National Emerald Club

In our AutoSlash blog, we extol the virtues of many of the rental car company's frequent renter programs (especially Hertz, National, and Sixt). The vast majority of the time, the rental car companies offer the benefits exactly as promised. When the AutoSlash team rents at Hertz or National, we expect the only interactions we will have with staff will be at the security gate and upon return due to our Hertz Gold Plus and National Emerald Club accounts. We'll even pay a slight premium to companies such as Hertz and National for the ability to walk straight to the lot, make a choice of vehicles, and leave. Yet the rental car companies are staffed by humans operating under flawed rental car companies; promises aren't always kept. What happens when a rental car company doesn't fulfill a guarantee and who can a renter contact with problems?

The National Emerald Club Aisles that Weren't

Our blog post on National's Emerald Club noted how Emerald Club members can reserve a midsize and then take any vehicle on the Emerald Aisle. Executive and Executive Elite members can take any car on the Executive Aisle or the Emerald Aisle. Patrick Warburton reminds us of this basic tenet often in the "Control Enthusiast" advertising campaign. 

Take control and go is the reason we use National!

We even made a joke about The Wizard of Oz.

"Unlike the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, National's Emerald Club is truly meaningful!"

On my very next National rental, I didn't receive the promised benefits from my Emerald Club account (despite over 100 previous successful rentals)! The program marketing and rules set our expectations when we're walking to choose our vehicles, and my most recent National experience didn't meet those expectations.

Arriving on a Monday afternoon, the Emerald and Executive Aisles were almost empty. I didn't want the Nissan Frontier, Dodge Ram 1500, minivan, or the Hyundai Sonata nearby. And here were two Cadillac XTS vehicles in the Executive Aisle, and I can take any car off the aisle!

This was going to replace the BMW X3 as my favorite Emerald Aisle car.

I hopped in the gray XTS and was headed off. Until I was stopped by staff members of Enterprise and National. The reason? Although the three Enterprise Holdings companies (Alamo, Enterprise, and National) share a level of the parking garage and each company has their own parking lanes and spaces, National allowed sister company Enterprise to put the Cadillacs on National's Executive Aisle to be closer for Enterprise's customers. Spaces reserved for National's most frequent customers were being used to park cars that weren't available to National customers (at all)!

Tired after a day of airline delays, I hopped into the Nissan Frontier -- the rental was only a one-day, one-way rental -- and sent a note to National about the Executive Aisle where National Executives were excluded. When a rental car company doesn't meet their required commitments, it's important to contact the corporate office if the local staff can't (or won't) meet the terms of the frequent rental program. In this case, the story's ending had two components (one good, one bad).  

  • The bad news? I was stuck with the Nissan Frontier for a 300-mile drive, burning far too much fuel (less than 20 mpg highway) in a truck that had less space for the driver than my compact car at home. I think the reviewers at US News were being generous on the day they ranked this vehicle 5th out of 5 in compact trucks (and I drive a Nissan every day at home)
  • The good news? I shared the photo of the cars in the Executive Aisle that were off-limits to Executive members. National agreed that this wasn't consistent with their program's promised terms and placed an award day in my account within hours! The customer service provided by Enterprise and National is a big reason that these companies are consistently rated highly by consumers.

This story has multiple takeaways. One is that systems don't always work as expected. The staff at the airport (Enterprise and National) knew the policies of National's Executive Aisle but decided to use the space to benefit Enterprise's customer's instead. In real time, I took a (far) less desirable vehicle because I reasonably believed National's corporate staff would object to the actions of the airport staff -- the company spends millions of dollars annually telling prospective and current National customers about the benefits of the Emerald and Executive Aisles!

Another lesson is that the corporate parents of the rental car companies really do work hard to ensure that the promised benefits are provided to their frequent renters. If a rental car company has a promised benefit (such as a guaranteed upgrade for an elite member), the corporate headquarters wants to know if that promised benefit is not delivered. There's a maxim in business that only a small percentage of customers with legitimate complaints will actually complain; many customers will just stop being customers instead! When a rental company doesn't meet a guarantee, pointing out the lapse is how the situation gets resolved.

Rental Company Customer Support Lines 

Have a problem during normal U.S. business hours? There's a high probability that your rental car company even has social media staff on Facebook and/or Twitter to address customer concerns quickly!

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