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Monday, February 18, 2008

And Also? “Zipster” Is Not a Word

posted by on February 18 at 15:09 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


I used the Zip car today for the first time. The key is done differently in the car. It is NOT in the glove compartment. It is hanging on the dash.

But all else seemed to work okay; just not a great deal of availablity yet.

Posted by Andrew | February 18, 2008 3:13 PM

as a seattle resident who goes to school in LA, the flexcar to zipcar shift was horrible. i was supposed to have a flexcar for when a friend visited from new zealand, but instead was out of luck since the flexcar system told me i was now supposed to use zipcar, and zipcar told me that service was "coming soon." i called zipcar (since my card hadn't arrived even though it was supposedly sent weeks prior) and they were not able to help me at all. They told me they could not give me access to a car or a card, and when I asked if they could do a remote unlock (which i know that both companies can perform), they told me i needed my zipcard first: a card they had just told me was sent weeks in advance. i ended up having to borrow a car from a friend who was none too pleased about the overall situation.

Posted by Cook | February 18, 2008 3:13 PM

Oh, there IS another problem with Zipcar: Their customer service SUCKS!! I tried to call last week and was on hold for 20 minutes!! And that was after going through a selection menu from hell after it would not recognize my membership information.

If they drop the car in Wedgewood that I use I will drop the service and take the taxi.

Posted by Andrew | February 18, 2008 3:16 PM

I completely agree that the Zipcar customer service sucks. I was prompt about activating my new card because I needed to reserve a car the next day... only to find out after I activated that I wouldn't be able to reserve a car until they'd had a few days to run a check on my driving record. Would it have killed them to warn us that you should not activate the Zipcard unless you're ready to be carless for a few days?

This is going to end badly.

Posted by giantladysquirrels | February 18, 2008 3:22 PM

Sloggers who are Zipsters (What the FUCK is a Zipster BTW?)

I attached a link to Erica's post on Zipcar to their customer service e-mail address along with my own concerns. Will it do any good? Doubtful, we are dealing with a much larger company than Flexcar but it makes me feel better. But we need to nip this in the bud now and let them know they are NOT starting off a positive relationship with the urban liberals in Seattle.

Thanks Erica for posting on this today!

Posted by Andrew | February 18, 2008 3:27 PM

One word: Enterprise

Posted by brilliant | February 18, 2008 3:35 PM

U Car Share is not an option because...?

Looks like Hertz and Enterprise want same car share action too.

Posted by elenchos | February 18, 2008 3:36 PM

bummer about the CS and nonavailability, though somehow i kind of knew i couldn't use the service this week (maybe read it in flexnotes?). @ 1: the tutorial on the website explains the key thing. also new: the gas card is apparently in the driver side sun visor (and the code is printed on the gas card), and there's an info manual or something called the copilot in the glove box. got a $50 credit for registering my zip card today. sucks about the low cost plans going away, but as pointed out, zip car's the only option so why would they have to work hard to retain us optionless members? on the bright (?) side, you can now have pets in a carrier in the car, and you can register housemates on your account as members. transition is hard, but what choice do we have?

Posted by kate | February 18, 2008 3:37 PM

At least you got your Zipcard. I'm still waiting. I, too, was caught by this transition after hoping to use a car this long weekend. I wonder if it's because I signed up for Flexcar years ago under their UW rate program.

Posted by josh | February 18, 2008 3:37 PM

It would be wrong to gloat that I own three vehicles (four if you count the wreck up on blocks in the front yard), and can drive any damn one of them any damn time I please (except the aforementioned wreck).

But I'm just enough of an ass to gloat anyway. Ha-ha!

Posted by Dr_Awesome | February 18, 2008 3:43 PM

I just get this gut feeling that the car I use on 35th Ave NE is going to go away. (I think only a couple of people ever use that one and if they are concerned about volume to keep a car around....well do the math)

I may just have to break down and buy a car this spring with my tax refund.

