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Q: I received a letter in late October from the American Automobile Association of Western New York, informing me that I would not be able to take the AAA Plus (up to 100 miles of towing) coverage any more because they feel that I have abused the right by using it.

I am a disabled person and I cannot afford new cars. So, I buy a car to use and if it breaks, I take it out to my friend to repair. He has a garage and equipment to fix it for the cost of the materials. If it can't be fixed, I try to get another car. I have been on this card with AAA Plus since 1993. They say in this letter that I have cost them more than $1,300 in the last three years, so they must make me only have Basic AAA (five-mile towing).

Five-mile towing, for me, means the very nearest repair shop to the breakdown or tow garage. The price for fixing my car would be too high. I haven't had the best luck with cars in the last three years, but that is why I have AAA to help in emergencies. We had gotten four tows per year for up to 100 miles for emergencies. I feel I have been punished for using my card and feel this is very unfair.

-- Daniel J. Melock, Depew.

A: After we contacted AAA, the association said it's willing to take a second look at your situation. "We'd like to look into this and review the matter," said Diana Dibble, public affairs manager for AAA Western & Central New York. "He's been a member for 11 years and he does other business within AAA. We recognize there is a loyalty."

Dibble -- who notes that AAA would "never leave anyone stranded" -- said AAA will be contacting you and its quality assurance and service improvement department plans to review your case. She said AAA will see if anything can be done, but at this point it is not promising to reverse its decision on changing your membership level pending a review of your case.

AAA's evaluation of towing usage by its members is a fairly new program for the association. "We are membership-driven. To keep dues low for everyone, we have to monitor the expenses of a few," she said.

In trying to keep costs down for its membership as a whole, we can see where they might take a close look at your situation. AAA's membership handbook explicitly states that members who overuse the Plus coverage will be downgraded to basic AAA membership.

In its Oct. 28 letter to you, AAA notes that annual membership dues fund emergency road service expenses, as well as other member services.

"There are varying costs for exact cost and each tow -- $1,300 in three years is above what anybody else comes close to using," Dibble said. "The membership, as a whole, is what's looked at. We're not leaving him stranded or denying him service."

Follow-up note
Rose Hagen's moldy deck in West Seneca is in line for a new lease on life. Her deck problem -- which stemmed from a complaint involving work done by Pro Paint of East Amherst -- should be resolved next spring. Darling Paint in Buffalo read about her problem in our Nov. 1 column and went to inspect her deck. Darling Paint estimator William Darling said he wants to make her deck right. Darling Paint plans to strip the deck, power wash it, kill the fungus and restain it at no cost to her. ICI Paints is providing her with new stain at no additional cost.

Consumer tip
When dealing with charity telemarketers, ask what percentage of a donation is used to directly support the charity and what percentage is used for administrative costs. Before giving any money, ask the caller for the name of the company and then call the charity to verify that they are using that company, suggests the Telecommunications Research and Action Center. Don't provide a credit card or bank account number until you have verified the legitimacy of the organization.

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