Progressive Roadside Assistance Strands Lady On Roadside

According to a reader, Progressive—the insurance company that sends private detectives to secretly tape-record church support group meetings—took 45 minutes this past weekend to put a live person in contact with a woman who was stranded on a busy Interstate in Nashville after a tire blew out on her car. Eventually, a Tennessee Department of Transportation officer stopped and helped her.

The woman’s stepfather, who pays for the insurance, called Progressive Monday morning to find out which part of “roadside assistance” Progressive doesn’t understand:

I told my story to a customer service representative who then without me asking transferred me to a manager, Brandy. Brandy was helpful to the extent that she tried to diagnose the problem with the outsourced call center to verify my story. She pulled wait times and various other reports none of which seemed very helpful to either of us. At around 12:45 she said that she had to pull a report and would call me back in 30 to 60 minutes. I am now about to leave the office at 5:30 with no call and no way to reach her.

Nice going, Progressive. We know companies intentionally throttle resources for customer service centers—but when you pay for a service like Roadside Assistance, having a staffed call center doesn’t qualify as added value. It’s the service itself.

(Thanks to Chuck!)

Progressive’s Roadside Assistance page
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. davere says:

    I would give Brandy the benefit of the doubt for now. Getting reports from an outsourced call center is not always a speedy thing if your contact there is busy or paperwork needs to be filled out (I speak from experience.)

    However, Brandy should have called the man to inform him that it is taking longer to obtain this information.

  2. SabrinaFaire says:

    Similar thing happened to me. Except that I was stranded on an overpass with a black car, no electrical (meaning no hazards), in January, in the snow, with night falling and it was AAA, not Progressive. Did I mention the black car? Yeah, no one could see me. I was sitting there for 2.5 hours before a county sheriff came by. (I didn’t know at the time you could call them if your car was blocking traffic) Even with the sheriff telling the AAA rep that I should be a priority because I was in a very dangerous situation, they still couldn’t send anyone out sooner than “45 minutes” which I had already been told several times over. Eventually the Sheriff called a local tow company that got there in 5 minutes and AAA did reimburse me for that tow, but I didn’t renew with them when my membership was up. What good is roadside assistance if they don’t assist?

  3. SaveMeJeebus says:

    No reason not to believe her for something as trivial as roadside assistance. Progressive should own up. To get the tow truck out to the scene takes upwards of 30-45 mins beyond talking to the rep–unacceptable.

  4. Beerad says:

    I’m curious about the details about the stranding and subsequent service failure — was there 45 minutes of automated menus to wade through? Was she bounced around from department to department? Waiting for a call back? The information is all about the post-screwup investigation, which, while irritating, isn’t the really problematic issue.

  5. Underpants Gnome says:

    I had the same experience with progressive, I had a tire blowout on a chicago tollway, and it took the tow truck nearly an hour and a half to get there. To be fair, this was at 2am on a holiday weekend, so there may not have been a lot of tow trucks working at the time. I kept calling progressive back every 15 minutes, until finally they put me on a 3-way call with the driver to make sure he could find me.

  6. FunPaul says:

    Ah Progressive. I used to work in a building that had a Progressive office. They used to consume the best parking spaces with those Ford Explorers. Most of the time they sat there, they’d only take a few of them out.
    One time an employee of Progressive’s got in an accident in the parking lot with one of my colleagues. The Progressive guy was at fault–those guys drove like maniacs. He also told my, non-American, colleague that calling the police was not necessary. “Trust me, I do this for a living.”
    Yeah, that’s because he changed his story and tried to put the blame on my colleague once the claim started processing.
    Bunch of lowlife crooks. I don’t know if that’s typical of the type of character that Progressive employs. I don’t care, they won’t see my business.
    Always get a police report in an accident, always.

  7. Balisong says:

    I’m confused…by “live person” do they mean on the phone or there on the scene? I was stranded for 2 hours with AAA but that was because (duh) there were no tow trucks available for that time. I just had to wait. In the freezing cold. It happens. There’s not an army of tow trucks out there ready to rush to your aid at any second.

  8. dugn says:

    Sabrina – exact same thing happened to me with but with Progressive insurance in Utah years ago.

    My girlfriend and I were driving her car from Provo UT to Las Vegas and got caught in a raging blizzard. The car stalled and wouldn’t start while snow started – literally – burying us on the side of the highway. I brought my Progressive roadside assistance card for just this contingency: They claimed the service followed the card holder to whatever car he/she was in.

