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by Mish

We flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Friday, May 19. We had a car rented from Dollar Rent-A-Car at the airport. Our flight was delayed.

We got in about 12:30 AM. All of the other car rental agencies stayed open. Dollar was alone in closing early. This was despite a call to Dollar informing them of the airline delay.

We called Dollar around 9:00 PM when the airline announced the delay. Their response was along the lines of, too bad, we close at 11.30.

Most of the other rental agencies stayed open until 12:30 AM, regular hours. Not only did Dollar much earlier than the others, the others stayed past 1:00 AM to handle the last flight.

We went down the line, rental place after rental place. Budget had cars. The agent, I believe James was his name, was exceptionally helpful.

Budget’s regular closing hour at that location is 1:00 AM. I asked James if they would stay open later. He said, yes, if people phone in a delay.

Goodby Dollar, Hello Budget.

Dollar Mistakes

  1. Dollar’s hours of service are not competitive. If you are arriving late in the day, Dollar is the last place you should rent from.
  2. Dollar customer service is poor.
  3. We are Dollar Express members. They could have left the keys and told us the slot. They could also have left the keys with their parent organization, Hertz.
  4. Inadvertently, we booked a guaranteed rate. We were not aware of this until the next day. The corporate office would not let us cancel. I am going to request a chargeback anyway. Amazingly, they infomed us we already picked up the car! Had they at least let us cancel, I would not be writing this post.
  5. Dollar ought to post their closing times when booking a reservation. We would have used some other agency if we knew they closed 1.5 hours earlier than Budget and would not stay open even if someone called.

Value of a Customer

This is the last time we use Dollar.

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We go on several trips a year and have been using Dollar for those rentals. The price of this rental was about $800.

Let’s do the math. Three trips a year, roughly $800 each, for say 10 years. Dollar just lost $24,000 in business from us.

How many other see this message and react is unknown, but I will also post something similar on Trip Advisor warning people Dollar is the last place you should rent from if you have a late flight.

Customers for Life

I have a bit of advice for service company executives: Buy, read, and understand the book Customers for Life: How to Turn That One-Time Buyer Into a Lifetime Customer.

Actually, Dollar would be advised to have everyone in the organization read the book. Dollar truly does not understand the value of a customer.

Industry Shakeout Coming

Our experience got me again thinking about the upcoming shift towards driverless cars.

With competition from Google, Lyft, Uber, and likely car dealers such as GM and Ford, places like Dollar will not even survive, especially given their corporate culture and attitude.

That said, the mid-term rental business will shrink, not vanish. We left lots of stuff in the trunk during the trip. In driving around some of the places we visited on the trip, Canyon De Chelley for example, we did not know in advance which lookouts we would even pull over for. You cannot schedule, what you do not know.

Perhaps more planning is the solution, but more likely, vacationing is one area where self-driving hangs on for quite some time.

For those who just book into a resort and mostly stay there, week-long rentals will be a dying thing.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock