Yut and I have been thinking about getting a carshare membership for a while now. We’re basically uninterested in owning a car, what with the maintenance, gas, insurance, etcetc. In general though, we need a car so little that even though we’d talked about carsharing, and agreed to do it, we never got around to it. But the last few months there were a few times when having a car for a little while would’ve been useful — like when we all woke up too late for CT to get on BART to the airport, or anytime we wanna buy a bunch of drinks, really. So we looked into all the carsharing companies nearby: City CarShare (the only one that’s non-profit), ZipCar, and Flexcar, and decided to try Flexcar.
We got our membership packet earlier this month, and we used Flexcar for the first time today. Unfortunately the experience didn’t start as smoothly as I’d hoped. We made a reservation from 1:30pm to 4:30pm and arrived at the car maybe 5-10 minutes late (not that it matters much, but the point is, our reservation had definitely started so there weren’t any issues there), but we couldn’t get into the car. We held up our Flexcard to the transceiver thingie on the windshield for a long time, but the car never unlocked. After trying a couple of times, we finally had to call Flexcar. The conversation went approximately:
Flexcar Dude (I forgot his name): What’s your member number, name, phone number, etcetc.
Flexcar: What’s the situation?
Me: Made reservation, can’t get in the car
Flexcar: Is the light green?
Me: Yeah, it’s green, but the door won’t unlock.
Flexcar: Hmm, let me check on that, please hold.
Flexcar: Try again please.
Me: Okay, but it’s still green and nothing’s happening.
Flexcar: Let me check on something else, please hold.
Flexcar: Try again please.
Me: It’s still not doing anything. Can you just cancel this reservation and let us make a new one with a different car?
Flexcar: Are there any other cars at that location?
Me: No, but we can walk a few blocks to the next closest location, that would be fine.
Flexcar: Let me put you on hold and look into that location for you.
… We started to walk to the next location, going about 3 blocks.
Flexcar: Actually can you try that car again?
Me: Uh, well we started to walk towards the other location, so we have to walk back now.
Me: No, it’s still not working.
That took about half an hour! Then we got transferred to a manager in our region, who asked for all of our information again! I can never understand that; if I call and give my member number or serial number or whatever, isn’t it on the computer already?! Okay, I’m getting off topic, it turned out she was in a car or something, but still. Then she said she needed to look into it some more and said she’d call us back. After 10 minutes, Yut called Flexcar again, went through the same rigmarole with the member number and name and everything, explained the situation again, reconfirmed that there were no other cars at the precise location, and got transferred back to the regional manager person, who finally took care of everything. She canceled our original reservation, made a new reservation for 4 hours on a car at a different location, said she’d give us a 2 hour credit, and stayed on the phone with us until we actually got into the car to make sure everything was fine. She was really nice about it, and apologetic. It turned out that they were having some kind of database problem which I guess made it hard to pull up information and made it hard to figure out what was going on with the original car. But still, it was frustrating to stand around the car being put on hold and then trying the card again over and over. I think it would’ve been a lot better if after they tried to send the unlock signal (or whatever they were doing when we got stuck on hold) once, if it still wasn’t working, then let us make a new reservation. It’s not like we were insisting on a taxi ride or anything. Instead we stood around doing nothing for around 45 minutes. Well, anyway, after we gave up on the first car, everything was fine. We went to lunch (the lack of which was a contributor to our grumpiness), and shopped and got everything back well before 6pm.
This was only our first try, hopefully next time goes better.
A few last random notes: For some reason, the Scion xB is labeled as a sub-compact, whereas the Corolla is a standard sedan. I dunno, that Scion xB looked big to me. Also, the Flexcar website is just ok.
This is the reservation screen, note how you can only look at 4 cars at a time, yuck! Why can’t you change the date that you want to reserve for without going back to the previous screen? And why don’t they have a little calendar link next to the date like airline reservation pages? And you can’t tell, but they are using tables! As in <table><td> etcetc! It’s not like they’ve been around since forever (cos at least that’s an explanation for the use of the tables). Anyways, all this, coupled with their “database problems” makes me think they need better IT people! :p