Last week, I wrote a blog post about RelayRides. The short version is that their customer support seemed non-existent, and I was too concerned about insurance to be their customer. The longer version is a good read.
After that blog post, RelayRides tweeted me that they wanted to “clarify” things I wrote in my blog post. This implies that things I wrote were incorrect and needed to be corrected. OK, whatcha got?
I was emailed by the “Community Manager” named Steve. He wanted to schedule calls with me. I didn’t want to take the time. Plus, I like having everything in writing. It makes quoting people SO much easier later.
In short, I had a few key questions that nobody from RelayRides had answered:
- If someone renting my car causes a bad accident, can I be personally sued as the car owner?
- Why do you only have $1M of insurance when that’s what I have as a UX consultant? Given the total carnage a car can cause, shouldn’t you have way more insurance?
- If someone renting my car causes a bad accident that creates millions of dollars in medical care for injured people, who pays that? RelayRides only carries $1 million in insurance. What if someone sues for $15M for ongoing medical care for gravely injured people? Am I stuck paying for that? Who pays that?
Those were the types of questions I’d love to get clarified because in reality, I hoped RelayRides had all ducks in a row and would tell me that renting with them is a zero liability, zero financial risk activity for a car owner. I’d LOVE to be using a service like that. My car sits in my driveway unused.
So how were those emails with RelayRides?
Painful. I learned two main things from Steve’s emails back and forth for days:
- California has a law that allows people to rent their cars to other people without having commercial plates or commercial insurance. OK, so we can legally DO it. That still doesn’t answer the insurance questions.
- RelayRides is proud of their $1M insurance policy because it’s so much more than the state minimum. It’s so much more than most people buy for their own car insurance.
That’s true. I don’t carry $1M of insurance. But I also don’t expect to cause $1M or more of sue-able carnage. I don’t get into car accidents or cause them. There are a number of personality traits I have and choices I make that make me really unlikely to cause any car accident ever. Which means my insurance won’t be paying for someone else’s medical care. The person responsible for the accident will be stuck with that, and I’m rather confident it won’t be me.
That doesn’t mean that I can be sure that strangers renting my car are as serious as I am about personal choices, rules of the road, health, and defensive driving. For all I know, I’m renting to a guy with a drinking habit and insomnia who sometimes loses consciousness behind the wheel. He could cause over $1M in bodily harm.
So that’s great for most people that you went higher than state minimums. Thanks! But what happens when someone is sued for $15M and you have $1M of insurance? I never got that answer. What I’ve chosen personally for my car insurance is barely relevant. You’re picking strangers to drive my car and you’re putting your insurance on the line. Does that insurance really protect me in a worst case scenario?
Did you ever learn why they didn’t previously answer your emails asking these questions?
Steve acted like it was some awful customer service snafu that my same questions weren’t answered in my original email to customer service when my car had a potential rental… nor were the questions answered after I rejected the rental and emailed the company to tell them my concerns. A customer service OOPS, he was sure.
But it’s not an awful customer service mistake at all because Steve, Mr Community Manager, didn’t answer them either. He wanted me to take a phone call with the COO, but I want things in writing. TELL me in writing that I will have no liability. Because I can’t find that anywhere on your site in writing. Can’t tell me in writing? Then something’s up.
And everything’s coming up roses!
Steve also gleefully told me that their marketplace has been working just fine and just the way it was designed. Great! Will it work when a guy driving my car crashes into a school bus of kids and paralyses all of them? I need a platform that works in ALL cases, not just the happiest cases where everything goes right.
I shop Amazon because they cover my butt the moment I have a concern or complaint, no negotiation, no “OH we don’t cover that.” I go to a mechanic that stands behind his work if the work doesn’t turn out to fix my problem. When I consult for eBay sellers, we have a clause in our contract that says if something we put in the seller’s eBay listings breaks eBay rules at the time we install it, we will fix the problem at no charge since it’s our fault.
I’m not comfy with a platform that is playing 80/20 rule with people’s lives and medical needs when the chips are down and things go really badly. Any of us can end up in the 20.
So what did he clarify from your original blog post?
Nothing. I still don’t know what my original blog post had so wrong other than it drew attention to things to which they don’t want attention drawn.
I also knew that it was going to be a weak conversation when Steve replied to one of my emails complaining about how upsetting it was to get an email with profanities. I was unhappy with his email linking me to go read things on his site (that I had already read) and referred to that as “shit” he linked. And when he happily told me that a recent court case they were involved in was resolved to their satisfaction, I congratulated him on not getting “unwantedly fucked.”
When an adult professional acts medieval Puritan about “shit” and “fuck” when not used AT the person (it’s not like I said he was a fucking shithead), I know he doesn’t have much to say and needs to fill email space by acting like I’ve written something so awful. Put the focus on ME.
Hey, Deb. What happened when you asked him a fifth time to answer your same questions?
When I tried again to get my same questions answered, Steve wrote me back that their marketplace was not going to be for everybody. He then wrote, “Good bye!”
Good bye, Steve, Community Manager for RelayRides. You had a chance to clarify for me, and you didn’t. You had the chance to retain me as a customer by addressing my concerns, and you didn’t (and you didn’t).
Maybe I should talk to COO Alex Benn. Even if he doesn’t answer my questions either, he should know this is his community manager.
The sharing economy is a work in progress.
In my previous blog post about RelayRides, I said that given this approach, RelayRides has to hope that their drivers are either too lazy to have researched these liability issues OR don’t mind huge amounts of personal and financial risk. Because if anybody really stopped, researched, and cared about some bad potential outcomes, I’m not sure anybody would rent their personal car to friends or strangers.
I remind all of you to dig deeper. The sharing economy is still finding its sea legs. There are lots of legal holes, and in this case, insurance and liability holes. RelayRides isn’t alone in facing these issues. But they are alone in contacting me directly claiming they wanted to clarify things, and then not answering my questions.
Good bye! I asked Steve to please cancel and delete my account yesterday morning.
Remember when Steve apologised for my struggle to get off their mailing lists and said I wouldn’t get another email again?
Yes, that was part of our days of emails back and forth. Yesterday afternoon, I got this!
Test Name is a nice touch, Community Manager Steve. I unsubscribed AGAIN. I figured that I guess I’ll have to log into my account, delete my account, and really get myself off their email lists.
I went to their website. Went to log in. And got this dialogue box:
Wow! Hey, fine by me. But if you cancelled my account and don’t want me back, and you promised you’d stop emailing me, why are you still emailing me? Now you look silly on top of looking very silly.