If it’s been a while since you rented a vehicle, you might think you know the drill. Produce some identification, choose your automobile, fill out a few forms, and drive off to your destination.
But the industry is changing. Are those changes for better or for worse? You be the judge.
One traveler’s account
Luke Winkie, who is chronicling the good, bad, and ugly of modern travel for a series published by Slate, recently dedicated an article to his experiences at the desk of an Enterprise location following an afternoon arrival in Austin, Texas.
He recalled being far back in a line of exhausted travelers and waiting more than an hour before he finally got the keys to his reserved vehicle.
Things have gotten considerably worse on every front since the pandemic due to a variety of factors, including:
- A shortage of cars means longer waits and limited selection.
- It also translates to much higher prices and worse cars.
- Labor shortages result in less assistance available for customers.
- Many people never show up to claim their reserved vehicles.
The embrace of automation
American Car Rental Association spokesperson Gregory Scott explained that long lines are often “unavoidable,” particularly when a bunch of flights land at the same time. So what’s the answer?
Even as other forms of travel have become largely automated in recent years, that’s not really the case when it comes to renting a vehicle. Considering the headaches for employees and customers alike, however, there’s some evidence that the future will be high-tech.
Several companies already offer automated services, but you might have to be a loyalty member to take advantage of them.
But the question remains: Will self-serve kiosks actually clear up the chaos or, like the self-checkout at Walmart, merely create entirely new problems?