If you enjoy being lied to and receiving service levels generally found in banana republics where despots cling on to their dictatorship with corruption and bribery (hang on – that sounds a little too close to home), then Thrifty Car Hire is the company for you. Me, I’d rather sit in a pit full of Cobras than use them again. Here’s why…
Having specifically ordered a Mercedes C200 for a seven day rental, telephoned twice to confirm the availability and presence of the vehicle, many a stern word had to be said before any of the shiftless sloths could be goaded into resolving their foul-up. Oh they were so quick to relieve us of the almost R7000 for the rental! But once they had the money, inertia and incompetence set in – as appears to be the new South African culture.
From the time we arrived at the airport offices till the vehicle arrived, we were fed lies and deceit in several forms:
- ‘Your vehicle is almost ready – they’re just preparing it sir.’ This, from a hand-wringing clerk… Twenty minutes later…
- ‘There actually isn’t a Mercedes for you – but can we interest you in another – cheaper – vehicle, at the same price?’
- ‘You can’t speak to the branch manager, because she’s in a meeting with the regional manager.’ However, when we went in search of the ‘meeting’ the aforementioned managers had disappeared faster than some government funds.
- ‘We have just spoken to the general manager, and a vehicle will be here in half an hour.’ Two excruciating hours later the vehicle arrived.
- We also saw the fuel gauge not reflecting a full tank. But such was my level of frustration and annoyance, that I just wanted to be far away from incompetent imbeciles – and an extra R100 or so was a small price to pay for this relief.
As many of the more alert readers will remember, my right leg as been wired in a straight position due to a ligament injury, thus requiring a longer than average seating configuration. It was for this reason that I communicated this specification to Thrifty Car Rental when I ordered the Mercedes C200.
At the start of the fiasco, I was going to hire the vehicle from their Midrand outlet, to avoid paying the exorbitant airport surcharge of R446. However, when I telephoned an operator, she told me that (a) the Midrand outlet did not have a Mercedes in stock, whereas there was indeed stock at the airport, and (b) if she (ostensibly a live human) concluded the transaction, the fee would increase by 20%.
In summary, I can say the entire experience was exceedingly unpleasant, but reflects a pattern that is tragically on the increase in South Africa.
Upon reflection, I lay the blame at the feet of management:
- There is no meeting (unless it’s your resignation) that is so important that prevents a manager from attending to a company’s mistake with a customer. Oh – and if you learn that there’s an unhappy customer on your premises – have the guts to actually speak to them. Don’t hide behind your employees. That just shouts spinelessness.
- You’re in management for a reason – you’re accountable to your customer (who pays your salary) and to the board of directors. You own the job of delivering excellent customer service.
- As my experience shows, any fool can have a car rental company. But the company that delivers the best level of service will logically enjoy greater market share. Why can’t you comprehend this simple fact?
- If, for some earth shattering reason, you have to desert your post, then ensure your employees have the authority to make decisions in your stead. For example, Thrifty are situated cheek by jowl with several other car rental companies. Why on earth couldn’t the clerk arrange an equivalent Hertz/Tempest/Avis/etc vehicle? I would have been immeasurably impressed if the clerk had returned with, “Due to an oversight by Thrifty, the vehicle you ordered is not available. But I’ve obtained one from our competitors, at no extra cost to you. Please accept this offer with our unreserved apologies’
Will that ever happen? I’m not confident. Will I ever use Thrifty again? Not if I can help it.