I’ve been a user / member of zipcar for 5 or more years. I don’t think I’m a heavy user by their standards, but I probably rent from them 1-2 times a month and there were periods when I was renting weekly. Overall I was pretty happy with the service, but I have noticed more and more issues recently.
And then I got into an accident, and it all truly went to shit.
So, the minor issues were:
- Cancelling every time I wanted to rent a “nice” car – it happened four times, so now I just don’t bother.
- The fact that cars, and particularly vans, are beat to shit, covered in damage, so it takes 10-15 minutes to photograph all of it and email it to them. Or you take the chance of not reporting it and getting hit for the damage.
- The last car that I rented that had a keyless fob. I returned it after the rental and then got frantic calls and emails the next day saying I had taken the keys. No, there never were any keys to start with – you push the start button on the dash.
But the accident took the bacon. It was my fault, I tagged a parked car with the rear bumper of the truck as I pulled into a space. I could very easily have driven off (in fact the car behind me told me to do that), but I was raised properly and was a Boy Scout so I left a note on the car, called the cops, and called zipcar.
That’s when things went bad – the paperwork in the vehicle was not (according to the NYPD) proof of insurance and I got a ticket. So I call and email zipcar to get that proof of insurance. And call and email. And call and email. I think on the fifth or sixth attempt, and many days of trying (with never a single email response or call back) I was able to get a person who could email me the correct paperwork that should have been in the vehicle.
But now the cops at the precinct say it’s too late to cancel the ticket and NY state DMV wants more information and I have a frikkin’ court date. So I call and email. Call and email. Call and email. Call and email and I get nowhere, so I finally get on the train and physically go to the zipcar office on Broadway in NYC – where the receptionist gives me major attitude and tells me they don’t deal with accidents. After politely explaining the situation she finally deigns to get me somebody and I then wait for 40 minutes while they try and get me the info. In the end Nik Hajdari comes over, tells me he’s a manager, and that if I email him he will help.
Note – in the mean time the actual professionals at the insurance management company have fixed my neighbor’s car and closed that issue. That took a week or two, this insurance issue is four months and counting.
So I email Nik – and true to form get no response in a week. Email him again and he replies to me instead of forwarding the email to the internal person who may be able to help. So I respond to him again telling him he replied to the wrong person.
Final straw: today I get an email telling me that “we cannot continue to offer you membership and your Zipcar account has been closed. Please understand that, while we are unable to reverse the decision to close your account, we are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding our decision.” Except that’s not true, because the number they tell me to call is the claims management company who tell me the claim was paid three months ago and they have no responsibility for membership decisions. And when I call zipcar member “services” all they can do is read me the text of the email. He did suggest that I might want to go in person to the Boston head office to talk to somebody – that seems reasonable. Everyone (except the receptionist) is pleasant and polite, they just have zero ability to solve problems or answer questions.
Anyway, we are moving soon and I’ll buy a car so this is far from the end of the world. I’m still going to harangue them to take responsibility for the insurance ticket, but now it’s going to be even more fun as it will show I’m not a member. I imagine part of the reason for closing my account is because I’m flagged as somebody who calls and emails a lot – which is ironic as it’s all been over one issue and it’s entirely down to their failure to have proof of insurance in their vehicle (side note – this is all complicated by the fact that many, if not most, of their vehicles are registered and insured out of state, presumably to avoid taxes and costs in New York state).
I was going to cancel my membership in July, so this decision just accelerates that, and in truth I might have used them once or twice in the interim – so the inconvenience is minor. But there’s a lesson to be learned from the complete failure in customer service and paperwork management for everyone. Chalk up another casualty of the “sharing economy” – which means the user takes all the risk and customer service is non-existent while the investors get staggeringly rich.