Monday, January 07, 2008

The Fleecing

As someone who travels full-time as part of my career, I am no stranger airports, hotels, taxis, and rental cars. Few things stick in my craw as much as the way the rental cars fleece their patrons. Except perhaps the insurance industry.

My recent bout with Hertz just really got to me. The rental car had serious problems so it had to be returned. The lady on the phone was extremely short with me as if my trouble with the car somehow inconvenienced her. When trying to figure out the best way to handle it she just said take it back to the airport. Which by this point is 30 miles away in the opposite direction I need to head. No alternatives, no sympathy even, just take it back. She didn't even offer to call the facility and ensure they'd be ready to exchange my vehicle.

So I make my way back to the airport and lacking any other information proceed to the rental car return location. Which as it turns out is only for returning cars, not for exchanging them. Don't ask me what the difference might be, they couldn't explain. Further, they never offered to explain where the heck I should have gone to do an exchange either.

While filling up the gas tank, I took the time to read the contract terms and noticed that had I not returned the car full of gas they would have charged me $7.49 a gallon. I had to read it twice to be sure I understood. Yep, more than DOUBLE what it would cost me to fill the tank up! Or I could purchase an entire tank of gas at 10 cents a gallon cheaper than gas on the street. Evidently they have decided it is okay to bend over their patrons simply because they can.

Either you save a meager few cents but make up for it by buying an entire tank of gas, or you do it yourself, or they'll rape you when you return. Why? They obviously have a sunk cost already in they guy who will fill it up if I return it less than full. With the volume of cars, surely the get a discount on the fuel as well. They can certainly continue to make a profit by simply performing this service for a small fee instead of the bitch-slap of more than twice the cost of gas! Why not simply charge me a few cents more per gallon? If they can offer me an entire tank for twenty cents per gallon less, why not charge me twenty cents per gallon more for a partial tank?

Simply put, it is because they can. Because rather than be a good company that provides great service for solid value they choose to be an evil company that provides minimal service for exorbitant fees. They might not have to kill the golden goose, but that doesn't mean they can't choke it a little and give it a flogging from time to time.


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