Posted by Andrew | February 18, 2008 3:44 PM

huge misstep. As I understand it, Seattle is one place where flexcar was doing very well. The members here love(d) flexcar. So to be shafted by the shift is ridiculous. On the plus side, if enough people complain then perhaps they'll give all members a few hours of free credits.

Posted by stinkbug | February 18, 2008 3:57 PM

It seems pretty clear that the reason the rollout took so long is that Zipcar was too cheap to develop a more smooth system. I imagine they looked at the cost of implementing a smooth rollover, then looked at the cost of lost service for a week, and decided that the latter was cheaper.

And yes, I would assume they put a $0 price tag on customer satisfaction.

Posted by Chip | February 18, 2008 4:05 PM

I called yesterday to find out why I couldn't book a car and the friendly Zipcar representative told me that he wasn't allowed to tell me there were no cars available in the city, but he could "agree with" me if I said it again.

He also said that I shouldn't mind because we got $50 in driving credit "for the inconvenience" -- which was not on any of the oh-so-informative marketing materials, nor does it help those of us who signed up for the monthly plan.

Posted by Colleen | February 18, 2008 4:13 PM

i guess, on the plus side as well, miles per day went up to 180 (from 150). probably not a big deal for most seattlelites, but it definitely helps down here in LA.

Posted by Cook | February 18, 2008 4:19 PM

i love[d] flexcar. their cars, customer service [!!!)], everything. i enrolled as part of seattle's "one less car" program - which gave me 6 months of free (up to $100/month) flexcar and waived all membership fees. I rec'd an unpleasant email a week or two ago from the one less car program telling me i only had until feb 16 to use my free bennies, and that's it. program null and void. and no more free annual membership.
Doing this change over during a *three day weekend* is absolutely infuriating. i typically only use flexcar 4 or 5 hours per month. but this weekend i had made plans and now twice this weekend I've had to cancel b/c I can't get a damn car.
and today, when I went to enroll with zipcar, I found out I now have to pay $50 annually to be a member. Not due until Sept, at which time I guess I'll decide if it's worth it, or if I'll just pretend I'm an old lady and call a cab when I got to Fred Meyer.

Posted by stacy | February 18, 2008 4:27 PM

hopefully they will provide a flex waaabulance for all of you.

hey think how much greenhouse gas was reduced by NOT having all you zipsters on the road.

and if they made and make decisions based on profit or lower losses, I think you all should quit in protest, that'll show em

Posted by brilliant | February 18, 2008 4:33 PM

Now if only the city would ally with the county to form a shared ride service of some sort, using a predictable schedule and route. That would be cool...

Posted by wbrproductions | February 18, 2008 4:44 PM

7. They'll probably get it too if this mistake was not an isolated incident.

Posted by Gomez | February 18, 2008 5:24 PM

I just found out that Zipcar does not give you a credit for refueling. It'll be interesting to see how many cars are left with less than a 1/4 tank.

Also, they charge $50 an hour for late cars. I don't know if that's pro-rated per minute or what. Anyone?

Posted by DOUG. | February 18, 2008 5:58 PM

ECB: I'm glad to see you're intimately familiar with the technical setup of Flexcar & Zipcar's systems. Clearly you should be hired as a software developer and teach them how easy it is to migrate data & integrate systems a third at a time.

Now get back to ranting about something else you know nothing about--how much Barack is going to whoop Hillary.

Posted by Anon | February 18, 2008 6:02 PM

People last try - they haven't made any money - the business model hasn't worked even with significant government subsidy - read the poor dear's post above that didn't get her free $600 of car rental - if you all think it soooo important to have a car share company volunteer to pay more, volunteer to work at their office, volunteer to work street fairs etc. etc.

Stop complaining that a private company won't lose more money to make your experience nicer. God forbid that they take away locations that don't have demand because afterall Andrew is threatening to buy a car, please Andrew not that, what can we do, what can we do?

Posted by brilliant | February 18, 2008 6:09 PM

The idiot at 22 is a troll, please ignore him while we continue our conversation.

