Sunday, September 30, 2007

Enterprise-rent-a-car: Masters of embarrassment

Like I've said before, I miss my SUV already. And never more than today.

My friend M and I got a storage unit, and my boxes have been sitting around my apartment for the last several weeks. This is mostly because I haven't really been home on the weekends to move them or if I was I was probably still unpacking. But now I'm pretty much unpacked and my extra crap is ready to go to storage. It's the American way.

I need a car to get the stuff to the unit. I considered borrowing my Dad's SUV, but the 1.5 hour drive each way to pick it up plus tolls wasn't very enticing. I considered signing up for ZipCar, but I don't want to wait 2 weeks for my ZipCard to come. So I decided to rent from Enterprise. I've rented from them many times before (in Connecticut, Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles and Ohio) and usually had good experiences. I usually employ the three strike rule with companies I use a lot - 3 idiotic customer service moves and I'm done. Because you're never going to have a good experience every time and I understand that. Just something to keep in mind. Plus, they sponsor Dale Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. and that's OK with me.

Anyway, I called the nearest Enterprise office at 65th and 1st on Friday to see about renting a car by the hour today. I wasn't even sure if I could do that. But sure enough I could. I asked for a station wagon. They said they didn't have any station wagons, but they could give me a hatchback. Is there a difference?!? Maybe that should have been a hint to me. They take some basic information and ask me to bring a major credit card.

I called up R and T and asked them to be my big strong boys and help me pack up the crap into the rental car. I probably could have done it by myself, but I was worried about not being able to find parking near my building. If I had to double park, I would need to pack up as quickly as possible.

The boys came over before NFL started and I cooked them lunch. Come 2:30, I left for Enterprise. I decided to walk. I got there early and sat on an available doorstep until the gate went up. Everything went smoothly at first. They had my reservation and asked me for my driver's license and my credit card. I handed both over but the attendant said she needed a major credit card, not a debit card because I have an out-of-state license (I still have my Colorado license from college since my car was registered there). So I hand over my American Express card without thinking. The attendant says she's going to charge a $350 deposit to the card...fuck. I forgot about this. Enterprise puts a hold on your credit card. My card is maxed after the move. But since I'm a regular customer and they have waived this for me before, I ask them to do it again. The following (paraphrased) conversation took place.

Me - There's not $350 available on my credit card. I rent from Enterprise a lot and usually you guys waive this for me.
Attendant - They do? Really? We can't do that. Can we run less, say $250?
Me - No. I think there's like $50 available on there. I purposely keep my credit limit low.
Attendant - Well, can you call your credit card company and see how much is available?
Me - Um, no. I'm not going to do that. I know there's definitely less than $100 available. Again, I keep it low on purpose.
Attendant - OK. (weak smile) I need to ask my manager.
The attendant left to get her manager. There's a crowd in the office since it just opened. I see another customer ask her question, and she starts helping the other customer! Leaves me hanging. Now I'm annoyed. She comes back in and tells me she's waiting for the manager to come back in. I tell her I do have another credit card with the $35o available at my apartment - can I take the car and call back with the number? No, she replied. We have to physically swipe it. Okay...right...sure...The manager came back in and I go through pretty much the same exchange...

Me - There's not $350 available on my credit card. I rent from Enterprise a lot and usually you guys waive this for me.
Manager - We can't do that. Can we run less, say $250?
Me - No. I think there's like $50 available on there. I purposely keep my credit limit low.
Manager - Well, can you call your credit card company and see how much is available?
Me - No...I know there's definitely less than $100 available. Again, I do this on purpose. I'm not going to call them.
Manager - I understand. (weak smile) Could we run $50 on the Amex, and the rest on the debit card?
Me - thinks about it for a minute. If you have to, okay.
Manager - obviously wasn't expecting that. Actually, I don't think I can split it.
Me - trying new approach Can you run my debit as credit? I have plenty in there. (I'm annoyed that I now have to justify my finances.)
Manager - No, I'm sorry. It's not me, it's corporate policy. I can call my boss and see if he can waive the fee.
Me - OK.
The manager went to her desk to call her manager. I was trying not to be annoyed, but this was ridiculous. The rental was going to cost me less than $40, but they had to call the manager to see if they could wave A $350 HOLDING FEE? A fee that had to be run on a credit card? You have got to be kidding me. How did they serve people without credit cards? Bureaucracy at it's best - Capitol Hill would be so proud!

