Last updated: January 06. 2014 12:44PM - 891 Views
Dave Lieber Dallas Morning News



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Don McNay butted heads with America’s second-largest car rental company, Hertz, and the company was winning. Winning, though, only because company employees were ignoring his repeated phone calls. Don’t you hate that?


Here’s what happened:


The annuity consultant rents a car in New Orleans and drives it to Dallas to give a speech. Afterward, he thinks about flying back instead of driving. He asks a sales rep at a Hertz counter if he can drop the car off in Dallas and not pay a penalty. The rep says there’s no extra charge. McNay leaves the car and hops on a plane.


But the rep is wrong. The bill turns out to be $240 more. McNay believes he was misled.


“The no-drop charge conversation is why I made the decision to fly,” he says. “If I had known it would more than double, the economically smart decision would be to drive back to New Orleans.”


So he calls to ask for a reversal. But he can’t find anyone at Hertz who takes an interest in him. He calls it an “ignore it and hope it goes away” customer service culture.


To The Watchdog, the three most important words for success in life have always been “don’t give up.” This is especially important when you feel you’ve been wronged. McNay says he believes that, too. “Hertz was not going to wear me down.”


He speaks to five people over several days. “They all blow me off,” he recalls. “I have one who is going to give me the money but the computers lock him out as I had not gotten to him within the first 48 hours. I spent those hours talking to underlings.


“I keep being told that I need to talk to the operations manager for Dallas. They tell me he is the only one who can fix it. I leave 11 phone messages over a week’s time. He is obviously hoping I will give up and go away.”


The Watchdog knows there are two sides to every story. So I go to Hertz for the company’s take. Did Hertz do anything wrong here? Does Hertz accept responsibility for incorrect statements by its employees? Is that what happened here?


Hertz does something that confounds me. Hertz ignores me, too. I get as frustrated as McNay, and it’s not even my money.


The company is helpful in its initial explanation. Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera explains that the company must charge a fee in this situation.


“Obviously that rate won’t be the same as if the vehicle is dropped back at the renting location. In this case, the rate is higher. I can assure you, however, that there was no intent to take advantage of the customer as the rate charged was straight from our system and is what any customer would have been charged at the time renting in New Orleans and dropping in Dallas.”


I share this explanation with McNay. He answers that he never would have flown back if the agent had been accurate. I share McNay’s counter-response with the Hertz spokeswoman.


Then I don’t get an answer. For 26 days.


During this time, McNay keeps checking back with me. He’s persistent. Hertz won’t wear him down. Hertz won’t wear me down either. But I get so frustrated by the ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-away culture that I both call and write messages to Rivera that if I don’t hear from her, I’ll contact the office of Hertz chief executive officer Mark Frissora. (I find his name through a search engine; remember that trick.)


Finally, after almost a month, I hear back. “My apologies,” the spokeswoman says on her re-emergence. She explains that she was away on “a major project and a few vacation days.”


Her answer is what McNay wants to hear: “Mr. McNay should have been advised about the rate change, and we’ve advised local management to investigate and conduct retraining of its employees should they deem it necessary. We apologize for Mr. McNay’s rental experience and, as a gesture of good will, are crediting his account for $200.”


A nice victory after a long wait. The Watchdog wonders what happens to customers without persistence. The importance of persistence, the power of going back a second, a third time or more is the best way to survive and thrive in an ignore-it-and-hope-it-goes-away world.


Since so many others do give up in this world, those of us that hang tough face a better chance of success.


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