[Author’s note: The following is a letter I sent to DOLLAR RENT A CAR based on an actual recent car rental experience. – TEJ ]
Dear DOLLAR RENT A CAR,
I wanted to tell you about my unforgettable experience that took place when I made the admittedly foolhardy decision to rent a car from DOLLAR RENT A CAR. I had just flown into Albany, NY Airport with plans to see my family and attend my high school’s 50th class reunion, so I needed a car.
Two months before my trip, I made an egregious mistake. I placed a reservation online with DOLLAR RENT A CAR. I selected an economy vehicle. I hope you don’t feel I was being too cheap by not going for your luxury SUV option instead. Anyhoo, my flight into Albany arrived three hours late. This was totally my fault, of course. I had made the reckless decision to try to save a few bucks by flying Southwest Airlines. I’ll never make that mistake again. But I digress.
I arrived at your airport rental car counter at 11:30pm – thirty minutes before it closed for the night. The employee at the counter named Tony immediately found my reservation in your system. I only had to wait another 22 minutes for Tony to casually inform me, “Looks like I can’t give you a car. You’re on our DNR LIST.” Perplexed, I asked Tony if I had heard him correctly: “Did you say, I’m on a DNR LIST? What’s that?”
Tony explained in a voice some might mistake as sounding gruff and irritated, but I’m sure was intended to exude warmth and empathy, that it stood for “Do Not Rent.” Like an airline No Fly List but for rental cars. Turns out I had been officially banned from travel with Dollar Rent A Car. I asked, “Can you tell me WHY I am on Dollar’s RENTAL BLACK LIST?”
“That’s DO NOT RENT LIST,” Tony snapped in what probably was a lot cheerier a voice than it sounded. “How the Hell would I know why? Maybe you have a criminal conviction or failed to pay some outstanding speeding tickets.”
“No, Tony, neither of those apply to me,” I calmly explained.
“Well, you must’a did something wrong, fella,” Tony barked, again in the kindest, affirming voice. Tony wrote down a phone number: “Call our DNR department during business hours tomorrow and maybe they can explain why. We’re now officially closed for the night. I gotta go.”
I want to thank you, DOLLAR RENT A CAR, for not telling me I was on your “DNR” list until 11:52 pm just as all the airport rental counters were closing for the night. I would hate to have received this helpful information, say, two months ago when I first placed my reservation, while I still had time to make alternate rental car arrangements. It would have totally deprived me of the memorable opportunity to spend quality time with your superstar employee Tony.
So there I was at midnight, stuck at the airport, no car, and all the rental car counters closed for the night. You may find the next part hilarious. I know I sure will – ten years from now. I was supposed to drive an hour north of Albany to meet a close friend. But thanks to your DNR policy, I had no choice but to shell out money for a cab and stay at a nearby hotel instead.
I called the nearest Courtyard by Marriott,. I spoke to a lovely person named Donna. I explained to Donna that I was in a bit of a jam and desperately needed a place for one night. To my great elation, Donna told me, ”Mr. Jones, you’re in luck. We have one room left.”
Within minutes, I was in an Uber heading for the hotel. When I lugged my luggage into the hotel lobby, Donna met me with a sheepish expression on her face. Uh oh. She apologized that she’d made a mistake. It turns out there were no rooms available after all. Here’s my question: Did DOLLAR RENT A CAR have someone call the hotel to inform them to place me on the DO NOT RENT A HOTEL ROOM list, too?
Now, you might be curious to know WHY I was put on your firm’s DO NOT RENT list. I admire your inquisitiveness. I called the following morning and a customer service person named Breanna put me on a brief five-minute hold. And then another ten-minute hold. And after what barely felt like another 15 minutes, she accidentally disconnected my call.
I called in again and in less than 20 minutes I reached Christina – or maybe it was Kristina. I’m sorry I failed to ask how she spelled her name. She said I had been placed on your elite “WE HATE YOU” list because apparently, I had the same last name as someone else who had failed to pay their bill.
An easy-to-understand mistake, seeing as how we were probably the only two people with the last name JONES in your entire 100,000-person customer database. I’m pleased to report that Kristina wasted no time in apologizing to me, by which I mean she didn’t bother to apologize. But that’s okay. I’m sure she was having a bad day – probably from having to deal with hundreds of other people calling in to complain about being put on your DNR list by mistake.
I asked Kristina if she could reverse the $450 charge I paid when I originally reserved a vehicle, since your company refused to rent me the car. She explained that she could not help me, as she worked for the DNR department. I needed to call the customer severance, I mean customer service department.
I finally reached a representative named Roy, who I have to say possessed almost as polished social skills as Tony from the rental counter. Roy explained that he couldn’t issue a refund because I needed to have cancelled my reservation at least 24 hours before the rental date, and I had failed to do so.
I explained in vain that I did not actually cancel my reservation. Dollar did. Never quite understanding my point, Roy finally explained that I’d have to call their billing department to submit a refund request. It’s been two weeks, and I’m still waiting for a call back.
DOLLAR RENT A CAR, you have given me a new appreciation of just how rare outstanding customer service is, at least. anywhere within the ranks of your organization.
I hope you won’t mind my sharing my memorable experience with a few thousand of my closest Facebook friends, not to mention on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. DOLLAR RENT A CAR, you guys made me feel like a hundred bucks – too bad those hundred bucks were all counterfeit.
Tim Jones, former customer
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
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