Sunday, February 15, 2009

Consumer Rants: Avis

I want to share with you my worst rental ever, courtesy of Avis.

On my last trip to Israel, I needed a car for 2 days (I usually just borrow the family car). I found out the hard way that whatever price you get quoted on the website, flies out the window in Israel, where certain extra fees and VAT are applied. Fine – been there before, so I came prepared.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the horrible car I got. It was a small, slimy (and by that I mean EXTRA-dirty, inside and outside) that would be considered sub-sub-sub compact in the US, but was presented to me as “we’ve upgraded you!”. After I refused to take it, they’ve “upgraded” me again to (believe it or not) and even slimier Kia (here’s a link to some pictures I took of the car and of the form testifying that the car ha been serviced and cleaned).

Since I already spent quite a lot of time going back and forth (the rental offices in Ben Gurion airport are conveniently located as far as possible from the parking lot and several floors up – that saves you a trip to the gym that night. Add to that the diligence of the kids bringing the car around – suffice it to say “customer service” is not one of their core principles), I took the car. I regretted it almost immediately as soon as I hit the highway, and the motor started heating up and making a whining sound. And let’s not mention the horrible fuel consumption.

Upon my return to the US, I sent a complaint to Avis customer service, along with the photos and a photocopy of the contract.

Avis took their time. First they acknowledged my complaint. I waited 3 more weeks, prodded them with an email and got the following response:

Dear Mr. Vider,
Thank you for contacting us through the Avis website.
Providing good service is a major factor in separating Avis from the competition. To learn that you were not provided with the level of service you would expect from Avis was perhaps as disappointing for us as it was for you. Avis takes great pride in supplying its customers with mechanically sound and well-maintained vehicles. This commitment to Avis customers is
taken very seriously; therefore, a copy of your report, along with our comments, has been forwarded to the responsible manager as well as Avis' Quality Assurance Department. You can be sure that your comments have been well-noted and appropriate action will be taken.
We thank you for taking the time not only to bring this to our attention, but to provide an opportunity to demonstrate the true quality of our service. As a gesture of good will, we would like to mail an Avis Customer Service Certificate, which we hope you will use on a forthcoming Avis rental. Please provide your mailing address.

It took a couple of more emails and another month to get that "Customer Service Certificate" (apparently, when they need to send you something other than marketing material – they lose your address).

And I'm so thankful to Avis for sending me a certificate good for $25 off any full-priced rental I have in the future (i.e., you can not use it on a corporate or a discounted rental - the only rentals I have). I’m so underwhelmed by this certificate, that I just keep it around my desk, to remind me to never book Avis again, unless I have to.

Bottom line: Avoid Avis when possible. Avoid Avis in Israel always.

Have a chilling consumer-related story to share? Comment on this post or email it to, and I'll publish it in a future rant.

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