Last week my Zipcar membership was approved (no surprise given my almost perfect driving record). And we rented/booked/reserved (I’m not sure which verb is a appropriate) one of the Cooper Minis – Mini Mahone.
Experience design, fantastic. I haven’t received the bill yet, but the experience was fantastic that I rented/booked/reserved the Mazda 3 Millgrove last night to run up to Eli and Iris’s new house for dinner). Both cars were clean, fun to drive, easy to reserve, convenient to pick up. Kristin and I have been talking about getting another car, but instead have decided that we’re going to use the Zipcar as much as possible for the next couple of months. Realistically this has to be less expensive than owning a car.
I was thinking that I’d snap a couple of pictures inside the car, driving down the Gardiner Expressway, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But it was raining on Saturday, and it was the first time I’ve driven in over 6 months. 3 months because I don’t really have a need to drive regularly and 3 months because of the incident (they recommended that I not drive for the first month, and then it turns out that I really don’t drive all that much). So the photos of Mini Mahone are in the garage. I need to get Kristin a camera phone (then she can start using Nakama to share photos) or we could just get her a zipcar membership and then I can go back to not driving.
The Zipcar includes gas and insurance. The sad part is that the included gas card is only valid at Esso. Which is just fine, expect that every car should include a list of Esso gas stations in the area immediately surrounding the pickup and drop off area. Just a Google Maps print out with Esso stations clearly marked. The other down side is the daily rate, at $87.50/day on the Occasional Driver plan feels a little pricey. Because Kristin hasn’t applied for a Zipcar membership yet, she rented a car from a traditional rental place. Never mind the shitty customer experience, i.e., booked on the web for pick up at 3pm on Sunday only to discover the pickup location closed at 2pm on Sundays, then tried to pick up at 7:30am Monday to find that the staff was late. The price was $43.99 + gas (it was $22.00 for gas) which was less. Zipcar needs to work a little on membership plans and clarification.
I just logged in to my Zipcar account, it looks like the Zipcar folks were kind enough to comp my Saturday drive. However, because I was 13 minutes late in returning the car last night they’ve charged me and additional $35.00 late fee. Wow, I can understand the late fee if there was a customer waiting for the car. But there were 2 other cars in the parking spaces. I’m a new customer and you charge me for this rather than give me a warning. WTF, this does not encourage me to continue to use the service. What happen to a grace period?
1.1. Returning a vehicle late (in addition to the per hour fees for use of the vehicles): $25 ($35 CAD) per late hour or any part thereof—Zipcar: Penalty Policy
Policy or not, this is pretty unpalatable. And has me reconsidering using the service! This needs to work as a penalty system not as general punishment, or as I like to call it a cash grab. Completely unacceptable, and until it changes I’ll be investing other services.
It makes perfect sense to discourage this behaviour. To punish repeat offenders. To penalize customers when other customers are inconvenienced. But to just generally charge customers $35.00/hour when it’s the first time they’ve used the service, when there is (potentially) no other customer waiting. (Hopefully no other customers were inconvenienced by my lateness last night).
It turns out that I’m an idiot for not calling to reschedule the drop off time, it appalling that Zipcar hasn’t figured this out as one of the biggest opportunities to define a positive customer experience. I wonder how many initial/early customers have this experience and then reduce their usage or cancel their memberships because of the shock of the late fee. For first time customers here’s what I would do. If there was not another customer waiting, then: charge the customer the $35.00 late fee but also give them a $35.00 credit for their next usage plus send them and message with steps they could have taken to avoid the late fees. Including how to extend the reservation using their phone, on the mobile web (oh wait they don’t do that), etc.