    I called the number and an argument ensued over coverage. Why? Because my girlfriend has Progressive also – but opted OUT of the roadside assistance.

    Effectively, Progressive would cover anyone on the planet who held a roadside assistance card EXCEPT when they were with another Progressive driver who had opted out of the roadside coverage!

    I calmly indicated repeatedly throughout the conversations with multiple CSRs that – whether we had to pay someone or not – that there were two people who would either freeze to death, be buried alive or be hit by a trucker who couldn’t see our disappearing car if they didn’t send help ASAP!

    After two hours and at the brink of the cell phone’s battery, a Utah patrolman saw the red scarf we had poked out the driver’s window and stopped to rescue us.

    Lessons learned: Stop talking to CSRs long before your cell battery dies. Always have an extra cell battery. Carry emergency blankets and rain gear in trunk of car. Never trust Progressive.

  9. TMurphy says:

    If you make the seriousness of the situation clear to them, and they are your insurance company who you are paying to help you out, would you be able to sue them for some form of negligence, or would something serious have to happen as a result, or would you just be blamed for not resorting to calling the local authorities for help?

  10. I had this happen to me with Ford, only it was 95 degrees and I had two cats in the car and Ford Roadside Assistance insisted I was 70 miles from any Ford dealership and kept refusing to assist me or contact police or do ANYTHING, really. (I managed to get onto an exit ramp but was still blocking traffic.) My husband managed to google up the nearest Ford dealership for me, which was THREE MILES AWAY. They sent a tow truck right over.

    The kicker was that the reason my car broke down turned out to be recall work that I had performed at a Ford dealership that they NEVER ACTUALLY PERFORMED despite saying so on the receipt. The Ford dealer in the back ass of beyond that rescued me did the work in like 20 minutes.

    I contacted both the dealership that didn’t do the work and Ford Corporate (about both the failed recall work AND the rudeness and lack of assistance of Roadside Assistance), and neither ever bothered to reply.

    I should have pursued it but we were in the middle of moving and buying our first home (which is why I was on the interstate with two cats in the first place), so I kind-of dropped it.

    I still get coupons from the dealership that failed to perform the recall work, though, urging me to bring my car to them for maintenance!

  11. Toast442 says:

    I had a chance to use Progressive’s “service” once when a friend and I were stuck on the interstate in his car. 15 minutes on hold and then an argument over whether they would cover the tow because technically the car was still mobile (at a whopping 5mph. On the interstate. Way safe there.)

    For contrast, I just used my car manufacturer’s roadside assistance – got a live person on the line on the first ring (!) and the tow truck showed up 10 minutes later. They even called back an hour later to make sure I was OK.

    Now if they’d just cover the repairs…

  12. scarletvirtue says:

    Reading that entry, along with the comments, I’m so glad that I don’t work with Progressive as a market anymore! (Just one of many reasons that people hate my line of work…)

  13. gina227 says:

    I’m sure this probably goes without saying for most of the readers of this blog, but just to be on the safe side, let me warn you to never EVER rely on the roadside assistance supplied by Cingular, or AT&T or whoever the hell they are now. I sat on the side of the road on a Sunday evening, while they repeatedly promised me that there was a tow truck on its way, and then when I called back after an hour of waiting, said there wasn’t, but they would send one out immediately. We went through this about 4 times in 4 hours before they finally told me, “We can’t find a truck to send, we can’t help you, Buh-bye.” I paid a monthly fee for this so-called service. In the end, I had to have my dad come rescue me with his AAA. And no, Cingular would not refund the months I paid for the roadside assistance.

  14. toddkravos says:

    The fact this is on the consumerist with such shoddy details is pretty lame. But you guys seem pretty much against any insurance company

    I am hard pressed to believe this isn’t an isolated incident.

    Personally, I have roadside w/ Progressive and
    I locked myself out of my car back in August of this year. At a gas station. The car wasn’t running and there wasn’t a living creature inside so the local PD refuse to assist (Cleveland PD – District 1)

    Not only did the roadside guy arrive with an hour, he got in my car in under 5 minutes.

    I think with any service of this nature, your milage will CERTAINLY vary. Think AAA and Monday evenings in the major metro. cities.