Also, I hate how when one customer is dissatisfied the attendants are overly nice to everyone else. It just made me feel worse about the whole situation. The manager couldn't reach her manager right away. I stood up at the front desk for another 20 minutes. T called and asked where I was. I explained the situation to him. He told me that was bullshit and I should just leave. And he was right. But I really needed the car. I wanted to get the boxes out of my apartment. I felt a bit deflated - I should have stood for my morals and just left. I felt like the dude who got arrested at Circuit City for refusing to show his receipt. T asks if he can run my other card down to me. No, I reply, it's locked in my safe.

I ask the manager if someone can give me a ride back to my apartment so I can pick up the other card. She tells me the guy left to give other people rides home and she doesn't think she's allowed to do that. Huh? Isn't Enterprise the company that picks you up? Apparently that doesn't count if you don't have a major credit card to pay their ridiculous deposit. ALL of this could have been avoided if they'd just told me about the deposit before. I could have either a) brought my other card with me or b) decided to take my business elsewhere.

At this point, I'm feeling pretty embarrassed. I've now been there 45 minutes waiting. I sat down in the back of the reception area because I felt like I was in the way. The manager was helping other people and the phone keeps ringing but no one answers it. So maybe her manager did call back during that time, maybe not. I feel like my business is no longer wanted. A third attendant asked if I'm being helped and I can only nod because I was choking back tears. T calls me again and asks if I'm OK. That does it - tears start streaming down my cheeks. I cover my face so no one else can see. Leave, he says.

I wish I had. Because the embarrassment isn't over! The manager calls her manager again, and I get rejected. So she tells me this across the room with other customers there! Thank you, I was really hoping everyone would know. She is says she's sorry but I'm already on my way out the door. I couldn't even speak to tell her about my other card at my apartment. It didn't matter anymore - I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I'd been embarrassed enough for one day. I fumbled around my purse for my sunglasses and began the walk of shame.

If you've never walked in NYC while crying, consider yourself lucky. I can't imagine how horrible I looked but I'm sure it wasn't a pretty site. Luckily it was less than 15 blocks. I was pretty calm by 69th St but I lost it again at 72nd when I started thinking about Hunk and how handy he would have been today. Argh!

Back at my building, R and T heard me before I got to my door and opened it. They both gave me bear hugs and told me it would be OK. Sigh. I cried like a little baby for a bit and then became resigned to my fate. At least we'll get to watch some football. I told them that was the 3rd strike for Enterprise - we made up the rules together with some friends in college, so they nodded knowingly.

Just for the record the other two bad experiences were:
  • Reserved a car while Hunk was getting serviced. Took them 45 minutes to pick me up from the dealership (their office was across the street but Saturn wouldn't let me walk there because the street was a four-lane highway) and then since it was a no-charge rental they tried to give me a car with an empty tank! The car smelled like ass and had soft brakes.
  • Was given a car with engine problems. Broke down on I-70 on my way back to Connecticut from Ohio. Called AAA, then called Enterprise to tell them. "Oh yeah," said attendant. "That car has an engine problem. It wasn't supposed to go out."
So Enterprise is officially on my suck list, joining these other companies known for their sterling record of customer service: Dell, Comcast, Qwest (Colorado phone company) and Clear Channel.

Oh, and I'm totally signing up for ZipCar. Hopefully it goes a bit better.

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