Posted by Please Excuse Us | February 18, 2008 6:18 PM

Mr. Brilliant:
Every business gets subsidies. Teh sharing concept is cool and so yes, everyone should go down there and pitch inif that will help. I am already pitching in although I don't use it or volunteer, but I said we should stop taxing them. That's helping them out, too. And they should listen to what everyone says. A company should try to do what's right, not always what $$$$ profitable.

Posted by obtuse | February 18, 2008 6:22 PM

For all you liberal wimps out there, I HOPE Zipcar goes under. You people do not deserve the right to drive! If you can not afford your own car, or preferably SUV, you SHOULD be regulated to the bus.

Posted by brilliant | February 18, 2008 6:24 PM

@10, Dr. Awesome, add up what you're paying in loan payments, insurance, tabs, gas, and maintenance on those heaps of metal and then try gloating.

Posted by Eric F | February 18, 2008 6:25 PM

Hey good news, there's another car sharing company called enterprise rent a car and they have a location right on Boylston Ave... too.
Chevy Aveo or similar $ 28.49 USD / day $ 33.79 USD Total and that's for 24 hours plus 50% off on the weekend.
and you don't have to be a member or have a big patch that says "I am a hip environmentalist!"

Posted by trolleyman | February 18, 2008 6:32 PM

#25 you're a very cute sockpuppet. Zipcar will or will not go under no matter what I think. If users could explain how bitching about Zipcar will help them stay afloat, that would be helpful. They merged because they were not succeeding just like home grocer and web van perhaps we should subsidize them as well as

car sharing systems that actually have a group of people share a car would be a better solution.

Posted by brilliant | February 18, 2008 6:57 PM

all the disappointed flexcar folks should look at their contract and promotional materials and see if there are promises being broken or deceptive statements.
It's $250 to file a class action ...

Posted by Champer T. | February 18, 2008 7:14 PM

@27 (trolleyman), thanks for the heads up about Enterprise. After viewing their site, I'm assuming that:
1) You will pay all gas costs for zipcar users that use Enterprise vehicles.
2) You will pick up and return the Enterprise vehicles for us during business hours (as they generally don't allow after-hours pickup and returns).
3) You will pay for the additional insurance fees.

Posted by stinkbug | February 18, 2008 8:05 PM

Also now if you choose the pay when you use program, Zipcar charges you 50.00 per year membership. Boo to that. Zipcar has a lot of different charges that flexcar did not. I liked the 7.00 and hour car by Broadway Grill, it looks like that one will be 9.50 now. No gas credit? I miss flexcar already.

I will test Zipcar, but this makes me want to buy my own car now.

Posted by Nick | February 18, 2008 8:24 PM


I did add up the costs, and I'm still gloating. I can afford the gas and insurance and tabs, all are paid for, and all are ready to go whenever I want to use one... no waiting, no making an appointment, no blackouts or changes in service plans.

Having a vehicle ready to go when I want to go is worth it to me for what I am paying.

Posted by Dr_Awesome | February 18, 2008 8:38 PM

@14 A $50 credit for the inconvenience? Why did I get only $25?

Posted by Patrick | February 18, 2008 9:37 PM

@24 said, "A company should try to do what's right, not always what $$$$ profitable."

Well, maybe a company shouldn't ONLY do what is profitable, but a company must do something that's profitable, or a company isn't a company, it's a charity. Zipcar/Flexcar is not a charity. The fact that their business helps reduce pollution is nice, but it's not their primary goal. Their primary goal is to remain in business, and to generate profit.

Posted by Sense of Entitlement | February 18, 2008 9:51 PM

"They merged because they were not succeeding just like home grocer and web van perhaps we should subsidize them as well as"

Ignorant troll, Kozmo was actually viable in some markets, the CEO ran it into the ground because he wasn't interested in making it work, just taking his inflated salary.

Posted by K X One | February 18, 2008 10:09 PM

I hear Metro gets you there. Oh, and if you call them, a HUMAN answers!

Posted by unCommonSense | February 18, 2008 10:25 PM

@33, I only got $25.00 as well. Me thinks some people on here are talking out of their asses. Not like that would be anything new on Slog....

