My Avis rental car and customer service experience

29 December, 2009 (14:15) | Reviews

Avis customer support has exhausted my patience, so I’m considering this the final chapter.  If Avis is your cheapest rate when you go to rent a car, take a second to think about the risk you might run of having to deal with customer service.  I am not going to be a loyal Avis customer anytime soon.

I used to book the cheapest car I could find for Kallie and I to use on our flight to California over Thanksgiving.  Avis was the cheapest, but not by much.  We picked up the Pontiac G5 at Sacramento airport on Nov 25th on our arrival.  It was the smallest rental car I’ve ever been in, which put me more in a contemplative mindset as I wondered why I’ve never had such a small car even though I’ve always rented the cheapest before.

The car worked fine until Friday evening in San Francisco.  While sightseeing, I parallel parked but was not able to turn the key to power off the car.  It was if it was locked in the on position.  We couldn’t leave the car running and unlocked to sightsee.  We tried all the obvious things, then called the 800 number listed with the rental docs, and they had us try the obvious stuff again, then we told them we’d just go to the nearest Avis center and return it.  We were near empty on gas, but there was an Avis location in town, not far away.  We got to the location shortly after 5, and it closed at 5pm.  That meant that we would have to drive ~30 minutes to the San Francisco airport.  We got there, with less than a gallon of gas left, I’m sure.

Upon our arrival, I had the 2 employees and a manager sanity check me and they could not turn the car off either.  They said to go inside and talk to customer service to get a replacement car.  They initially said they would have to charge me for returning the car with an empty tank, but since I couldn’t turn off the car, it wasn’t safe for me to fill it up before returning it and they let that charge go.  The desk representative also volunteered a $25 voucher for our inconvenience, and asked her manager to bring the voucher to the desk for us over the walkie talkie.  ~20 minutes go by, the very nice desk rep pages her manager again.  We use the rest room, talk about the car, wait around, until the desk rep then physically goes to the manager’s office to find the manager had left for the day and locked the office with the voucher inside.  When the desk rep came back to us, she said that she would leave notes in their system for our reservation so that when we returned the car in Sacramento, they would give us a voucher for “more than $25” since we had so much trouble and had to wait.  We got a replacement Ford Focus, and went about our lives.

…until Sunday, when we realize we may have left Kallie’s Macbook under the passenger seat with our only copies of wedding photos on DVD.  We called the San Francisco airport location, and they said they don’t see any notes on a laptop, but the car is at their repair facility off site, and no one would be able to look for it until Monday, but they would have someone call me back once they were able to look.  By 4pm Monday, I hadn’t heard anything back, so I called them again, and they asked me where to look for it, so I said, “in the car”, and they wanted me to be specific, so I said to try under the passenger seat or in the trunk.  They called back after a few minutes and said they were not able to find it there.

Fast forward to Tuesday, Dec 1st at 4:00am.  We drop off the car at the rental location to catch our 6:00am flight.  The receiving employee only has a hand scanner that prints our return receipts and she has no access to a computer or vouchers.  She said that we would have to wait until the desk representatives come in at 7:00am.  So I decide I’ll have to pick this back up once we get home.

I give a phone call to the customer support number.  I explain the voucher situation to them, and they say they’ll send it in the mail to me right away.  Seemed easy enough.  I also called the SF location again to have the search the whole car, thinking it might have moved or we put it somewhere else.  They said they will leave an open case in the lost and found if it ever turns up, but it’s not in the car.

A week or so later, I receive a letter from Avis with a voucher attached to the bottom for $25.  The letter is your basic canned apology letter, but the voucher, at least, had something identifying on it…an expiration date of 12/31/09.  They had given me less than a month to use the voucher.  That’s pretty much insulting, and I said that in my letter to them.  I used the contact form on their site to send it to them.  I could repost it here, but it’s basically the same as this post and carries the same tone.

A few days later, I get this response via email:

From: “Avis Customer Service” <>
Sent: Monday, December 28, 2009 10:31 AM
Subject: RE: Avis Rental U142826294 / Case 7737785 (KMM2651002I5371L0KM)

RE:  Avis Rental U142826294 / Case 7737785


Dear Mr. Hall,
Thank you for contacting us through the Avis Website.

In viewing the above Avis rental and your case I find that you have
phoned into our Avis Customer Service Department and the agent that you
spoke with has sent you an Avis Customer Service Certificate.  I do
apologize for the problems that you experienced with your Avis rental
car and if we can assist you in the future, please let us know.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us, and we look forward
to assisting you with your future rentals.


Avis Customer Service Representative

Wow.  First, they’re not going to do anything.  Second, they obviously didn’t read my letter very well if they failed to notice the part where I said I was insulted that they would send me a voucher that expired within a month.  I put about as much effort in my reply as they put in to theirs:

Perhaps you missed the part where I was given less than a month to use the certificate?


I received this reply today:

Case #:7737785

Dear Mr. Hall,

Thank you for contacting Avis via

We apologize for sending a coupon that expires that soon. 
We value your business and as a courtesy we will honor your request to
replace your coupon.

Please mail the coupon to my attention to the addressed noted below.

Avis Customer Service
P.O. Box 690360
Tulsa, OK  74169-0360
ATTN : CASE 7737785

I appreciate your cooperation and await your response.

We appreciate your taking the time to report your experience to us.  You
have helped in a continuing effort to provide you, and all Avis
customers, with the service you expect and deserve.

Warm Regards,
K*** L***
Avis Customer Service Representative

They want me to pay for postage and mail them back a $25 voucher that expires by the time it reaches them.  WTF.  I’m not even sure I have the voucher any more, since it was worthless to me.  That’s ridiculous, and that is why Avis can not expect to see my name on their customer sheet any longer.  If their customer service strategy is to make users feel frustrated and eventually just get tired from getting the run around and jumping through hoops and give up, then they’ve succeeded.