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Toll Roads, Rental Cars, and Expectations

| May 26, 2015

This past week, I took a trip down to Florida with my wife, Mila, for a conference held at the Streamsong Resort, a contemporary hotel built on a retired phosphate mining operation that left much nature and many phosphate-rich lakes.  Golf is a highlight of this facility and it would seem that Streamsong is working on its third golf course.  Needless to say, it's in the middle of nowhere, so a rental car was required from our flight into Orlando. 

We used Firefly, a rental care company that is tied to Hertz and seems to be based on their 'not-new' cars.  Our car, for instance, had 17k miles on it, but was in great condition with everything except that the air conditioner could probably use a recharge soon.  Considering it was 95 degrees F in the daytime, it worked well enough though. 

The challenge came when driving on the highways from Orlando International Airport heading the 1.5 hours down to Streamsong and then back at the end of the conference, as it would seem that Orlando has been heavily investing in toll booths since the last time I was there.   In Orlando, heading west from the airport, there are two toll booths totaling $2.25 in tolls with a distance of just over two miles between them.  Further southwest, the experience was similar, including being on an Interstate that went down to two-lanes only to have a toll-booth located there. 

The frustration peaked at those moments when our GPS said, 'Exit here,' only to find a coin-only or E-pass toll booth. Half of the time, there were little envelopes included so you could mail in your toll.  Not having anticipated the need to take a full roll of quarters with on the trip, we grabbed an envelope one time ($0.75 toll) and jotted down the toll booth exit the second time ($1.25 toll). 

Upon arriving back in Chicago, I phoned the Florida Department of Transportation to clarify the procedure for sending them a check for the missed tolls.  After calling, I was informed that I would need to contact the rental car company first because I wasn't the owner of the car.  After expressing a little frustration at this, I got to the point of asking the representative to confirm that the FDOT would not cash my check if I sent it in for the tolls.  She continued to direct me to the rental car company, which informed me that when a toll violation happened, the license plate of the car would trigger a service (previously unmentioned and it should be noted that the car didn't have a toll transponder in it) that would charge us for the tolls with a $4.95 service fee. 

So here we have a major breakdown of expectations, and isn't that when things really go astray.  Instead of winning me over as a customer for life, a raving fan of their service, I now have question marks surrounding me in terms of how much extra the rental experience will cost me as I work on resolving it. 

Word to the wise:  If you're heading to Orlando and going to be driving, bring a roll of quarters with just in case, and be sure to specifically ask about tolls in regards to the rental car you are leasing. 

How about you?  Had any experiences like this?  Send me an e-mail and let me know, because I love learning how to deliver better service/communication by doing the opposite of businesses that deliver poor service/communication.