Friday, January 11, 2008

They Really DO Try Harder...

So... I'm still sick. In fact, I think I'm worse--now I can't even talk because my voice is so hoarse and my throat is so sore. But I must soldier on and write a post, dammit!

Today I thought I would write about surprisingly great service I received recently from Avis (rental cars). Over the holidays, we needed to rent an SUV (we do not have a car) in order to go back to Michigan before flying to North Dakota. We always have to get an SUV so that we can fit my dog's crate in the back, along with all of his paraphernalia and of our suitcases and whatnot.

In past years I have kept the SUV over the course of 1.5 weeks, just leaving it at my parents' in Michigan while we flew to North Dakota. This would usually run me $300 for the SUV (and you can imagine how much for fuel). Prices have risen and depending on when you book, the car could be upwards of $500 to keep for that long.

So I got a brilliant idea--I would make two "one-way" rentals that were one-day each. $60 to go from Chicago to Michigan at the beginning of our trip, and around the same price to come back at the end (not counting fuel, once again). I was very pleased with myself and my cleverness (although it actually should've been really obvious to me to do this for the past several years, but I digress).

The first day of our trip came. We made it to Michigan, slept at my parents' house, left our doggy behind and then drove to the Detroit airport in the wee hours the next morning. Imagine my shock when the Avis woman handed me my receipt for $250!!! You know what I said next... "Saaaaaaayyyyy whhhhaaaaaaaa?"

I told the woman in the parking lot who checked us in that the charges were way off. She said I would have to go into the building to have them straighten it out (the parking lot attendants had hand-held devices that allowed them to check people in and print receipts, but the on-premises office handled anything else). Since we were already nearing our flight time and still had to take the shuttle bus to the airport and go through security, we decided to call the 1-800 number later and get the bill corrected.

On the shuttle bus, I reviewed the receipt more carefully. I had been charged for mileage (366 miles, to be exact). I dug out the reservation page that I had printed when I first booked the car months ago... it did indeed say in small print that NO miles were included. My heart sank--I had been fooled! I have booked with Avis countless times, and unlimited miles were always included in the listed price, so I never gave it a second thought. I now realized that for one-way rentals it must be different.

I tried to cheer myself up by reasoning that the $250 for each of two one-way rentals was going to be the same price it would've been had I just kept the car the entire time we were in North Dakota... so at least I wasn't out any money. But I was still bitter.

When we got back to Michigan five days later, my dad insisted that I call Avis to see if they could give me a rate than included unlimited miles for our journey back to Chicago. So I called them, and they did indeed switch my rate from $60 plus a charge for every mile to $119 total with unlimited miles. Yay! I was happy.

Once I got back to Chicago and saw the $250 come through for the first rental on my credit card's web site, I got frustrated all over again. So, I called Avis and explained the situation. I told them that obviously it was my fault that I didn't read the agreement closely, but that, at the same time, I always used the web site to book rentals and had never been given a rate that didn't include unlimited miles. I also pointed out that no other options were given to me when booking online, so I didn't know there were multiple types of rates until I called about the one-way rental for our return trip.

To my absolutely amazement, the woman explained why the "no miles included" rate showed up for me, and then REFUNDED $116 from the $250!!! I was in shock--she was totally nice and didn't squabble about it at all. All this--and it had been MY fault essentially! If you're interested, the reason why I was given the "no miles included" rate in the first place was because my profile was linked to a company code, and Avis negotiated really low rates for "normal" rentals with its institutional clients, but for one-ways they essentially charged them up the wazoo (which the companies agreed to because it happens so rarely that someone makes a one-way trip). Mystery solved. She said that if I wanted to make another one-way trip in the future, to call instead of using the web site to book a car.

So the lesson in all of this is: Call if you have an issue with any company... you may be pleasantly surprised with their reaction.

I have one more example of excellent customer service that transpired over the holidays, but I will save that one for later. For now I need to concentrate on drinking my tea and returning to full strength...

- e

No comments: