Stuck in traffic

I was stuck in traffic at the check-in counter at Dollar rent-a-car. After standing in a short line that wasn’t moving, with a star-gazed clerk at the helm, and her customer talking to his banker about his credit line or character or something, I cut to the front of the line (hey, this is difficult for a polite Canadian, especially in a foreign country) and asked the clerk if there was any way to speed this up.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asked.

“Yes, I do.” I replied, and, much to my amazement, she proceeded to process my reservation before the people who were ahead of me and are now behind me in line. The original customer was still yapping on his phone. This assertiveness stuff really works!

I had booked the reservation on-line and selected the daily insurance of $11 per day, even though one of my credit cards had some basic coverage. She then asked me if I wanted the full insurance for $34.95 per day. That’s more than the price of a small car rental.

I declined the full insurance and observed that my on-line insurance request didn’t register on the reservation (apparently I was below the minimum threshold and needed to be up-sold manually). I settled on the liability insurance for $12 per day, just to be safe. A second driver, also $12 per day, wasn’t required by me so I declined it, and had to initial every one of my declined services.


The car rental places seem to have taken a page out of the movie theatre playbook and charge more for the peripherals than the basic product. I inquired about the GPS and that was another $10 per day. I declined…my iPhone would work just fine, and it did. I could have paid $58 per day just for insurance, GPS and a second driver, before the cost of the car. You can rent a lot of vehicles for less than that. I wander what a bicycle costs to rent?

It would have been cheaper, faster and less stressful to hire a limousine to drive both ways (which I usually do), door to door, no gas fill-ups, no insurance hard-sells, and no exasperating slow moving line. By the way, it only costs a few bucks more to hire a limo, which is clean, well-maintained, and the driver can usually act as a tour guide, compared to a squeaky, dirty taxi.

Lessons for business owners:

  1. Make it easy, fast and fun for your customers to do business with you.
  2. Offer bundles that make sense to the customer and simplify decision making.
  3. Realize that you are competing with the customer’s time, attention and patience. We have other choices. You aren’t competing against the other similarly managed car rental companies, where managers change jobs like cows wander the pasture.
  4. Don’t ignore customers standing in line. They’re paying your wages.
  5. Training and measurable performance standards can improve service.
  6. Again, this is an international company whose executives, I’m pretty sure, haven’t shopped their own business lately. I bet they took a limousine!

Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Phil Symchych.

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