Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Zip This

OK so I'm a Zipcar member and am a fan of the shared car idea - especially now, what with the environment and gas prices and all that jazz. Except, I'm not so sure it works so well in good ol' NYC. Why? Well let me tell you a little ditty.

I had reserved a Mazda so that I could zip home to visit the Mother Guerilla on mother's day. Per direction from the confirmation email I received, I called the garage on W. 21st Street an hour ahead of time to ensure that the car would be waiting for me. I called five times and the number was not in service. This should have been my first clue that things were not going to go well.

But I soldiered on and made my way over to the GMC Garage at 10 W. 21st St. When I got there the attendant told me I had the wrong garage, and that I should go across the street to the parking lot, which I did. When I got there I talked to the lot attendant and showed him my confirmation print-out. Even though the car on my confirmation was silver, he told me that the red Mazda in the middle of the lot was mine. But I didn't think that it was, so I went back over to the garage and called out for the attendant. When he didn't arrive I started back up the driveway and ran into him and explained that my car had to be in his garage. Again, he told me there were no Zipcars in his garage but that he'd personally take me back to the lot across the way. And there it sat, alone...the red Mazda. Insisting that it was my car, he suggested that I flash the my Zipcard over over the thingy in the windshield, and if the doors opened, it would certainly prove that it was indeed my car.
Click-click. Voila! The doors opened, proving that indeed this was my Zipcar.
So I got inside and motored my way towards the West Side Highway. En route I called Zipcar to tell them about the weird garage/lot address debacle and the ditzy but nice lass on the other end assured me she'd alert the proper people of the mistake.
About an hour later, after I had arrived at Chez Guerilla I received a long message from some guy at Zipcar HQ berating me for taking someone else's Zipcar and how I can't just up and take another's car because mine isn't there and that they had to go through some huge ordeal to rearrange car reservations and that they were trying to ensure that I could keep the car until 5 p.m. the next day like I had planned, but that it was possible I'd have to get it back by 10 a.m. because the car I had was already taken.
So I called Zipcar back and told my zany story, to which a witch on the other end responded, "it is the member's responsibility to ensure that they have the correct car, just because yours was late coming back doesn't mean you can take any car. You took the Mazda Mio but were supposed to get the Mazda Milo..."
OK, first of all, and this sounds totally girly, but I have no idea what the difference between a Mio and a Milo is. Do you? Anyway, I pointed out that I had no idea that MY car was late and that I didn't just take any car, I took the car that two attendants insisted was mine - and then when my card opened the door, it seemed they were correct.
She angrily ignored my tale of angst and woe and instead told me I should have...wait for it...CHECKED THE LICENSE PLATE NUMBERS.
Um...Wha?! Come on now, really. I'm not really sure what other lengths I could have gone to in an effort to get MY car, but at the point at which my Zipcard opened the door of the red Mazda Mio, I was convinced I did the right thing.
Then when I told her that I needed the car until 5 p.m. because I was visiting my mother on Mother's Day, she told me that it would cost me an extra $50 PER HOUR in late fees, or another $350 (on top of the $120 I was already spending). $470 to rent a car for one day? WHAT A BARGAIN!
Of course had Zipcar alerted me to the fact that the car I had reserved was late coming back, I would have waited until it showed up. That's pretty much all it would have taken to avoid this keystone cop episode.
Anyway upon urging from Mother G., I called back and talked to a much more reasonable Canadian fellow who apologized for my hassle and assured me that I could keep my car until 5 p.m. like I planned. Things seem to have worked out...but the bill remains to be seen..
So I'm wondering if NYC is cut out for this kind of "sharing." Perhaps we should just stick to sharing...sharing...um...do we 'share' anything around here (besides germs)?

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