WE NEED TO HAVE PEOPLE REGISTER FOR COMMENTING ON SLOG!! AND they have to appear live (or via teleconferencing for Mike in MO) at the monthly Slog gathering. I want to meet some of the nice smart people on slog in person as well as the pricks...

Posted by Andrew | February 19, 2008 4:25 AM

Yes K X One,

I stand corrected was a brilliant idea and since its demise free delivery services have popped up all over. It should be the right of every US citizen to get free delivery of anything within an hour and have a car available on every block for under $10 an hour and available 90% of the time. Corporations should be forced to provide these services.

BTW in 1999 Kozmo had revenues of under $4 million and losses of over $25 million. We won't know flex/zip numbers until they go public or go broke.

Posted by Ignorant troll | February 19, 2008 8:32 AM

@36, Metro will get you there.....spoken like someone who has never taken the damn bus in their lives. It MAY get you there and who the hell knows when it will get you there.

Posted by HA HA | February 19, 2008 9:01 AM

@38 (Ignorant troll), while revenue may be unknown, the company has revealed that Seattle definitely does have interest in car sharing. "No cuts are planned in Seattle, which the company says is gaining more members than any of its other markets." ()

It makes no sense to piss off the members of one of your growing markets. The focus of ECB's piece was how this transition was handled in Seattle, not necessarily about the viability of the company in all the markets they're in.

Posted by stinkbug | February 19, 2008 9:32 AM

@33, @37, I got a $50 credit and so did my husband. It was given when I activated my Zipcard and had nothing to do with the "inconvenience," which happened four days later. No idea why, maybe because we had the Auto Assurance plan?

Posted by Colleen | February 19, 2008 11:05 AM

Has anyone had problems with billing? I tried to reserve a car last week. When I called they said I owed them a bunch of money, pretty much my entire bill since I started using Flexcar in May. I have the bank records to prove that the money was debited from my account by Flexcar.

Is anyone experienced the same problems since the Zipcar switch?

P.S. The customer service sucks. They were nice but didn't know a fucking thing.

Posted by Chris | February 19, 2008 11:09 AM
Posted by stinkbug | February 19, 2008 11:27 AM

# 25, for someone using the name brilliant, you aren't. First of all, what makes you think using a shared car service has to do with a person's politics, compared to a cost/benefit analysis? Second, I think you mean "relegated" not "regulated". Slight difference.

Posted by TheOtherOne | February 19, 2008 11:54 AM

What a pain this has been.

When I called customer service to get my Zipcard, which was supposedly mailed a few weeks back, I was put on hold for over 15 minutes. When i finally gave the guy my address- he asked me if Seattle was in "Washington Washington... or Washington D.C." I guess the answer was Washington Washington?

I called this weekend to find out about cars not being available and the person apologized (half-assedly) and then gave me the number for Avis.

Posted by CITIZENDANGERX | February 19, 2008 12:37 PM

I just got my on line survey from Zipcar about my first ride. This will be fun to fill out....

Oh, the link I sent to their customer service department via e-mail containing ECB's post? They have never responded to it.

Guess customer service was not part of the merger deal.

Posted by Andrew | February 19, 2008 12:43 PM

They bill you BEFORE your reservation starts!!! I just found a charge on my credit card for a reservation I DO NOT START UNTIL TONIGHT!!?? What if I cancel it?

Posted by And one other thing | February 19, 2008 12:55 PM

Is it true that Zipcar has a one-hour minimum to use a car?

Posted by DOUG. | February 19, 2008 1:06 PM

Wow, I was thinking of getting rid of my car for flexcar, but considering I only pay about $120 for my car for everything per month, I don't know if it would be worth it to give up the autonomy of my own car for only nominal financial savings, considering I don't drive much anyway.

Good service is 100% essential if I were to pay this company. Whoever is saying private companies shouldn't care what their customers think is an idiot. If this company was already borderline, alienating customers is the last thing and smart private firm would want to do.

Posted by exelizabeth | February 19, 2008 2:56 PM

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