New Orleans There’s a U-Haul location right at the railroad tracks hardly more than a half-mile from where I live and even closer to where we were assembling to move stuff from half a shotgun double to a storage unit a couple of miles down the road. Given the convenience, it never occurred to me to call anyone else to rent a short bed 15-foot truck for the day.
I showed up, as promised, at 8:30 AM and for a minute was the only customer. The manager said I had missed the earlier rush, and given the heat and humidity building on a typical, smarmy New Orleans summer day, I knew he was telling the truth. Inspecting the vehicle was easy, but seemed weird in some ways. I was instructed to look for tiny “x’s” marked on the body of the truck where there was previous damage. Oddly, a long scrape across the entire top of the truck was unmarked. The manager just laughed when I mentioned it, which I found a bit weird as well. He laughed less when he told me from his screen that the gas tank was more than half-full, and I pointed out that the picture on the rental agreement showed that it was in fact less than one-half filled, but he corrected it quickly. I thought nothing of it, and drove off to what turned out to be my hella-day.
Returning the truck though was even more bizarre.I rent cars pretty regularly, so I thought I knew the drill. Wrong! I got out of the truck with the keys and paperwork, but when the checker came to me, he took neither of them, and asked me to get back in the truck, which I thought was odd. Odd though was hardly the word for it. He then ran me through the drill. Left turn signal, right turn signal, lights on, lights off, high beam on, high beam off, reverse then brake, etc, etc, and etcetera. What the frick?
When I climbed down from the cab, I was pointedly clear in my query: “what was that? It was the same routine as one of the state’s motor vehicle inspections?”
His response was glib? “Yeah, we’re thorough,” he replied.
But me, being me, I wasn’t willing to pass it off even in my filthy, sweat drenched, bone-tired condition or maybe because of all of that, so I said, “Man, I’ve driving under the sun all day, how would I even know if the lights worked, much less the high beams? Are you telling me that if one of the turn signals had gone out on your truck in the 7 hours I had it that you would have tried to charge me for the repair?” Add a tone of dripping, semi-irate sarcasm, and you are standing right there next to me.
His answer was crisp and clear as he said flatly, “Yes,” and turned away from me indicating the inspection and the conversation was now over.
No ifs, and, and buts about it, that would have been a rip, but clearly that’s company policy. No customer is asked to check the lights, turn signals, and whatever before pulling out of the lot. In fact when you sign the contract you are shown the number to call if you have a problem on the road. The real deal seems to be that if they run a brake tag like inspection on every returning vehicle they are clearly trying to nickel and-dime the customer into paying their minor maintenance costs on their trucks, despite the fact that none of the things being checked could possibly have been caused by the renter.
A quick Google search finds that U-Haul got nailed by the Los Angeles Times for running old, decrepit trucks and never doing regular upkeep and maintenance around 2007. They seemed to have suffered through a class-action suit about it 2008.
They may have gotten the inspection religion around that period, but, unfortunately, they also seem to have come to the conclusion that, darned, if we’re going to have to finally inspect the fleet, then we better figure out a way to pass as many of the costs off to the suckers who are customers.
Well, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware I guess, but caveat emptor to any buyers walking into U-Haul, too!
Dirty Pretty Things – Bloodthirsty Bastards