No H.E.L.P. for helpless gran

AFTER 25 years of loyal patronage to the NRMA, Jean Willsher wasn't even offered a taxi ride when her Nippi scooter broke down on New Year's Eve.

Wheelchair-bound Mrs Willsher was at Park Beach Plaza with her daughter and grandson, when her scooter - with no history of starting problems - wouldn't start.

“I turned on the ignition and hit the starter button and got nothing. No clicking or turning of the engine, nothing,” Mrs Willsher said.

She then rang her daughter, who was at the service station, asking her to return to the scooter to help.

“In the meantime I tried the starter again. I checked the horn and lights and there was power but it still wouldn't start,” she said.

Mrs Willsher called the NRMA and gave the vehicle details. The person she spoke to asked if it was a Honda Legend motorcycle.

A Nippi scooter is a three-wheeled vehicle with a 100cc two-stroke automatic engine. The girl on the phone offered to call Mrs Willsher back with an arrival time of the road service, but more than 30 minutes later Mrs Willsher gave up waiting and called back.

Not long after the second phone call the NRMA vehicle arrived. The NRMA man checked the battery and the terminals of the starter button.

“He said that he had never worked on any of these vehicles before and didn't know anything about them,” Mrs Willsher said.

Without a tow suitable for the vehicle, the man left Mrs Willsher at the Plaza.

“I felt abandoned and helpless. I was in the same position as I was before I called the NRMA . . . left to my own devices,” she said.

Mrs Willsher, a gold member of the NRMA pays $76 a year for classic care membership which, according to the membership guide on NRMA's website, includes towing within 20km in a metropolitan area or a free towing back to the town of the service. In the end Mrs Willsher's daughter's father-in-law came to the rescue with a trailer.

The following day a friend of Mrs Willsher's cleaned the terminals in the start button and the problem was fixed.

On January 2, Mrs Willsher made an official complaint to the NRMA and was told she would be called back within 48 hours. Four days later she was called and offered a verbal apology and 12 months free membership.

“They offered me a year's free membership for them to not come again?” Mrs Willsher asked.

“I don't pay them so they can turn up and say 'I'm sorry I can't help you'.”

When contacted, the NRMA said they do provide a service to this type of scooter and will now be putting patrols through more training and information on the Nippi scooter.

“Obviously we should have organised a taxi and a tow for her,” an NRMA spokesperson said. “It is a valid complaint and we've apologised.”

Mrs Willsher has now been given two years' free membership and an upgrade to premium care which includes the use of taxis.

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