Should OnStar Have Helped A Non-Subscriber Who Locked Baby And Keys In The Car?

When is it a moral imperative for a company to make an exception for someone? What if you’re a company that provides subscription-based in-car emergency services, and someone who chose not to subscribe calls you with an emergency?

Venessa has a Cadillac vehicle with General Motors’ OnStar system that provides emergency and roadside assistance with the push of a button inside the car, no cell phone needed. She had decided not to subscribe to the service. Then she accidentally locked her purse in the car. And her keys. And her infant daughter. She managed to contact OnStar and asked them to help, just this once, because there was a baby in the car. If they had, this would be a true “Above and Beyond” story for GM. The OnStar representatives couldn’t help by remotely unlocking the car. Should they have?

She blogged about the incident, explaining how she set the purse down in the car and closed the back door, and then all four doors locked spontaneously. Panicked, she flagged down a gas truck (it had flashing amber lights, so that’s kind of official-looking) and called OnStar after the police came.

I then called [my husband] and tried to get OnStar to assist us but the bastards wouldn’t help because I didn’t have a subscription. Now, I know they have a connection to my car because OnStar was on it when I bought it but they claimed there was nothing they could do.

Had it been any warmer outside, she says that she would have simply broken the window. That makes sense. Windows are replaceable; people are not. Help arrived relatively soon and her daughter was upset, but fine.

The problem with referring to OnStar as “bastards,” though, is that as far as we can determine, OnStar can’t activate a car’s services remotely unless the owner (or someone with a credit card) activates them. Even in an emergency. After all, the purpose of subscribing to such a service is to have it in case you need it.

Update: Venessa has posted an update addressing the concerns of Consumerist readers who have stopped by her site to attack her in her comments section.

The longest 30 minutes of my life [No Ordinary World] (Thanks, Parrish!)