You should be able to do all of this for about $80. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I think it might be a good idea to use a cell phone to dial 411 and get in contact with a local taxi service. It might be a good idea to have the taxi get your wive and child out of harm’s way while you wait for the tow truck. I will also add that you don’t need to be a member of AAA to use their service. If you think they might be more helpful, you can either buy a membership over the phone after they dispatch help or pay on a per-use basis.


#17

No, you did NOT take the others’ points well! We’re all big kids here. You made unreasonable demands upon Audi Roadside Service. It’s quite clear that you are not a good listener to anyone. You had options, and decisions, to make all on your own. You flubbed.

I can contemplate a number of other choices you could have made: 1. Drove on the flat tire (on the shoulder, if necessary) to the service station. 2. Drove on the almost-flat tire to the service station. 3. Called a taxi for whomever. 3. Walked to the service station for a can of fix-a-flat. 4. Walked, carrying one of the flat tires, to the service station. 5. Called that taxi to take you, passenger, and flat tires to the service station for repairs. 6. And, the list goes on. Make mature, responsible, decisions, for yourself. Who else can?!


#18

My concern about putting my child in a tow truck cab is also not unreasonable. Have you seen some of those trucks?

And right here is your biggest mistake. You assumed the tow truck would not be appropriate or able to handle a car seat. You also assumed the truck would not have a compressor or air tank when most all do, though Audi certainly can’t know for sure that they do, and the dispatcher you were talking to might not know anything about tow trucks in general. You should have accepted the tow truck and made the decision after seeing it, but you assumed it would be a junky old wrecker. Audi provided the roadside assistance they claimed to provide, you just rejected it.


#19

Although your tone is less than helpful, you do punctuate my point quite clearly. You are absolutely right… I had several options available once I found myself in this situation. Not one of those options involve the help of Audi Roadside Assistance. It is not a service that I can count on in difficult situations.

I solved the problem with the aid of the State Police Officer. I could have waited on the state roadside assistance truck, called a tow truck myself, or any of your other suggestions. And my point again… I could not depend on the Audi Roadside Assistance. If air for a tire is too much to ask for… now others know that too. That was all it took to get me on my way.


#20

ANY tow truck sent to you would have been able to help out. You asked for a tire repair or air for the tire. Yes, a customer service rep that can think outside of the box would’ve been able to say “of course sir, I’ll send a tow truck and they’ll be able to help you in some way”, but like hellokit said, as adults, we have to do the out-of-box thinking ourselves at least sometimes.

Audi had the help you neeeded and offered it to you, you were the one that refused it.

No other roadside assistance company/program would have treated the situation any differently. If this had been AAA or any of the other roadside assistance companies out there, you’d be inserting their name in your “warning” and they’d still not be at fault in this situation.