City And Also? “Zipster” Is Not a Word
posted by February 18 at 15:09 PMon
Flexcar members who tried to reserve cars on Flexcar’s web site over the weekend were greeted with a disheartening sight: Every single Flexcar in the Seattle area appeared to be reserved all weekend (and on every date in the future), meaning that Flexcar members (including those who had reserved vehicles in advance) had no access to Flexcar service for over the three-day weekend. The lockdown was due to the systemwide transition to Zipcar, a larger car-sharing company that merged with Flexcar last year. However, Flexcar members who tried to use the new Zipcards that arrived in the mail last week were also out of luck; instead of a reservation, former Flexcar members got a message saying that “no Zipcars are available within 17 miles of your location.”
According to Flexcar’s web site, the new Zipcar system will not be fully activated until later this week. However, what’s not clear from the web site is that thousands of former Flexcar members will have no service or only limited service until then. (Right now, unless you’re downtown, in the U District, or on Capitol Hill, you’re shit out of luck.) Instead, the “member notice” on the web site claims that “there will be limited availability February 16-19.” “Limited availability,” in Zipcar’s world, apparently means no availability at all. People who contacted Flexcar and Zipcar over the weekend were put in touch with emergency operators who were frequently unable to tell them what was going on.
Resolving this problem would have been easy. Instead of taking ALL Flexcars offline for three days and not making ANY Zipcars available, the merged company could have done a phased rollout—transitioning a third of the cars in each neighborhood at a time. That would have at least given members limited access over the weekend, when car-sharing members use the service the most. Cutting members off for three days without so much as an email alert is an awfully loutish step by a company that should be doing all it can to retain dubious Flexcar members. Raising rates and getting rid of special rate categories (for co-op members, low-income job seekers, and UW students, faculty and staff, among others) is another. I’m staying a Zipcar member—it’s the only option for carsharing in Seattle—but what I’ve seen of their customer service so far gives me real cause for concern.