Kate and I are jet-setters by nature; Always ready to hop on a plane and fly to a business function, wedding, party, whatever. When our first son Max was born he flew with us to Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day. New York for the NIT Finals, and other trips to various cities in the first few months of his life. He is now one and half years old, we have our second due in February, and traveling isn’t as easy as it used to be. That said, I’d like to single out 2 rental car companies in America for comparison, Enterprise and Hertz. I travel so much for business that I am fortunate enough to be in the benefit programs for most car rental companies, airline miles, and hotel rewards. This also gives me great insight into who is doing what the best.
(a.k.a. “The Worst”)
Jump on Travelocity and check rates for your destination and chances are Enterprise (or their subsidiary companies National or Alamo) have one of the best rates. If you are a single dude heading to a weekend bachelor party than this is a great option because when it comes to rental cars…you get what you pay for. I started using Enterprise as my go-to car company back in 2009 after a few shaky experiences with Thrifty. I had decent experience with enterprise in my personal life so why not give them a shot in my professional life? My first professional experience was terrible. They rented me a beater in Mesa, AZ that didn’t have AC during a heat wave. When I swapped it out they gave me a car that was so dirty inside I had to have it detailed on my own dime just to feel comfortable enough to have clients ride with me. The cleanliness issue continued over my next rentals around the country and I eventually gave my business to Hertz who’s Gold program far exceeded the Enterprise Plus program.
This past weekend I had a trip to Houston, TX with my family and Enterprise was substantially cheaper. We were on a tight budget since we had Max with us and decided we’d take the cheaper option. Again…you get what you pay for. Upon arriving at the Enterprise counter the only word that could describe the scene was “chaos.” It looked more like the stock exchange than a car rental company. I got in the “Plus” line much to the chagrin of the people not in the “Plus” line and the representative at the counter continued to call on people from the standard line instead of me. Now I’m not trying to sound like I’m better than anyone or deserve more…absolutely not. However, Enterprise offers “Plus” services which I am a member of and I hold them to their promises. There is no point of a “Plus” line if the representatives aren’t going to use it. I finally got to the counter and my having made a prior reservation (as I always do) made my counter time very quick. We then took Max upstairs to the garage where there was an even longer line and no one working the kiosk. Twenty minutes later a kid (who was clearly stoned) took us to the row of midsize sedans where we get to pick out our car. I picked the Ford Fusion (which is what I had reserved) and he suggested the VW Passat instead. I agreed to his suggestion and reminded him I needed a car seat for Max which seemed to blow his mind. He had no clue what size car seat to get, how to install it, how it worked, etc. Worst of all…the seat looked like he had just pulled it out of another car that had just been used (which he had) and it looked disgusting. We sighed and continued ever onward.
We had a fun weekend in Houston and on Sunday we returned the car to the IAH garage (where we rented from) and the guy checking in the cars said, “Are you sure you rented from here because I’m not showing you in our system.” I assured him I did and showed him my receipt from when we picked up. He asked if we could swing by the counter, I explained I didn’t have time to wade through that chaos, and he said it was fine and we would just have to get our receipt online. That was fine with me. However, two days later I get an email stating:
Our records indicate that the car you currently have on rent was not returned by the date listed in your rental agreement, and has still not been returned. It is important that we hear from you as soon as possible to resolve this matter.
Please call our Rental Extension Department as soon as possible to arrange the return of our car. The number is 855-298-0380 Please have your rental agreement available when you call.
Our Rental Extension Department is available to take your call Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., or Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (Central Time). If you reach us outside of these hours, you may leave a message, and someone will return your call the following business day. You may also contact your local rental office for immediate assistance.
This email coincided with an automated phone message from Enterprise continuing to accuse me of not returning the car. I then got a call to my cell phone and office phone from Enterprise asking me to return the car…though there is a possibility that the error may be on their end due to a minor clerical issue. I contacted Enterprise via the number they supplied, waited on hold, spoke to a person who didn’t know what to do, got transferred to another person who didn’t know what to do who took down my number so the person who would know what to do could call me back in 5 minutes. Its been 24 hours since then…no call. I have been and am still battling with their “customer care” service people who didn’t offer an apology until I asked for one hours into the process on Twitter. Don’t you think “sorry” should be the first thing you say when you make a mistake? They all ask the same question, “Do you have the pink copy of your rental receipt.” To which I respond, “No, the guy who checked in the car took it.” To which they respond, “Well he shouldn’t have done that, are you sure you don’t have a copy of your rental contract?” Clearly they think the issue is either my fault or that I still somehow have their car…in fact I just now got another call from a new representative who is still looking for the car and wanting to make sure I did in fact return it. So unprofessional!
(a.k.a. “The Best”)
Most people may not realize that Hertz was founded in 1918 with Model T Fords so they know a thing or two about how this business works. No doubt, Hertz is often a bit more expensive in some locations (as they were in Houston for me) but their standard experience is great and the “Gold Member” experience is the best in the United States. As a “Gold Member” I get in the dedicated Gold line at the counter, I am helped immediately, and all I have to do is say my last name, show my drivers license, and they hand me the keys to my car. Done. Its really that easy.
Last time I rented from them with Max was in Albany, NY. I walked to counter, got in the Gold line, and was helped in less than a minute. I showed them my ID and was greeted with, “Mr. Gates, welcome back and thank you for choosing Hertz!” What a nice greeting. She handed me the keys to my car, explained that they had upgraded me to a luxury, and informed me that the car seat was in the car and a member of the garage would be happy to help me install it. When we reached the garage it was easy to find my car and in the back seat was a clean car seat wrapped in plastic. Plastic! Meaning it had been cleaned and wrapped so the next person to touch it was my son. Professional!
When we returned the car it couldn’t have been any easier and the garage manager knew me by name and greeted me. He asked, “Did you enjoy the car?” We did. “May I help you with your bags?” He did. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?” There wasn’t…and off we went. Then, as we were about to go through security we realized we had left Max’s train and sippy cup in the car. I ran to the garage and asked if they had found it, they said no but they would look for it…and the search began immediately before my eyes including searching the lost and found at the kiosk and a series of calls on the walkie-talkies to find the car. The garage manager asked me when my flight was and I told him. He suggested I go back to security and that they WOULD find it. Impressively, he apologized for not finding it when they checked the car with us at check in…as if my losing the train and cup was their fault. Professional. He went on to say that if they found it before our flight they would page us, if not they would ship them to us. They found both the train and the cup before our flight and Max happily flew home with his choo-choo train in hand. Professional.
So Long Freedom endorses Hertz as its American rental car company of choice.
Hertz far exceed their competition in customer service, cleanliness, speediness, and professionalism. Throughout my time using them I have always received a free upgrade as a “Gold Member,” been offered exclusive savings even before I was a “Gold Member,” and received the best customer service in the industry. Enterprise on the other hand has lost my business due to their lack of organization, unprofessional employees, and lack of cleanliness. I understand that sometimes a budget is the most important thing for parents and Enterprise may look very enticing - you can consider National or Alamo as an alternative (both are owned by Enterprise) if Hertz won’t fit your budget needs, however if they are all at the same location it doesn’t matter as you are renting from the same team. You get what you pay for. Often if you call Hertz they will work with you to find a car and a rate that works for you. At the conclusion of this trip I came down with the flu…now I’m not saying I caught the flu from our dirty Enterprise car, our unsanitary car seat from Enterprise, or our stoner garage representative from Enterprise…but when it comes to the cleanliness of a vehicle, a brand I trust, and the safety of my wife and children I go with Hertz.
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