How to Build Rental Car Customer Loyalty (Duh!)

Recently, while traveling, I rented a car. As usual, 99.9% of the counter agent’s "assistance" was invested in trying to upsell me to buy: insurance (mine already covers rental cars), a better vehicle (I’d booked a mid-sized car), a gas "price guarantee" (you pay a good rate for a FULL TANK, regardless of whether it’s returned three-quarters full or empty), and a navigation system (I brought along my own pre-programmed Garmin).

Then I was sent down to B28, far away from the counter clerk, where "the keys are already in the vehicle." WRONG. The vehicle "pod" was on the console, but there was no key. Nor was there a note instructing me that to start a keyless car, I needed to put my foot on the brake, though the car was in park, and then push the "start button" once. So I wasted a lot of time tapping strangely marked buttons and switches, as there was no owner’s manual or technician in sight. Eventually I figured it out, but by then I was a little hotter under the collar.

Did you know that a new keyless car does not necessarily come equipped with automatic lights, which even my old used car has? I found that out that first night on the road. You’re thinking, we all know where headlight switches are in cars, right?

Wrong.

Pull over, stop the vehicle, and open the car door, because interior light switch locations are a mystery on late-model vehicles, too, and I wish you luck from there on in getting those headlights to work. My model featured a slide button on a turn signal arm, which I discovered after inadvertently washing the windshield several times.

Eventually I needed gas ¦ the gas cap panel could only be opened from inside the car ¦ somehow. My grandson (nicknamed "Nana’s Spy Dog" for good reason) and I hunted for that lever for 20 minutes. I then opened the door to go ask someone inside the filling station how to do it. Of course, we then discovered the gas lever by the floor seat lever, which is only visible when the car door is open.

If it’s too much trouble to leave an owner’s manual in a rental car, a "customer mindset" might induce agencies to leave four hints typed on a piece of paper and left on the driver’s seat: 1) How to start the car, 2) how to adjust seats and mirrors, 3) how to open hood, trunk, and gas panel, and 4) how to turn on/off the lights.

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