May 1st, 2020
Today Alamo announced all employees are required to wear masks. I don’t know if our posts had anything to do with it, but I assume it didn’t hurt. Let’s hope other car rental companies follow suite. Here is the letter I sent their customer service.
To Whom it May Concern at Alamo Rental Cars / Enterprise Holdings
My name is Robert G. Rose. I’m the producer and host of Raw Travel TV and a recent Alamo customer. On April 1st, 2020 during the beginning of the peak of COVID 19 pandemic in New York City , I decided to travel and self-isolate on the farm where I grew up in Middle Tennessee. I booked a one-way flight to Nashville Tennessee.
After flying on a near-empty flight to Nashville International Airport (BNA), I proceeded to pick up my rental car from Alamo, which I had reserved for 14 days since I knew I would be self-quarantined at least 14 days. During the trip, I took every possible precaution, including wearing a mask and gloves the entire flight and drive home, as well as frequently sanitizing my hands.
When signing paperwork for the vehicle, I asked the gentleman at the counter if I could extend beyond 14 days if needed. He replied I just needed to call into the number on the receipt jacket to do so.
After my initial 14 days of isolation, it became clear that New York City was still not safe. I thought it safer for me and others to remain on my rural farm rather than a small apartment in a crowded city rife with the virus.
On or about April 13th, I called in to extend my rental. I spoke to Michelle, who said she would extend the rental for 14 more days until April 29th at the same weekly rate I’d previously booked. She specifically recommended April 29th as the return date because that date would lock me into a lower weekly rate rather than a more expensive monthly rate. I thanked her and agreed to her terms. She gave a reference #35133893.
I took the opportunity to report to her that the front passenger tire had a leak and was flat on day 2 of the rental, but that we had fixed the tire by plugging it ourselves to avoid any unnecessary contact with roadside assistance. Also, I told her about damage on the rear left fender, which I hadn’t noticed when I had picked up and she said she made a notation
On April 28th, when it became apparent I would not be returning to NYC anytime soon, I called customer service again to inquire about extending the rental for another two weeks. The lady I spoke with informed me that since I had already extended once on the phone, that I would need to go into a physical Alamo location to extend the rental again.
I asked her if I needed to go to the Nashville Airport location specifically, or if there was a location closer to me where I could take care of it.
After giving her my current zip code, she suggested that I instead go to the Huntsville, Alabama airport (approximately 40 or so miles away from me as opposed to Nashville almost 90 miles away).
Since I had an issue with the tire and back rear damage, I inquired about the possibility of exchanging the vehicle.
She stated that if I wanted to exchange the vehicle, I’d have to do that in Nashville, but if I just wanted to extend the current reservation, I could do so in Huntsville. She stated she was sending a message for Nashville to ring or email me within 48 hours to be certain, but I never heard from them (and my frequent phone calls and emails went unanswered or flipped over to the national customer service).
To my initial confusion, she also insisted that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th, not April 29th as I had in my notes. After a little back and forth, I took her word for that. However, to be sure, I did call back a few hours later and spoke to Robert, who confirmed the information, and he also stressed that the vehicle was not due back until 6 pm on April 30th and he again confirmed that I could extend the rental at the Huntsville airport.
On April 30th, I ultimately chose to extend the car rental in Huntsville because it was 1) closer than Nashville and 2) I was short on time and 3) I could then be assured of keeping the same vehicle which had only had one occupant for the month, so I knew it was clean and safe from infection.
I arrived at Huntsville airport at approximately 5 pm, one hour before the car was supposedly due at 6 pm. I was surprised to see that receivers at the return area were not wearing masks, nor were they seemingly practicing social distancing, even though I had on a mask and gloves and was clearly trying to maintain distance.
When I walked into the airport to extend the rental, the clerk was behind a makeshift plexiglass window, and she did seem to be sanitizing her hands frequently. However, after a few minutes on the computer, she informed me that she was unable to extend the rental beyond one more day. And when she tried to extend for one additional day the entire bill increased by over 50%.
She seemed incapable of grasping the billing discrepancy but made no attempt to call Customer Service Headquarters or to ask for help from an on-site supervisor who she said was busy with other customers.
So, I called Customer Service while standing there and after getting hung up on by someone initially, eventually spoke to Danilo. He said that because I returned vehicle April 30th instead of April 29th, the extra day had kicked in the monthly rate instead of the weekly rate I’d been quoted.
Frustrated that was getting late and I was getting nowhere fast, I informed the lady at the counter that I was going to try to drive to Nashville and return it there before they closed. I asked her what time BNA closed. She again was unhelpful and was unable or unwilling to tell me and replied that every location has different hours.
Before heading back to the vehicle to drive to Nashville, now a 2-hour drive instead of a little over an hour drive, it would have been for me initially, I tried customer service once again. I spoke to a young lady whose English-language skills were challenging. However, she did connect me promptly to a supervisor, David.
Unfortunately, David only made this deteriorating situation worse. Instead of helping to resolve the problem, David droned on endlessly without pause how company policy was that rental extensions had to be taken at the physical location where the vehicle was picked up.
