The rental car race to the bottom

Is it just me or is renting a car (at least from an airport) just an all-around terrible experience? ¬†I’d like to present two of my experiences of late:

1. Newark Airport.

I flew in without a car rental reservation. I booked my flight there last minute, as I was waiting on word from one of our business partners whether it would be the best time for me to come or not.  I checked the prices online once I confirmed I would go, and saw that the quoted price matched up with what I was expecting so I decided to book when I got there.  I was in transit doing other work and figured it would just be easier to do it when I got there.

When I arrived at Hertz, I was shepherded to a booth where I picked up the phone to speak to an agent. ¬†He then proceeded to quote me DOUBLE what I found online. ¬†I told him that. He responded that I could hang up if I wanted and book, but I wouldn’t be able to get the car until tomorrow because of a delay. ¬†He couldn’t really tell me what that delay was.

I took my chances and hung up, stepped aside, checked online Рstill the same price as before Рand booked.  I then stepped back in line, and called another agent and got my car.

2. Montreal airport.

I arrive at 7AM Рearly flight Рand head over to Dollar.  This time I have a reservation.  The man at the counter tries to sell me on the following:

  • Winter tires. ¬†Okay, so there was a snow storm in Montreal the night before – of course I want winter tires! ¬†(and good thing I got them too) ¬†I agreed to the extra $30 for winter tires, thinking to myself: ‘what the hell are they doing renting cars without winter tires?’ ¬†I later looked it up, and discovered that all rental cars in Quebec are required to have winter tires. ¬†Not sure what’s going on here.
  • A $76 tank of gas for a medium-sized vehicle that I’m driving a total of about 250 km. ¬†He tells me that there are no gas stations around the airport, and that this is the best way to save time and money. ¬†He repeated that twice. I took my chances and figured I would find a gas station within 10 km of the airport. ¬†And sure enough, I did and filled the car when I returned it for $35. ¬†And noted that when I left with the car it said that the mileage available based on the amount of gas in the car was 670 km. ¬†When I filled it, it was 790 km.

He then insisted that I sign a document saying that there was no damage to the vehicle before I saw it. ¬†“There is no damage that I can see”, he says to me. ¬†Now, I know it’s 7AM on a Tuesday, and I don’t what kind of laser eyes he had, but there were no cars in sight. ¬†I debated him on this, and he finally told me that I would sign the paper, carbon copying 3 other sheets, I would take 2, and then give it to the person outside who would take a copy that would note any damage.

I found someone outside who¬†didn’t really want to check the car, reluctantly put a mark next to a scratch I found, and gave me both pieces of paper. ¬†I asked, “don’t you have to keep one?” ¬†No, he tells me. ¬†Ugh, get me out of here.

I understand rental cars are in the ‘race to the bottom‘. ¬†I also understand the people working there have little influence over what is happening day-to-day. ¬†The question I’m left with is, are the rental-car representatives being incentivized for bad behaviour? ¬†To push all kinds of things that I don’t need or want, or try to charge me double than I what I should be paying?

There’s got to be a breaking point for this somewhere. ¬†As a business development professional, it’s these types of interactions that give sales / business a bad name. ¬†As a business development professional, I want to become a business partner with my clients and prospects. ¬†Not to rip you off to benefit myself.

Here’s to better business. ¬†And treating people like you know you should.