Hustling rental cars

I told you that I was working for a rental car company. It's a part-time gig for me but for thousands it's a way to pay the rent and put food on the table. It amazes me to see the dedication of these people who work for little more than minimum wage. It helps that here in Vegas you can live on $20,000 per year but it doesn't afford a lavish lifestyle.

I haven't counted the number of people I work with but a rough guess puts it probably around 100 on the day shift. It's a twenty-four hour a day job although not as many work the second shift or nights. Day in and day out these anonymous people clean the returned cars, perform routine maintenance and get the cars back on the line for new renters.

I won't try to b.s. you, there's some grumbling, but in reality it's not bad, much better than other places I've worked.

It's amazing to me what pigs some people are; some of the cars come back looking like a whole family used it as a garbage can or worse (there's a reason the cleaners were gloves while working). We've all heard stories about trashing rental cars but c'mon people, pick up your trash (and worse). Most of the customers I've met are nice people, it's the exceptions that are the problem.

I am constantly amazed by some people. It's normal to see people walk around the car noting dents and scratches so they don't get charged for damage that was there before they got the car. It isn't even out of the ordinary to see some pull out their digital camera to document any damage. One customer seemed to take it to extremes though; I watched this guy spend almost an hour going over the outside and inside with a fine tooth comb, then he opened the hood and checked all the fluids; the kicker was when he got out a tire pressure gauge and checked the tires' air pressure.

One of the strangest things I've witnessed, and it happens fairly frequently, is when people commandeer two or three cars (they take the keys) and try their luggage in each one. The strangest of these were a couple who checked the trunk size on two identical cars.

Some renters get fixated on a particular make and model. "I want a XTZ 4-door in red." Nothing but what they have their heart set on will do, not even a free upgrade.

It is interesting to see what vehicles customers prefer (our company doesn't confirm a specific make/model only type). We offer a wide variety of makes and models. People arrive and are booked into an "intermediate" (more on this later) they often walk right by a low mileage 2011 Hyundai Elantra to get into a 2010 Ford Focus or Chevy Cobalt. I don't have anything against the Focus or Cobalt but c'mon, the Elantra is a nice car and as an extra all Hyundais come standard with satellite radio. The 2011 Ford Focus is another car that seems to be low on the wish list although it is becoming more popular. What this says to me is it takes a long time for people's perceptions to change.

The car sizes we use (Econo, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Full-size and more) don't initially make sense. Econo and Compact are essentially the same. Intermediate can be a Focus, Cobalt, Civic, Corolla, Elantra, or Dodge Caliber. Standard is even stranger; Dodge Avenger, Fusion, HHR, Soul, or Cube. Took me awhile to get all this straight.

Something I ran into recently was an aversion to a key-less car. I parked a Toyota Camry next to this couple sitting in a Dodge Charger. The wife caught my attention and asked how they started the Charger. I explained that all they had to do was have the "key" in the car, put their foot on the brake and push the start button. She asked me if we had any cars that just used a real key. I pointed to the Camry and she turned to her husband and said, "Let's take the Camry." She explained to me that she owned a Camry and knew how it worked.

The rental car business is big business but there is more to it than meets the eye. Behind that car that is waiting for you are real people who have worked hard and fast to make sure it was there, gassed up and ready to go. Think about all that goes into making sure you have a safe, reliable vehicle next time you rent a car.


Higear said…
Very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it.

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