Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Should Planet Hyundai Pay For Its Mistakes?

[UPDATE: Avis waived the extra day! So now all I need to decide is whether it's worth it to me to spend another 45 minutes driving around to get a $16 refund for the bad keys. Planet Hyundai failed in every way. I've got three big stories to write today, so I may just eat it.]

OK. I've got a situation. I'm going to lay out the facts. I'd like some honest feedback including, if appropriate, disagreement.

My car was in the shop when the courthouse shooting occurred yesterday, so I ran to a nearby local Avis office and grabbed some wheels to cover it for The New York Times. Then I somehow lost the keys to the rental car and had to have it towed back to Avis. The Avis fellow told me he'd find out by today what has to happen. He called late this afternoon to said the Avis corporate peeps claim they must have the Hyundai Elantra towed to their airport location for rekeying and that the whole thing was going to cost more than $400. Even my local Avis dude thought this was stupid and extortionist and it dawned on us that I could get another set of keys made myself at a Hyundai dealer using the VIN number and my rental contract.

Sadly, the Hyundai place that was 5 minutes away closed up suddenly this week. So I drove clear out to the other side of town, a good 25 minutes, to get a pair of keys made. Then I headed back to my Avis place, arriving by 5:10 p.m. My Avis dude had told me that if I got it back before 6 p.m. when they closed, he wouldn't have to charge me another day.

Ah, but the keys made by Planet Hyundai did not work. I called to ask them why. The technician was surprised and said he thought maybe his key-making machine was broken. He suggested that, rather than returning to him and chancing another error, I ought to go to the other Hyundai location, way down in Henderson, because they had a different machine.

Thus off I went on a 25-minute drive south. At Henderson Hyundai, they detected the problem. The guy at Planet Hyundai had used the wrong key blank.

Now it was after 6 p.m. I am responsible for another day of rental, another $50.

I called Planet Hyundai to ask for my refund. I was told I'd need to bring the keys back before I could have one. This was silly and time-consuming, seeing how I'm now a solid 35 minutes from them and I live a good 25 minutes from them. The manager told me there isn't any way for him to know if the keys were incorrect without having them back, which is to say that he is incapable of calling his counterpart at Henderson Hyundai to confirm this. That would save me even more inconvenience than they've already caused me, but that would be, how do we put it, good customer service. Which is not Planet Hyundai's gig, evidently.

So now I must drive across town again for a refund when all he has to do is void my credit card charge. It's done thousands of times every single day. He thought this was ridiculous.

OK. He's happy to cause me this trouble on top of the rest of it. Whatever. But then what about my rental car? Does Planet Hyundai also owe me to cover the extra rental car day? The manager thought this was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.

Because of Planet Hyundai's error, I will have had to drive an extra 50 miles, spend an extra three hours and pay for an extra day on a rental car. Those are facts.

So, should Planet Hyundai pay for the rental car?


Dan in Vegas said...

In a world where customer service mattered, of course they would cover your rental car and throw in a free oil change. But that world's gone, Steve. Sorry. It's an outrage and I'm going to make sure the Planet Hyundai people read this.

Friend In Deed said...

Of course they do. they owe you more than that, but good luck getting anything. it's the car business. if they can screw you the fuck over, they'll do it.

Anonymous said...

On the one hand you should be glad you didn't have to pay $400. But yes, they owe you the rental car money. Will you get it? HAHAHAHAHAHA. That's a riot.

Jeff in Henderson said...

Let it go, Steve. They'll probably take it out of the poor guy's check. The company sure isn't going to pay for it.

mike_ch said...

Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. But if Avis wanted your business again they should waive the extra day's fees and thus the whole situated would have mooted. Especially since they did you the inconvenience of towing you off to the airport.

While they aren't responsible for ALL of the incompetence on display here, why let them off the hook completely?

Anonymous said...

You saved 400+ by having the keys done yourself (that number probably included not only the keys but some allotment for the time that the car coudln't be rented). Ideally, the dealership that did the bad keys should simply refund based on the word of a dealership. As for Avis, you saved 350+ instead of 400+, it's probably time to call it a day.


mariatortilla said...

I don’t think that they will even though they should. That is just good customer service. There is no way that the Avis dude can help you out with the last day since he seemed cool and knew you were trying to get it taken care of? The times I have had to deal with Planet Hyundai with friends, they have been pain in the asses which is why I don’t own one. Good luck!

Jeff in OKC said...

Did you use the Henderson keys on the rental and they worked? If not, then the Planet people could assume that this is a case of one opinion versus another. This does happen very often in the car business; "that other guy screwed up, but I'm taking care of you".
Funny that you can have a key made, anyway. Most dealerships nowadays won't make you a key without the title showing you are the registered owner. The movie "Gone in 60 Seconds" exposed how easy it had been to get keys made for a car that wasn't your own. A month after that movie came out it became almost impossible for me to get a key made for one of my customers Mercedes.
Have you resolved the issue of having the vehicle rekeyed, as per the Avis directive? I am not being a smart aleck, but I assume Avis wants the locks recoded. So that if someone finds the keys you lost, and matches the tag and unit numbers on the keyring with the car, they would not be able to steal the car a week from Saturday. If that did happen, and Avis came back to you, would your insurance cover the loss?
Jeff in OKC

Ryan said...

They don't owe you for the extra rental day. It isn't their fault that you went so late in the day or that another business has rules and closing times.

Mreinsantacruz said...

Steve, Steve, Steve … Sorry, you had such a bad day and I hope that the NYT piece covers the cost of all your headaches. While I understand that this is a pain and that Planet Hyundai was in the wrong for making you a key which didn’t work, they don’t really owe you the cost of another rental day. They do owe you whatever they charged you to make a key that didn’t work – however since it sounds like they aren’t interested in customer service, I recommend that you contact your credit card company and dispute the charge. This will give you a neutral third party who will be happy to deal with everything via mail /ups, all while the charge in question is suspended until things are worked out. I’ve had to do this with American Express and they could not have been more helpful.

Good Luck,
Mr E in Santa Cruz

jeff said...

I thought this article was going to be about a new name for Planet Hollywood after the harrah's acquisition.

Anonymous said...

Steve...do the small claims court thing. Run the charges up (your time effort and gas). It may take awhile but it will be worth it in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I think Planet Hyundai will be paying for this for a long time. Did you see your Google results? This is already sixth or seventh when you search planet hyundai. Thousands of people who search for them will read this. The car business is a tough one, and I sure wouldnt buy from a place that was this petty or incompetent.

J.T. said...

The extra day's rental is a tough call. Reversing the credit card charge, however, is not. You're absolutely right: they should have just called Henderson Hyundai and done the right thing. You might want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

Not that it's any consolation, but I'm glad you posted this story. I'll probably be getting a Hyundai before long -- their quality has improved a lot in the last few years -- but I certainly won't be going to Planet Hyundai to buy it.

Michael said...

I have to agree with Mr. E. Although it stinks and they owe you for the bad key, I don't think they are on the hook for the rental. But I'd feel the same way you do in the moment. At the end of the day though, even with all of the issues, I'd ultimately have to face the fact that I lost the key and that a good deal of grief came from doing that.

Snuffy said...


gregoryzephyr said...

Legally, there's nothing to dispute. Avis charged you according to their agreement. Hyundai offered you a refund for the first set of keys (even though they forced you to come back in person to get the refund).

From a courtesy perspective it would have been nice for them to pay for the extra day. But, they are no more legally obligated to do that any more so than if, say, the line at a parking valet was so long you couldn't get your car and return it on time.