Half full/half hosed

| Comments (2) | Misc Outstanding!
I recently had occasion to rent a car from Enterprise (long story). As I picked up the car and prepared to drive away, I noticed that the tank was only half full. I pointed this out to the customer service guy and he informed me that this was part of their new "half full/half empty policy", i.e., ordinarily you get the car full and you bring it back full. Here, they give it to you half full and you bring it back half full. I couldn't quite tell if this was what Enterprise always does now or just something they sometimes do, but while it seems superficially the same as the original policy, it's actually quite a bit worse for the renter.

With the old policy, life was simple: you found a gas station close to the car return, filled up the tank, maybe grabbed a receipt, and dropped the car off. By contrast, what happens here is that you drive around, filling up the tank if necessary, and at some point you need to return the car. If you're over 1/2 full then you just end up gifting the remainder to Enterprise (who can just fill up the tank completely and require the next customer to return it full). (What, you were going to drive the car around until you had burned up the gas? Or maybe you were going to siphon it out into some empty Gatorade bottles...) You could, of course, never fill the tank above 1/2 way, but this is a huge pain. Even if you're lucky enough to be at less than 1/2 full when you need to return the car, you're unlikely to be exactly at 1/2, in which case you need to put some gas in. You're reasonably likely to overshoot (again, taking gas out of the tank isn't easy.), in which case Enterprise again gets some free gas.

Either way, this is likely to be a win for Enterprise and a lose for you.

2 Comments

That's not as bad as 'it's empty now, bring it back empty' we had when hiring a minibus. Of course, the minibus hire company was part of the adjacent petrol station's business.

I find stories like this very amusing. Sometimes I have to admire creative ways companies find to rip -- I mean, provide reduced value to consumers.

This almost tops the laundry detergent industry, which demonstrates the principal of UI affordance by providing cups (or scoops) with lines labeled '1', '2' and '3', suggesting how high much detergent you might want to put in your load. There is also a hypothetical fourth line which is if you filled the cup to the top (usually not that much higher than '3'). Then the instructions on the package say "For normal loads, fill to line 1. For large or heavily-soiled loads fille to line 2."

Apparently line 3 is just a subtle encouragement to use more detergent and run out faster than you need to.

A friend of mine who used to be a chemical engineer at P&G also told me that designers of toothpaste and shampoo containers deliberately make it hard to get small amounts out of them (and even harder to put excess output back in the container).

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