I was cruising down I-95 to Maryland to see my uncle’s bluegrass band with my step-father in the passenger seat and my wife in the back, when I noticed my Hertz rental wasn’t steering as responsively as before. The tire pressure indicator light went on, then the passenger-side airbag light was on steady, and so was the car temperature gauge.
Pulling over at a gas station, I found the passenger side rear tire was about half flat. I filled it back up and continued, trying to make it to my uncle’s concert. We made it just as they were starting their opening chords and had a great time whooping it up.
Checking the tire afterward, it was completely flat. I left it in a local parking garage and planned on calling Hertz in the morning.
The next day, after watching my cousins play soccer, I called Hertz. Sadly, the local office was already closed. I called up customer service. I told the rep my problem and she said I could drive the car myself to the Baltimore Airport over an hour away to do the swap. I hung up.
I called back again, told my story, and the new rep said that they would send AAA out to fix the tire, and then I could drive it to the airport. She asked whether I wanted to pay for AAA on my credit card or if I had a road service plan to pay for it. Here’s where things got fun.
I told her that AAA should pay for it because they had given me a bum car out the gate. The morning when I picked it up, the car they gave me was driven over in a flash from another Hertz location because they were all out of the sub-compacts at the one I was at. The car had trash underneath the seats. I felt that they had given me a car without checking it out first, and if they had, they would have never let it out on the road.
The woman tried to reach her supervisors but couldn’t get them. She said she left a message on their mobile line and that they would get back to me. I hung up and went to go enjoy Oktoberfest with my family.
Over four hours later, I hadn’t gotten a call back. I called Hertz again, resolved to get action this time. I was also resolved to not namedrop my job at all. I wanted to win this as a pure citizen. The first thing I said was, “I need to talk to a supervisor.” The rep asked why, and I told her. The rep gave me the same spiel as the others.
I said, “I am supposed to be on the road tomorrow afternoon, I’m here spending time with my family, and I don’t have time to be driving two hours back and forth to the airport to fix a problem Hertz created.”
“I see three fair ways of resolving this situation,” I continued. “One, you can send out a AAA truck and pay for the cost of fixing the flat yourselves. Two, you can ring up the local manager and make them up open the lot so I can exchange this out. Or three, you can have someone drive out a new car from the airport, give it to me, and pick up this car.”
The rep told me that she wasn’t authorized to do any of those things. I said, “What I need, is for someone with the power at the national level to take responsibility for resolving this situation — tonight.”
The told me she didn’t think they would happen, “but if you need to hear that from someone else, I would be happy to connect you to them.” I told her that would be aces.
She connected me with a customer service specialist, Terra, who, after quickly reviewing the particulars of my case, proceeded to arrange for a double-tow. That’s when a tow truck shows up with a car and they tow the car you had away. Terra was on the case and diligently followed up on all parties to make it happen and called me with updates along the way. She was a total pro.
The car showed up, an upgrade, no less, I gave the tower a $20 tip, and everything was smooth sailing driving back home.
When I dropped the car back off in Brooklyn, they asked me the perfunctory, “I hope everything was excellent about your trip,” type customer service question. “Actually, it wasn’t,” I told him. I quickly recounted what occurred and ended it with, “Because of all this hassle, I was hoping for some consideration.” He conferred with his manager and they ended up taking a day off the cost of my rental, and gave me a $25 voucher, along with their apologies.
I think it’s a good story about how sticking to your guns, not immediately accepting the reality of whatever customer service script they foist on you, escalating, and asking for a material showing of their remorse can get you results.
And that’s how The Consumerist goes on vacation.