Customer Service Tale – Read the Fine Print or Get Screwed

I’ve signed rental contracts before, but Shannon and I were in a hurry. We had reserved a small U-Haul 10′ box truck for a trip to Seattle to pick up some furniture from my parents. We were also taking a coffee table up to my folks. We rented the truck because of the $19.95 special, and we planned to drive up and back in the same day, so we returned the truck first thing on Monday morning.

Read the Fine Print

We got a late start, so it was 11:00 before we got to the rental agency. We still had to drive up to Seattle and back, which is, depending on traffic, a 3 – 4 hour drive, one-way. As we were signing the contract, we mentioned we were driving to Seattle, and the clerk told us to ensure to return the truck with a full tank of fuel. Signing for the truck was a smooth process, and I marveled the sign out process that used to take about an hour, now took about 10 minutes. We watched the contract information zip by on a card swipe screen, signed as appropriate and were off.

The Trip

It was a pretty good truck, it ran well, and the cab smelled like the bottom of a  high school gym laundry basket, that had marinated in cigarette smoke and fast food grease. We were fortunate that we only spent about $140 on gas for the whole trip. Did I mention the smell? At least the truck ran well.

The trip was relatively uneventful. We took the coffee table up, and got a Dining table, some outdoor furniture and few other miscellaneous pieces of furniture to bring home. We left Seattle at about 4:30 and we were lucky enough to get home by 8:30. We unloaded the truck, and after the long trip decided to take the truck back in the morning.

We take the truck back first thing Monday morning. We are signing the truck back in, and are told our total for the rental is $265. I mentioned we had the truck only a day, and that we had filled the tank.

No Satisfaction

Devo sums up the whole trip with their remake of Satisfaction

Apparently the $19.95 charge is for a local move only. There are additional charges for anything over 50 miles at .69 a mile. Had we known this, we probably would have gone to Hertz and just rented a van. The rental would have been much cheaper, we could have had a nicer vehicle and it would have cost us a lot less. In fairness the clerk, did reduce the fee to .59 a mile, but the total was still $265.

Shannon called the manager who said he is sure that we must have been told about the .69 per mile fee. If we were we both missed it. Looking at the contract, I see areas of the contract highlighted, but not the mileage issue. We actually had to review the contract multiple times to find the statement concerning mileage.

In the end I know the fault is ours. We should have been more vigilant about reading the contract. From a customer service standpoint the U-Haul employees should have ensured we understood all the charges. We were up front about our day trip to Seattle and were not warned of any additional charges.

This fee that caught us off guard, and is the reason that we feel cheated by U-Haul. I don’t feel I can dispute the charge, but they need to be up front about their rates and fees. Had this been handled differently, and we understood the fees, we might have still been willing to pay the charges, but not felt ripped off by them or we might have taken our business elsewhere.

As I told this story to others, I heard other horror stories similar to ours concerning fees and rates that companies were not up front about or did not fully explain.

Customer Service Lesson

This incidence demonstrates a couple of issues:

  • The need to be open and honest with customers. I find it better to be honest and give a realistic deadline and statement of work, then to tell the customer what they want to hear, only to not meet the stated deadlines.
  • Ensure that you understand a contract before you sign it and have all appropriate terms of the contract in writing.

This brings to mind what Jeremiah Owyang told me about there being no small voices anymore. You never know what will be the next big story to make the rounds over the net.

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4 Responses to “Customer Service Tale – Read the Fine Print or Get Screwed”

  1. teeni Says:

    Okay – not to start a giant controversy here but this brings to mind the latest controversy over the whole Ellen Degeneres’ debacle with the dog she gave to a friend issue. In this situation, my feeling is that two wrongs don’t make a right. Ellen, because she is a celebrity, is no better than the rest of us as far as signing contracts. She should have to abide by the terms she agreed to, just as any one of us regular slobs would have to, of anything WE signed, WITHOUT being able to later threaten the use of lawyers because of our celebrity status and or wealth. That said, the dog adoption agency should have inspected the dog’s new home, and unless it found some deficiency in the animals’ care, then it should have been happy enough that the dog had a good home and not needed to make an issue out of it.
    As far as small print goes – I think it should be illegal to have small print – everything should be right up front and out in the open so consumers can make smart decisions, or at least, informed ones.

  2. Thomas Says:

    teeni – I agree that there is way too much celebrity special treatment these days. Being a celebrity is not a virtue.
    I am trying to use this experience as a lesson in customer service to remind me how to treat the people I interact with. As I wrote in my post, all these negative feelings we now have towards U-Haul could have been addressed with better disclosure in the beginning.

  3. Opal Tribble/Vegan Momma Says:

    I remember I was going to use Uhaul years ago. They had something similar going on. I’m very thankful I read that small print. I saved myself a nice chunk of money. Thankfully my father was able to help me make the move. I have a cool dad!
    I agree that they should have been clear. In my business I explain everything for example shelf life is a lot shorter with natural products. I follow up via email after a customer has purchased the product and remind them of this fact. I also include this information with their purchase product and I make sure that is in red font.

  4. Thomas Says:

    Opal – Ensuring that we had good information up front is all that it would have necessary for these bad feelings to have not come up.
    I am not surprised by your solid customer service techniques. Your care for the customer not only shows in your business practices, but comes across in your blogging.

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