Everyone complains about air travel during the holidays. Soul-sucking airports, cramped seats and unexpected delays can ruin anyone’s weekend. But these inconveniences cannot match the experience of an off-airport rental car. Most countries can’t even begin to grasp the horrors of this world, but those of us in the New York market know full well how crazy these parking lot outposts are.
Because you would think that a major car rental brand would bring with it some degree of brand consistency. A quarter pound is a quarter pound wherever you go. Unless it’s a cheese Royale. But the point is the brand and the expectations it carries. The agencies at the airport allow you to access the car park directly and follow a sign with your name to a parked car. Wouldn’t a border office in the city center offer the same comfort?
Or maybe the problem in this case was too much brand consistency.
Professor Kate Klonick teaches real estate law and internet law at St. John’s Law School. But she knows enough about contracts to know when she’s getting shaken up. Over the holiday weekend, Klonick embarked on the age-old New York tradition of renting a car at the local Hertz office only to discover the office was closed at the time of booking.
After the clerk helped some but not all among the many people who also showed up for reservations after the store closed, Klonick walked into the Lovecraftian nightmare of hung up phone customer service, teased with cars in remote locations and ultimately asked to shell out over $1,800 for enter the car she had already reserved. In the end, Klonick ended up in a dirty Kia…a day late…and still charged about $600 more than the original rate. Maybe if they unplug tom brady they would have room for enough cars to fill their reservations.
If that confuses you, you’ve been missing New Yorkers trying to talk to you about it for almost 30 years.
If you don’t have time for the video…
Jerry: I don’t understand. Do you have my reservation?
Car Rental Agent: We have your reservation, we just ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Rental Car Agent: I think I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. See, you know how to *take* the reservation, you just don’t know how to *maintain* the reservation. And that’s really the most important part of booking: the outfit. Anyone can just take them.
Here’s the whole story in the words of Klonick:
The accomplished law professor: Never. Stop. Identification of problems.
But, as Klonick points out, if her complaint hadn’t gone viral, she might not have gotten anything from the company. Did his compatriots in the Brooklyn Hertz office get the help they needed on day one? She asked the service representative who contacted her after the story rose to prominence:
Oh, an “executive” email for the serious customer service complaints.
All joking aside, this is a serious public relations mistake for Hertz. The company’s shares are down around 18% in the past month and major news outlets detailing its customer service lapses and jaded approach to extorting desperate holidaymakers into paying massive markups aren’t helping. This may be an opportunity for the age-old brand to return to its roots and remind us all of its glory days as a trusted national supplier.
Maybe bring back a classic mouthpiece. Someone everyone remembers as synonymous with the brand.
Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Think like a lawyer. Feel free to email tips, questions or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.