There’s a Seinfeld episode where Jerry rents a car only to find out when he goes to pick it up that there’s no vehicle available for him. Following I paraphrase the episode.
Seinfeld goes up to the counter and says he has a reservation for a mid-size car,. The reservationist searches her computer and informs him that they have no mid-size cars. Jerry exclaims, “But I had a reservation.” She replies, “I know you had a reservation but we have no cars.” Jerry spars back “But that’s what a reservation is. You hold the car.” She retorts, “I know what a reservation is; but we did not hold a car for you.” Jerry goes on, “You people are good at taking reservations, but not at holding the car. Anyone can take a reservation. It’s holding the car that counts.”
Budget must have been his rental car company. A ComBlu team arrived in Austin recently with two hours to spare before our first client meeting. We went to the Budget desk at Austin-Bergstrom Airport only to be told to go somewhere else to pick up our contract and keys. No biggie. Like a rolling herd, we traipsed over to the new location and gave name, rank and serial number. The attendant assigned us a sub-compact car that was gassed-up and waiting. So what’s the problem, right? Our party consisted of five travelers who all had roller bags and various back packs, brief cases, and satchels. The car couldn’t seat five people much less provide ample trunk space for the luggage. We relayed the info that we had reserved a car or van that would accommodate our party and its massive array of bags. The reservation was for 1:00 p.m; it was now close to 1:30. The attendant told us that she was sorry but that no car was available for us. No offer to solve the problem. We started nicely pleading our case, with no result. After amping the intensity of our communications, a call was made to a satellite lot to bring in an SUV.
At this point we were told it would be another 10 or 15 minutes to get our car. In the meantime, we decided to go ahead and eat the moveable feast we had bought in the airport for an in-car picnic en route to our meeting. We huddled behind the Budget shack and used an air conditioner for a table. After 20 minutes, we inquired about our still non-existent vehicle. No dice. Seems, they never actually talked to anyone at the remote lot because all the walkie talkies were broken. Really? In another scene in the Seinfeld episode the reservationist stalks off to talk to her supervisor. Jerry and Elaine go off on a riff about how the reservationist is just pretending to talk to the supervisor and that when she comes back she will have no solution! Yikes, Obviously, the budget crew pulled the same stunt.They simply told us they had talked to the satellite lot to pretend to handle the problem of distraught customers.
At this point, we started to worry that we would be late for our meeting and conveyed this to the attendant. You’ve got it. She shrugged and said “That’s not my problem.” In all fairness, another woman on the scene did seem concerned about our plight but claimed that there was nothing they could do. Everyone was either at lunch or wouldn’t answer their page. No offer was made to give us two smaller cars for the price of one or to intercede with another rental firm to see if they could accommodate us.
In the meantime, a colleague walked over to the Hertz window and discovered we could immediately get behind the wheel of an Escalade. As we were about to make the transaction, our Budget car magically appeared. Since it was going to be faster at that point to jump in the Budget car, we thanked Hertz and drove out of the airport like Batman from his cave. No discount was offered; no coupon for an upgrade. Just a here’s your car; don’t forget to fill the tank before you return it.
Before the current Great Recession, we were Hertz Gold users. We switched to Budget because they were a better value for us and our clients who often pay our T&E. Here’s what this has taught me: it’s not a value when you are late for a meeting and Hertz should have taken better care of its gold members during the recession.
In the meantime, you’ve got to wonder: does Budget used old Seinfeld episodes for training tapes?
Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.