Could these travelers be using technology to shop car rental rates just minutes before picking up their reserved car, creating yet another no show? This has got to stop. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto/SilvaJansen
In 1991, we all got a big laugh out of the infamous “Seinfeld” episode, “You know how to take a reservation; you just don’t know how to hold the reservation …” Even I shamelessly recycled this clip during a keynote speech two years ago at the Car Rental Show. YouTube has allowed this to live on in virtual perpetuity.
I recently watched it again from a different perspective. The hairstyles, the clothing of Jerry and Elaine and the ridiculously large computer the rental agent used are all part of our past. What is still here? The ridicule we as an industry still face over the same problem: reservations, no-shows and the perception of the customer.
An unfortunate recent event has brought this all back to the front page of various Internet sites and news media outlets. Here we are the last bastions of a travel industry where the customer can shamelessly make multiple reservations for a single rental transaction with no penalty and no commitment, yet we are the ones portrayed as the disrespectful industry taking advantage of the consumer.
I do not need to repeat my mantra or my review of the airline and hotel industry’s evolution in the process of guaranteed reservations, prepayments and non-refundable tickets. What I do need to address is how this is continuing to become a trend that will lead to an environment of consumer abuse.
Previously, I have spoken about companies that rate, scrape and shop for better pricing and re-book the consumer. Many rental companies have stopped displaying rates on these sites, effectively ending this behavior.
The real problem is technological innovation and our ability to keep up with it. Many of us have modified the rental process to state-of-the-art technology to create a pleasant, efficient and expedited process for the consumer. These are all wonderful enhancements. But what we have not done is address these same enhancements in the reservation process.