Screwing Your Customers Is Supposed To Be Bad For Business

We are traveling to Florida the end of March. We booked the travel in November because it is Spring Break and traveling during the Break is always risky. At the same time we booked a car. This past week my grandmother called to offer us her car. No reason to spend the money on a rental, she said. We were grateful.

I called this morning to cancel the car and was told I rented the car under a no change, no refund policy. I couldn’t believe it. I’m calling more than three weeks before the travel and Hotwire is telling me I have no recourse. They said this was part of the agreement, which of course is only provided as a click through link when signing up, and then is buried in a multi-page agreement. I don’t remember the site ever once saying, clearly, booking this car means no changes and no refunds.

So I called Hertz. Here’s a company that supposedly takes care of their customers. No dice there either. They basically said I should have booked with us instead. Great. I have a $400 rental car in Florida that I don’t need. I love pissing money down the toilet.

It bothers me that Hotwire trusts their services so much that they bury important information like no refunds or changes. (Delta changed our flight and we arrive 7 hours earlier. Hotwire wouldn’t change our arrival time either — no changes — so who knows if we will have a car when we get there.) This makes Hotwire look shifty and underhanded.

I’m just as disappointed in Hertz, though. Here’s a company that supposedly takes care of their customers and they are basically telling me to pound sand. Why, if you want a good relationship with your customers, would you even rent cars through assholes like Hotwire? Could you imagine buying an iPhone at an AT&T Store and then Apple telling you they won’t support your iPhone because you didn’t buy it from them?

It’s not like I’m an amateur here. I’ve sold products to customers for 17 years. We have always tried to accommodate them even when they didn’t buy through us. This is particularly challenging in the App Store world, where we are given no recourse for our customers. I’ve given away tons of promo codes to customers who felt they bought the wrong product even though we have no means to prove a purchase was made.

I will definitely never book anything through Hotwire again. And as for you, Hertz, we’ll see if I get over this one. At the moment I wish a plague on both your houses.

6 thoughts on “Screwing Your Customers Is Supposed To Be Bad For Business

  1. Good customer service requires empathy. I have come to the belief that the travel industry has reached a point where there is little to no empathy to be found in many institutions and their policies. Especially those that have become commodities.

      • I’m not an expert on this one, just another jaded user.

        How do you disrupt a capital intensive, highly regulated commodity service with enormous “installed base”?

        (Maybe something like Apple disrupting the PC market?)

        • My guess is we are already seeing disruption, first in the firm of business travelers as they use Skype, Hangouts and other means to communicate with clients and prospects. That may be why the industry is tightening the screws as well, since it has lost some (much?) of its prime revenues.

  2. I’ve learned not to use Hotwire or any sort of 3rd party or prepay deals because they remove the ability for the merchant to work with the customer in order to ‘make things right’.

    That being said, you seem to be under the impression that it is just you against. 2 giant corporations. That is not at all the case. You have a much bigger company on your side, and that company has a much stronger bargaining position

    If you honestly did not understand the restrictions when you made the purchase, call your credit card company and dispute the charge.

    • I’ve learned my lesson. Regarding another giant on my side, yes, I tried that. No dice. My credit card company wouldn’t dispute it. It did sound like they had been down that road before. I’ll take my beating this time but they all just traded a few hundred dollars now for thousands over time. Apparently that works for their ROI math.

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