December 19, 2008
Hertz Giveth, Hertz Taketh Away
For years, I’ve hated all rental car companies for forcing me to scramble and find a gas station to fill up on the way to returning a car at the airport or get faced with an insane refueling charge. I never understood why one smart company didn’t decide to just do away with that moronic policy, figure out another way to make a profit, market the heck out of it, and endear themselves to customers.
Finally, Hertz jumped in a few months ago with just that. Return a car without refueling? No problem. A modest $5 surcharge and market rate for the actual gas required solves the problem. Brilliant! They were even marketing it to their customers in-car and online.
The last time I rented, I returned the car with 3/4 of a tank and was handed an extra $35 or so on my bill for refueling at $7.99/gallon. I asked what was going on. The check-in clerk told me “Oh we stopped doing that new refueling program. It’s too bad – all our customers loved it. You should say something about it to someone higher up.”
Bad enough to quietly discontinue a program like that without telling your customers (I did just get a quiet little email from Hertz today, a month after discontinuing the program, that it was over — no explanation). But why would you ever launch a customer-friendly program and then just take it away? It can’t be that it wasn’t popular. And while it may have been less profitable for Hertz, why take a step backwards and just remove the program rather than figure out another solution to replace the profits? What about asking customers what they want and why?
Profits are important, but seems like this is not the right economic environment to irritate your customers.