In mid-November I made a one-way rental from Charlotte Airport to Charleston Airport after my flight had been cancelled. It’s about a 3 to 3 1/2 hour drive and that was better than waiting for 7 hours in CLT for the next flight.
When I got the car from the Executive Aisle I noticed some scratches on the rear left of the car. I drove up to the exit and gave the clerk the rental contract from the dash and told her about the scratches. She said she would note it in the rental agreement. I asked if I got anything noting the damage and she said no. I asked her if she’d at least make a note on the contract I got back. She made a hand written note.
I drove to CHS and returned the car. They immediately noticed the damage and I showed them the hand written note and said the clerk in CLT said she noted it in the rental agreement. The person in CHS asked to keep the contract with the hand written note and so I took a photo of it and gave it to her.
The following week I got a call from someone at National and she asked if I could explain what happened and email her the photo of the note. I did and we exchanged a few emails. The important thing to note here is that we communicated via email.
A week later on November 25th I left for 3 months in Bangkok and Southeast Asia. Bangkok is 12 hours ahead of ET. The second week of December I woke up one morning to see that a call had come in at 3am. I listened to the message from National and they provided no other detail than to ask me to call and left an 800 number. I tried to call the 800 number but it was US only 800 number. I called National customer service and they had no record of who called me, what department called and couldn’t help me.
The same thing happened three days later, a call at 2:30 am with an 800 number that was US only. Nothing I could do. Several days later I got another call at 3:45am with the same 800 number, but this time an actual phone # showed on my caller ID. I called that number back and left a message that I was in Bangkok, it was a 12 hour time difference so they could call me up until 11pm my time or 11am ET. I also left my email on the message and said that would be a great way to contact me.
Weeks go by, and i heard nothing. I start my holiday Vacation and completely forget about National. As my 3 months in Bangkok are about over I needed to rent a car. I tried to log into Nationals website and received a message that my account had been cancelled. I called customer service. The first person I spoke to said she had to transfer me to another department. No one picked up when she transferred me. I called back and got another agent. He was able to tell me that my account had been cancelled and I was placed on the do not rent list. I explained that I was in Bangkok, it was a 12 hour time difference, all the calls I got gave US only 800 numbers. He gave me a number to call and said he was sure it was an international 800 number.
Now, all these calls are starting to add up especially since the wait for customer service can be long. I called the new 800 number he said was international and surprise, it wasn’t. I called customer service back for a third time. Explained the whole story again to an agent and he actually said, “Well they probably don’t believe you’re in Bangkok.” I told him I could send airline ticket itineraries, a hotel bill or anything else. He seemed to be empathetic and transferred me to a supervisor. So for the 4th time I explained the situation again. I told the supervisor that I need someone to call before 11 or email me. I asked that he please note this in my account and explain I’m in Bangkok with a 12 hr time difference. He said someone would contact me within 48 hours.
Forty-eight hours passed and I had no call from anyone at National. I posted my blog and was contacted by someone from any agency representing National. I had worked previously with the agency to run contests for Nationals sister company, Enterprise. The person asked me to explain what had happened and I relayed the story. She said she’d pass it onto National.
Four days later I was back in the US and finally able to talk with someone at National. I will also mention that I had 6 pieces of mail from National when I picked up my held mail from the post office. I was told that I owed National $175 for damage and with admin fees the total I owed was $225. I still maintain that I do not owe anything.
By this time National had turned me over to a collection agency I spoke with my insurance company and they said to pay the $225 and file a claim with them and they would fight National on the issue.
I wrote a letter to the VP of National explaining that here I am, a long time and loyal renter. Never had anything like this occur, ever and I tried on numerous occasions to contact National. I expressed my disappointment that National employees weren’t capable of thinking out of the box to connect with me via email (remember back to the beginning of this story, the first person I dealt with emailed with me.) I did a little research and found that in 2012 spent just under $5,000 with National. In 2011, I spent just over $12,000 and in 2010 I spent about $10,000. I wrote to the VP that $175 in damage and $225 in total is a drop in the bucket compared to what I spend with National. Had I been informed in one of the voice mail messages or had someone emailed me with the detail anytime in November, December or January I could have contacted my insurance company, American Express who I booked and paid for the rental with or have dealt with the issue in a handful of other ways. I did not hear back from anyone at National.
I just got a letter saying I’ve been removed from the do not rent list and I’m welcome to create a new Emerald Club membership. Will they reinstate my Executive Elite status? No. Will they reinstate the 6 free rental credits I had in my account? No.
So, guess how much money I will spend with National Car Rental or its sister companies Enterprise and Alamo in 2013? Zero! I will not be renting from them ever again.
For my first rental in 2013 I chose Hertz. I was able to get a gold plus membership through my company. I called the Hertz corporate rep and explained why I was switching. I booked a car with Hertz for last weekend. Before I arrived I got an email letting me know what stall my car was in and was given the option to upgrade, but I didn’t. When I got off the Hertz bus I discovered that my car was in a Presidents club space and inside was a note welcoming me to Hertz Gold. When I drove up to the booth not only did the clerk wish me a happy birthday, but she said, “I see this is your first rental with Hertz, welcome to Hertz gold.”
So far, I’m off to a nice start with Hertz. I suspect I’ll spend between $5,000 and $7,500 this year with Hertz and I’m sure I’ll earn higher status this year with Hertz.
National could take some notes from companies who provide customer service via email, Twitter, etc…