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Zero. Zilch. Zipcar.

Zero. Zilch. Zipcar.

Zip Car

How Zipcar got me nowhere fast.

There are enough great things in the world to champion, especially given the luxury of an editorial soapbox, that I generally don't like to take time dwelling on the bad. But I feel as though, in this case, I have to make an exception.

I recently turned in a leased car and, not really sure what I want my next vehicle to be, have not been in any rush to replace it. Recently, though, I found myself in need of wheels for a few hours - to run some basic errands that would take most of the day on foot or by bus - and decided to try Zipcar, a service that allows you to rent a car by the hour. I had already signed up for the service (paying the $25 application fee), gotten approval and received my Zipcard card in the mail (a process that takes about ten days in all.) I went online, found a vehicle nearby that was available for rent and reserved some time. What makes Zipcar unique - and, in many ways, attractive - is that there are no rental counters to deal with: you simply reserve a car, go to where it is parked and use your Zipcard to unlock the doors. The keys are inside waiting for you and away you go. You simply return the car to the same spot before your reservation is up and that's that. Or, so I thought.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the vehicle, a Subaru Crosstrek, was that it was rather dirty inside and out. In fact, there was a pile of dried mud scattered noticeably around the driver's side mat (a detail that will become important later.) I dismissed it as a minor nuisance and hopped in. I immediately found the keys, placed them in the ignition and.... every light on the dashboard lit up as the engine coughed and wheezed before giving up and dying.

Perhaps I had done something wrong. I pulled the manuals out of the glove compartment and scanned them for clues. No, seems I did everything correctly. I tried again and got the same result.

So, I called Zipcar for help. To their credit, the person I spoke to at Zipcar did seem genuinely interested in solving the problem as best he could: offering to reimburse me should I decided to take Lyft or Uber to do my errands (a quick calculation deemed that to be way too expensive in total to be realistic) and giving me one free hour of Zipcar to use in the future. He was also taking the car offline for the next twelve hours and scheduling it for service. Presumably, a mechanic would come visit the vehicle, determine whatever ailed it and fix it. I thanked him and hoofed it back home. (I should note here, that when they offered me one free hour of rental time, what they mean is they gave me a $10 credit; their cars rent for $10 per hour. However, in Palm Springs, where I am based, there are a whole host of fees including a $10 airport parking fee that makes a one-hour rental cost over $20.)

Once back, I got online and reserved the car for the following day, around the same time, well after the twelve-hour service window had passed. So the next day, I return to the vehicle and - lo and behold - the same problem. In fact, the pile of dried mud on the driver's side mat was in (I'm fairly certain) the same heap that I left it in, meaning no one had serviced the vehicle. Another phone call, another $10 credit and another request that the vehicle be put in service.

Certainly, any sane person would have given up by now, but I have sort of taken this up as a personal challenge at this point. For the third time, I reserve the car. However, this time I call ahead to make sure that the car had, in fact, been serviced. I'm told that not only had it been serviced but it has been rented out and no problems reported. Great. 

Of course when I arrive I can tell just by looking at the dingy exterior that none of this is true. And, sure enough, the car won't start. Again.

Zipcar: three. Bryan: zip.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Bryan Van Gorder