What I Meant To Say Was: Hertz, Priceline, and Hotwire Lost My Business

Posted By Debbie on June 12, 2013

Yesterday’s blog post caused a mini stir among some of my Facebook friends. First, one of them picked on me for being upset at waiting 50 minutes for my rental car… but then spending the day in Disneyland waiting 10-20 minutes per ride.

He was right. Good point. I said it came down to expectations. My expectation was to spend 5 minutes at Hertz since I had a prepaid reservation through Hotwire. I expected to wait at least 30-40 minutes for every Disney ride… so waiting 10-20 felt like a blessing.

Think about what your customers expect and in what time frame.

The same friend then said that he has noticed a difference in the service he receives between when he books directly with a car rental or hotel and when he books through a discount service like Priceline or Hotwire.

I completely agree. Part of my blog post yesterday pointed out that I couldn’t get the high level of service that a Hertz loyalty club member gets (even though I am one) because these outside booking services don’t let Hertz get that information. That would have saved me from kiosk hell, though it still doesn’t excuse Hertz for having kiosk hell in the first place.

Theory: Hertz is giving these discounts through these sites to try to win new customers who will then be brand loyal.

There’s usually only one good reason for a company to give a big discount like a Daily Deal or sell through Hotwire: it’s a loss leader. You hope that if someone pays a tiny bit, someone who isn’t already your customer will discover you, and then become a loyal customer (coming back to pay regular prices).

That’s great if you are sure you will give that person an experience so great that they become brand loyal or want to come back again. In my case, I got an experience that made me want to avoid Hertz. But knowing that Hotwire is at fault too, they lost my biz as well.

Is the savings worth it?

I’m now looking at rental cars for a 4-day trip back to the LA area in August. Dollar is offering around $35/day. Hotwire has $29/day. I went to Hertz, and they had “Book as a Member” and “Book as a Guest.” I chose guest to see how I’m treated. I was shown a car that was $43.50/day BUT if I pay in full up front is $35/day. The FIRST question that went through my head was wondering if pre-paying through Hertz forces me to use a kiosk or if I get to bypass that.

And the fine print for Hertz’ prepayment option had lots of we can do this, we can do that, cancellation fees apply. OR I can book through Dollar, get the SAME rate, the usual great service, and NOT worry about partial refunds or cancellation fees. Which sounds better to you?

To me, the savings isn’t worth it anymore. $6 per day for 4 days, even for a week isn’t enough to experience the hassle I had a few days ago at Hertz. That means I’ll avoid Hotwire and Priceline. I’ll just book at Dollar.com, give them my loyalty club number, and be brand loyal.