When I was finally able to edge a question in, I asked why both previous agents had told me otherwise. David deflected and again went on a long-winded explanation about company policy, without addressing the erroneous information I’d received or offering a hint of apology.
He also all but accused me of being a liar, saying that he had no record of me extending the vehicle to April 14th. When I gave him the reference number provided, he said he could see in the notes that I’d called in and wanted to extend but saw no evidence of the contract being extended. He kept saying he understood that I thought I had extended but that since Michelle didn’t extend the contract in “the system,” I hadn’t actually extended the agreement. Thus, because I had returned the car a day later, I would be subject to the higher monthly fee. He then added that I was currently in breach of contract because it was past 6 pm on April 30th and would be subject to even more potentially higher penalties and fees.
I asked for David’s employee #, and he gave me #E772PF, but given how the conversation was going, I have doubts that is his real Employee #. If that is indeed David’s employee # and if his role is to de-escalate tension and retain customers, he did the exact opposite. Because of David’s rude tone and could-care-less, glib response to my inquiries, I then decided that I’d return the vehicle to Alamo and use any another car rental company my remaining time in Tennessee and, if I could help it, for any future travel.
When I finally arrived at Nashville Airport about 2 hours later nearing 8 pm (4 hours after I had set out) with a fully gassed up vehicle, the young attendant who received me was without mask and gloveless. He was climbing into the vehicle to check the mileage, etc.
He asked if everything was ok and I told him I was not happy. He then walked me over to the night manager and asked him if he could help me. The mask-less night manager and the other young man were standing right next to each other, about a foot apart. Despite me having a mask and gloves neither appeared to be practicing any social distancing.
When I mentioned there was a pandemic going on, they did apologize and separated a bit. But when I aired my grievances with the night manager, he mumbled something about the car was no longer accruing charges and that he’d take up with management in the morning about my billing and treatment.
I rented another vehicle with Budget Rental Car on the spot paying a premium for the last- minute rental. I sprayed and wiped down the new car from Budget as much as possible and drove home with my mask and gloves on, trying not to touch anything other than what was necessary to drive safely. I arrived back home at about 11 pm, roughly 7 hours from when I’d begun an errand that should have taken 2 hours to complete.
Despite the billing hassles, the repeated misinformation, and the glibly rude treatment by David the supervisor and the shrugging treatment by the Nashville night manager, by far, my biggest concern from this experience was Alamo’s attitude towards customers during this pandemic. Instead of making it easy to extend via telephone, I had to interact with up to 6 people in person yesterday, each seemingly taking safety precautions much less seriously than their customers, many of whom were wearing masks.
This morning, May 1st, Anthony, the Nashville Tri-Brand Manager for Alamo, Enterprise and National called to apologize and straighten out the billing. He informed me that as of today, May 1st, 2020, all Alamo employees are required to wear masks when interacting with customers. Anthony was going to send me an email with his contact info and billing summary, but as of the writing of this letter about 4 hours later, I have not yet received it.
I did, however, also receive a call from Mr. Shawn Hurley, VP of the Middle Tennessee area rental car locations, and he assured me that corporately, Alamo and Enterprise Holdings do take customer safety seriously. Shawn expressed his frustration at my treatment and said he would do everything he could to improve his staff’s behavior when it comes to safety. I appreciated Shawn’s call and believe he will try his best to address this issue.
Based on my observations, neither Nashville or Huntsville Airport Alamo Rental Car employees are taking enough safety precautions to protect themselves or customers. It’s frustrating to see and hear companies pay lip-service only to something as crucial as customer safety.
I, like many, am extremely challenged during this time. I’m trying to continue to run my business, while working remotely. I am trying to ensure my employees, vendors, freelancers, and others who depend on this show for their livelihood are taken care of while keeping myself and my loved ones safe. I’ve had many friends and friends and relatives of friends who have had COVID 19 and recovered but it was tough. I’ve had others who have not been so fortunate and have succumbed. I take this dangerous disease and health recommendations seriously and if you want my business, I believe you should as well.
I specifically chose Alamo because I felt the service would be better than an off-brand, less expensive choice so I could focus on other, more pressing issues. Unfortunately, the opposite has occurred. As a result, I am behind on my sleep, my work, and my business.
Yet, I consider myself very fortunate compared to so many who have lost so much. I owe it to them to do what I can to communicate the urgency of this matter to others who may not understand or comprehend the potential of this situation. It is absolutely zero fun to watch a pandemic explode all around you, while you wonder if you will be next, or do you already have the virus and not know it or does your neighbor have it or who will die next from the disease or to wonder if you should shelter in place or escape while you can to a safer environment?
I could have easily dropped this matter when the billing discrepancy was adjusted. However, I feel a bigger responsibility to my friends, family, viewers and social media followers to be transparent so that they can potentially avoid any unnecessary safety risks or additional stress during this stressful time. I regret that I cannot recommend Alamo Rental Car to them.
I hope that by publicizing my experience, this may help in some small way bolster Alamo’s commitments to better customer treatment, more robust customer service training, and most importantly, during this unique time, a much more significant commitment to employee and customer safety and health.
Robert G. Rose
Executive Producer & Host
Raw Travel TV