Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grade Inflation in Car Haulers, A Rash of Firms With AAA and AAAA Names

If home run champ Hank Aaron, who owns a number of dealerships in metro Atlanta where he spent most of his career, got into the car hauling business, he’d be well down the listings, for it seems that quite a few firms in the car-hauling business have names that are designed to be first in an alphabetical list.

A look at the listings at has a truck load of names ahead of Hammerin’ Hank; “A-AAA Auto Transport, Inc, AA Auto Movers, AAA Anytime Inc, AAA Discount Auto & Truck Transporters, AAAll States Auto Transport, Inc.” That’s more As than even a good MBA class of mine from my teaching days.

How are you supposed to decide which of these firms would be good to use? People’s default response is to either call the firm with the biggest ad in the phone book, the first firm to show up in a Google search or, if they dig deeper, the first name on the list in the phone book. Firms that give themselves a three or four A name are trying to optimize their position in a list rather than tell something about themselves with their name.

There are some A names that have some quality. The American Automobile Association does a good job for travelers and Alcoholics Anonymous has changed the lives of a number of people who needed the help. However, these aren’t likely to be of that quality. What should a consumer think of a firm whose name acts like an antsy student with his hand waiving in the air? Not much.