Dollar Rent-A-Car’s main headquarters in Morristown, N.J. faced the harsh consequences of Hurricane Irene, submerged under more than five feet of flood water. Photos by Jennifer Romanowski.
Natural disasters can disrupt a car rental company’s business for weeks, making timely fiscal recovery seem nearly impossible.
As Hurricane Irene came and went, car rental agencies along the eastern seaboard still remain affected. Many auto rental companies prioritized community service and safety over profiting from Labor Day weekend.
A Time of Crisis
Enterprise Rent-A-Car offices located throughout eastern North Carolina — an area now burdened with heavy flooding and calamitous conditions — have shut down retail to take care of insurance partners and victims during this time of need.
“In retail, you book a reservation and your car is waiting for you,” says Osvaldo Santos, Enterprise regional vice president, Wilmington N.C. “But as things erupted here, our folks were called by utilities companies trying to restore power. They needed specific types of vehicles, and they needed them delivered. Our folks understood why we needed to mobilize in a manner that we typically don’t.”
Since the storm hit, all of Enterprise’s nearby resources have been utilized in the transportation of vehicles to devastated regions. In the process, countless individuals willingly performed duties that exceeded average job descriptions.
“There has been an all-hands-on-deck mentality — everyone needs to be involved when you have to move this volume of vehicles into an affected area,” Santos says. “Transportation trucks are not enough … you need extra bodies, and everyone has been volunteering.”
According to Santos, there is an added sense of ownership among his staff because employees are taking care of potential neighbors and friends. Megan Reed, an Enterprise area manager stationed in the outer banks of North Carolina, rented a vehicle to an elderly woman whose property had been destroyed by the hurricane. Before the woman drove off, Megan offered to personally drive out later that evening to help the woman gather her belongings from the wreck.
“This lady was taken aback that one of our employees was willing to do something other than rent a vehicle,” Santos says. “[Megan] was willing to go to this lady’s house because she needed the help.”
Similar to Enterprise, Ride Share Systems, a New Jersey Dollar licensee with an office located in Morristown, N.J., is submerged in more than five feet of water. The office spent two days without internet and a week with only a single line phone system. Despite the circumstances, Dollar is still in operation, having aided customers throughout every step of the storm.
Staff members manually moved wet office equipment out into their parking lot to prevent mold from growing while everything dried off.
Dollar even extended a one-day charge courtesy to its renters just in case post-hurricane conditions proved insurmountable.
The company also made it a point to call each and every client both before and after the storm to notify them about the extension and urge them to put their own wellbeing first. “Our main concern is trying to make sure customers aren’t trying to return the car in a hurricane, or doing something unsafe, which is why we gave them a call and a complimentary extension,” says Jennifer Romanowski, manager at the Morristown Dollar Rent-A-Car.