  15. scarletvirtue says:

    @toddkravos: I know that I’m not against insurance companies! Instead, I get to deal with being one of many items on someone’s to-do list (usually listed as “call insurance agent to bitch about renewal”)

  16. Roadgeek says:

    Okay, I hate to be this way but people who can’t change a tire shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Tire tools and cars are designed today in such a manner that even a petite woman with little upper body strength can change a tire. My wife was taught to change a tire right after she learned to drive, and she has changed a tire on a busy interstate highway in the past. Exceptions could be granted for old folks and pregnancy, but that’s it. Folks who won’t learn to change a tire place themselves at the mercy of all manner of criminals and creeps.

  17. alice_bunnie says:

    If Progressive is anything like the roadside assistance I get from State Farm it costs about $3 for every 6 months. Yeah, “I’m paying for it” just doesn’t cut it.

  18. fluiddruid says:

    @alice_bunnie: So Progressive should be able to offer, and collect money for, a service that they can’t provide — and that’s okay because it doesn’t meet an arbitrary minimum price that you perceive?

    Please. If they offer the service, and collect money for it, they need to provide it.

  19. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    I agree — it’s nice to have a choice as to whether to call AAA (or Progressive, or whatever) or change that tire yourself. I could jumpstart a car in my sleep, and I can do a pretty decent job at changing a tire. But there are just some times (snowstorms, etc.) that you want to get the service you paid for. I have AAA, but they take so damn long that I only call them if I absolutely need to (like having a blowout on a busy highway with a very narrow shoulder).

    So more often than not, I’ve ended up changing the tire myself. As a woman, I feel empowered. For about 5 minutes. Then I feel sweaty. Then I’m pissed that I pay AAA Connecticut $100 a year to route all my calls to freakin’ Cincinnati and then make me wait hours for a towtruck.

  20. VA_White says:

    Last Thursday I left work and saw I had a flat. I didn’t have my roadside assistance number on me so I called the 800 number for policy service/claims that was on my insurance ID card. Brad (a real human being) answered the phone and transfered me to Roadside Assistance. Roadside Assistance took down my info and location. A computer called me back to let me know when the guy was coming and again five minutes after he was due to make sure he showed up.

    I had my tire changed and was on my way home in less than 45 minutes from the time I walked out of my building and saw the flat.

    My insurance? Why, USAA, of course. :)

  21. dantsea says:

    Bias alert: Former AAA Washington/Inland phone jockey & dispatcher

    @Balisong: Exactly, precisely and spot-on.

    The thing I tried to keep in mind while doing that job was that people have very personal relationships with their cars, didn’t factor in a breakdown in their daily plans (who would?), and now they have to step way outside of their routine and into a situation where they’re suddenly not in control of anything. That’s enough to make the average person a little panicky.

    But damn if there weren’t many days when I wished I could reach through the phone and throttle some members until common sense returned. In particular, people seemed to be very surprised that tow trucks were not hovercraft that could fly over a freeway jammed with 3-day-weekend warriors, or icebreakers that could render impassable, blizzard-shrouded roads viable.

    Also, I had to work hard to convince members that tow trucks were not self-replicating machines that could double, triple or quadruple capacity during rush hour, for five minute service (yes, you can get a private contractor to you in most cities within fifteen minutes; they’ll often charge for one visit what AAA charges for an entire year, you figure it out).

    Of course if they did have that technology, it’s not like we’d have been able to get there in an efficient amount of time since very often trying to get an approximate location out of a member was a massive battle of wills (protip: “I’m in front of a Starbucks in downtown Seattle!” = NOT HELPFUL). But I’m getting ranty. Er. Rantier. :)

    But waiting 45 minutes on the phone for a tow, if that’s what happened? That’s bullshit of the most inexcusable order and Progressive needs to acknowledge, apologize and make it better by spending a little more on that call center. The only time we ever had call volumes like that was on New Year’s Eve, Labor Day, or the above-mentioned Storm Of The Century Of The Week.

  22. jwarner132 says:


    You couldn’t change your own tire in the relative safety of your company parking lot? What was Roadgeek saying about people who can’t change a tire not being allowed to drive?

  23. JayXJ says:

    I’ve had these problems with AAA, which is why I no longer use them. I have USAA’s roadside assistance and other than one incident it’s been great.

    While I agree that everyone who operates a car should know how to change a tire, check and fill fluids, etc… many times conditions are unsafe to do so. Especially if you only have the manufacturer’s cheap jack in your trunk.