“People think of AAA as primarily a road service. We do that, of course, but we are also the only full-service travel agency in the North Country,” said Cathy Forget, manager, of the American Automobile Association office on Booth Drive off Route 3 in Plattsburgh. “In addition, AAA is now offering a complete line of insurances: automobile, homeowners, umbrella, motorcycle and the pricing is very competitive.”
In terms of domestic travel, AAA still offers up-to-date maps for every state, customized Trip Tiks, and detailed tour books with lodgings rated with their diamond symbols and the not-to-be-missed attractions designated with gem symbols. Not only experts in personal auto travel, AAA also handles airplane flights, rail (Amtrak) travel, and car rentals. And many of these, of course, are eligible for the famous AAA discount.
AAA has maps and tour books for many countries throughout the world, but members can also get foreign currency, international driving permits, photos for passports, and prepaid VISA cards. Customer service representatives can also arrange customized tours and, for members who do not want to drive in a foreign country, professional chauffeurs. Fitting a trip to a member’s needs makes AAA justifiably proud.
FOUR DECADES OF EXPERIENCE
A lifelong Plattsburgh resident, Forget graduated from Our Lady of Victory (OLVA) Business School. After working in a few jobs, she was hired by AAA in 1977. Within a few years, she was promoted to manager.
“They were sending managers up from Schenectady, but it wasn’t a good fit. They didn’t like leaving the city for our rural lifestyle up here,” said Forget. “I was recommended for the job and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Forget is responsible for the hiring, training, and performance reviews of employees, office accounting, customer service, facility maintenance and cleaning, displays, and conducting one motor coach trip and one tour each year. And since the industry is constantly changing, she is learning on-the-job every day—despite her four decades of experience.
“When I started, we didn’t have the travel agency. (The travel agency portion of AAA began in 1985.) When I traveled, I tried to ‘saturate the gems’ so I could give our members first-hand information. When members book travel with us, we touch base frequently and can give them advice on every aspect of their trip.”
One of Forget’s tours was guiding a group of 42 members to Alaska, a combined four day land tour and a seven-day cruise. “As I’m hosting,” Forget explained, “I’m also giving guidance, resulting in a better value for the members. And, in the case of an unforeseen problem such as a hurricane or snow storm that can cancel flights and make travel impossible, we offer trip insurance and do the legwork for the customer to get them reimbursed. We’ve done it for so many years, we know what needs to be done and what paperwork needs to be completed. We’re here to help negotiate.”
Forget’s most recent trips include bringing 63 members on an eastern Canada and New England tour and a group of 32 members on a cruise to Bermuda.
When asked what she likes most about her job, Forget said, “This job changes all the time. There’s nothing that stays the same when it comes to travel or road service. You don’t get stagnant.” She laughed and explained, “We began with typewriters and we learned to use computers. We constantly have to learn the new technology to be able to offer the best service and benefits to our members.”
Members can travel directly from the Plattsburgh office. “Four to five motor coach trips a year leave directly out of Plattsburgh,” explained Forget. “This year we are taking groups to Ottawa, Quebec City, a Yankees game and, during the holidays, to New York City to Radio City Music Hall, to see the Rockettes. I meet new people all the time and some of them are like family. I’m very passionate about my job,” she said, and it is obvious from her knowledge and enthusiasm.
The Plattsburgh AAA office originated on the corner of Oak and Cornelia Streets over 60 years ago. It moved to Booth Drive in 1995, a convenient location that can be easily accessed from the Northway, Routes 3 and 374, and the Tom Miller Road. Its own parking lot and proximity to the mall and the grocery stores make it an easy stop in one’s daily routine.
With six full-time employees plus a licensed certified insurance agent, the Plattsburgh branch covers Clinton, Essex, and Franklin counties, and currently has over 20,000 members. It is part of AAA Northway — which has over 176,000 members—and encompasses offices in Amsterdam, Halfmoon, Queensbury, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Vestal.
Heavily involved in their community, employees in the Plattsburgh office participate in various philanthropic activities. In the past, they have done Relay for Life, the March of Dimes, Toys for Tots, and the Mustang Club. “We try to support the community in various ways,” said Forget. “We don’t always do the same activities, but we do something each year. Forget has been a member of the Rotary Club for 22 years, holding positions as a board member and president and was honored as a Paul Harris fellow.
MORE REASONS TO JOIN AAA
With the availability of roadside assistance now being offered with the purchase of new vehicles, and with towing coverage an option on most automobile insurance policies, some people are under the impression they do not need a AAA membership. Not true.
“These coverages are often limited,” explained Forget. “They are only valid under specific circumstances. Our roadside assistance covers any circumstance and, in some cases, AAA can change a tire or replace a battery right on the road.”
Embracing technology, AAA has a mobile phone app, a connection to Google maps, a Facebook page, and an informative web site with connections to all the services it offers. The company is changing at a rapid pace — providing new products and services and offering its traditional services in a new way—while keeping its unwavering, lifelong commitment to member safety, security and peace of mind.
“We’re always adding something new,” Forget emphasized. “We try to make sure we’re relevant. We want to be sure our customers are 100% satisfied.”