How to accuse your customers of fraud

UPDATED: Zipcar gave me a call; see the followup post.

This post brought you courtesy of the letter Z(ipcar).

So here’s the setup: traffic is bad on the bridge, so we call to say we might be a minute or two late with the Zipcar return.  Incidentally, this is because they moved our garage twenty blocks downtown the morning of our rental, to the Trump buildings where every street goes only one way and getting to the actual garage involves a labyrinthine series of turns.

Stef is driving, so I handle the phone calling; they ask to talk to her to verify the account and then I deal with the rest.  Nice polite guy, says there may be a late fee but given the garage change, it should be easy to waive – just wait for it to post and send them a note with the situation.

We hangup and make our way to the garage, when Zipcar calls back, asking where we are.  Apparently, the next person called Zipcar, who didn’t check the notes on the record and just called us instead.  Fine, fine, we’re a block away and presto, we return the Zipcar a total of six minutes late.  Incidentally, the guy waiting wasn’t mad at all and also had his garage moved.

Late fee posts.  Stef writes in and recieves a lengthy reply with only one sentence that address the reason we wrote in: “We’re unable to refund the late return fee as it really impacted another member and we gave you a break once before.”

OK, fine.  Nevermind that the earlier late fee was a similar situation and such; that isn’t the part of the email that got me going.  Even after they then write us a longer paragraphing telling us to call when we’re late (oh wait, Ms. CSR, we already did).
Instead, this is the paragraph that offended the heck out of me.

“We also wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to you about nonmembers calling in or driving on your account. According to the Zipcar Member Contract, only Zipcar members are allowed to drive Zipcars. Anyone driving a Zipcar, other than you or another Zipcar member, won’t be covered by the insurance associated with membership. So please don’t let a non-member drive and don’t hand out your Zipcard to anyone.

We notice that another individual has been calling on your account frequently. Going forward, please be aware that unless he is added to your account, we will not be able to speak to him regarding your account. Should he call in regarding a reservation you have and you are not there to verify that it is OK to speak with him, your account will be suspended.

Thank you for understanding and cooperating with this important rule.

Are you insane?  Who writes that?

First, of course I call in: Stef is driving!  And I’d rather have her keep us on the road while I chat with Zipcar and make my way through their phone menus than cause a six car pileup.   Don’t berate me – congratulate me for preventing the totaling of your car!

Second, I’ve called in exactly twice and both times with Stef voice verifying.  How did you get from there to implying that she is sharing her Zipcar account?  Because someone else is in the car with her?  We’re not renting a mountain bike here; it probably shouldn’t shock them that more than one person may possibly be occupying the vehicle.

Third, even if you do think we’re sharing an account (we’re not) and you want to talk to her about it, don’t use an inbound customer service request to do it.  “Hey, we’re not going to help you…and by the way, we think you’re a crook!”  Classy, really classy.  If me calling is an actual problem, address it separately and in a sensitive way.

Are we cancelling Zipcar?  No, because why would we…we have memberships paid until next summer and I have some driving credit left from the Groupon deal.  But since we did just get our own car, we certainly will relegate them to emergency backup.

In the meantime, I’m going to try to find an exec at Zipcar to talk to about retraining their CSRs.  Their poor reputation for customer service has improved but clearly, they have a ways to go.

3 replies
  1. matt
    matt says:

    Be sure to read the followup, as they did eventually make it right. And I’m a believer that companies can change as surely as people, so if you get in the same situation, try to help the rep see why a different response is called for.

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