Thursday, August 11, 2016

Remembering Enterprise

“Thank you for calling Enterprise Rent-A-Car, home of the weekend special!”

“Sure your insurance transfers, but it's only liability – you just need the damage waiver!”

“If you receive a call about your rental, would you be able to say you were completely satisfied?” 


These statements and many others will forever echo in my head, guaranteed to bring about traumatic flashbacks to my days of indentured servitude to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. An experience that for years after leaving, still haunted my dreams. The company is constantly moving their employees around between branches, promoting some of the most ignorant douchebags in the country based on nothing more than sales numbers; numbers that are only achievable by lying, cheating and ticket-dodging your way to the top. Of course, there was also massive employee turnover, due to low pay, long hours, mismanagement and the constant stress that comes from spending your day lying to the face of everyone who walks through the door.

Every day started by arriving at the branch by 7:00 AM to find out how many morning reservations had been sent overnight for cars that did not exist. Inevitably, we would have a number of insurance reservations for “economy” cars (the smallest and cheapest car available in the Enterprise system), even though the company actually owned almost none of them. Customers would almost always refuse to pay even a single penny over what insurance was paying, so most of the time we were stuck putting them in a big expensive SUV at the economy car rate, even though we had an actual reservation for that exact vehicle a couple hours later, only to have them complain about the gas mileage.

Insurance adjusters were notorious assholes; not just to Enterprise employees, but also to their own policy holders. If you're shopping for a new insurance company and you truly want to know how you will be treated as a customer when you have a wreck and actually need your insurance company, call your nearest Enterprise location and ask them. The adjusters would lie about what was covered and then blame ERAC if the renter complained. So a big part of your morning is consumed playing damage control with insurance customers and calling arrogant insurance adjusters to convince them to do their jobs. Because even though that single mom with four kids wrecked her minivan, it was ERAC's fault the adjuster only approved them for a $16.55 per day economy car.

A large percentage of managers' pay and eligibility for promotion was based on customer service scores, called ESQI; short for the “Enterprise Service Quality Index.” Essentially, a small percentage of renters, after returning their car, would receive a phone call from the corporate office, asking if they were “completely satisfied” with their rental experience. It was a one question, pass or fail survey, so any answer other than “completely satisfied” was considered failure. 

I was lucky enough to work in one of the branches that had the highest ESQI scores in the region, so for the most part, we didn't hear too many negative comments from upper management. But this also meant that managers at my branch were more “promotable”, so even though they were completely inept, it took less time for them to move on to larger branches, only to be replaced by another less-intelligent inexperienced manager who I had to re-train.

A high ESQI score however, did not just happen by chance, because for the most part, other than the very small percentage of people renting to go on vacation, the vast majority of people who are renting a car, are having the worst day of their life, and no matter the circumstances, they are going to take out that frustration on you, the car rental guy. While it was nice working in a branch with a high score, I saw managers do some absolutely insane things for customers, just because they asked what it would take for them to fix whatever made up problem said customer fabricated in order to justify saying they were not “completely satisfied.”

The easy customers could usually be bribed with a free upgrade or free day on their next rental (completely made-up discounts that were almost never redeemed). Then there were the overly-angry customers who knew our “must be completely satisfied” policy, who would just abuse it to see what they could get away with. I saw managers completely write off entire multi-day rentals. I saw them buy dinner for customers. I saw them wash customers' personal vehicles. I saw them buy giftcards from random stores and restaurants, because the line was usually drawn at actually handling cash to these angry manipulative idiots. I think the most extreme one I ever saw, was an angry lady who claimed her rental smelled like cigarette smoke, so the manager took roughly 10 articles of clothing to have them dry cleaned, and then picked them up, paid for them and delivered the clothes to her home.

Of course, the company primarily consists of young college graduates, who were just desperate to find any type of employment, after receiving their diploma and realizing there aren't a whole lot of decent jobs waiting for new graduates to step into without actual professional experience. They all get thrown together into a fast-paced, highly competitive “see who floats to the top” sales environment, then shamed into attending a constant barrage of both official and unofficial “happy hours” after a 12+ hour work day. 

If you dared to choose not to attend one of these events, you were then constantly berated by your manager and seen as not being a team player; therefore, possibly not cut out for that promotion you were working toward. Then for the people who actually cared about their “Enterprise careers” and chose to attend the happy hours, the somewhat-higher paid District and Area Managers were paraded in front of them in their fancy suits, talking about what you have to do to work your way up and eventually earn that prestigious six figure salary (“six figures in six years!”). Thus, the dark side of Enterprise is created.

Alcoholism, drug use and sexual infidelity were rampant throughout the company, but no one cared unless you got caught fucking your employee, failed a drug test or received a DWI. Then no matter how good your sales might be, you were cast aside and replaced with one of the hundreds of young ass-kissing kids in the management trainee pool who were waiting to move up. 

There was a constant barrage of stories of married employees cheating on their spouses, hooking up with each other and then getting divorced. After all, if you work at ERAC, your family life is secondary to your “career”, so you aren't really going to get to see your spouse or children anymore. It only makes sense that you would cheat on your “IN-significant other” (an actual tongue-in-cheek Enterprise term) with one of the people you are spending the majority of your life around.

Then of course, there are the yearly management conferences. Once a year, everyone with the company who was manager-level or higher, flew to Orlando for a few days. In theory, this was a time for seminars, training and awards banquets. But almost every year it seemed like there was a new story of someone getting fired afterward for getting drunk, climbing onto a table and telling everyone what they really thought about them. This was also a popular event to begin intimate relationships between coworkers, and it seemed there was always some Area Manager who got caught hooking up with one of their minions...I mean employees.

I started with Enterprise while I was in college, working “part-time” as a customer service rep. But since it was rare for any manager to stay in one place for more than six months, I ended up being in the position of training every new manager, knowing it would only be a matter of months before they left and I had to do it all over again. There was however, the benefit of working 50-60 hours per week, and washing cars in a shirt and tie, no matter how extreme the temperature might be outside. All this and more, for the generous salary of exactly $22,000 per year before overtime!


August 11th, 2008 was a very special day in my life. After a leisurely 26 month stint with the company, I finally got a real job. No more dealing with every inbred redneck piece of trailer trash within a 30 mile radius who has been in a wreck, coming in and not understanding why I need them to not only have a physical address, but also possess a valid drivers license and credit card in order for me to hand them the keys to a $30,000 car and let them drive it off the lot.

For those of you I have previously told about my experiences with the company, I'm sure none of this was too shocking to you. But for those who are unfamiliar with the day-to-day life as an employee at Enterprise, perhaps this at least gave you a brief glimpse into the reality of what they have to deal with. At the very least, I hope you will have more appreciation for what that shirt and tie-wearing minion behind the rental counter does on a daily basis. So please, for the love of God, next time you have to rent a car, even if you're upset about your car being in the shop, when you get to Enterprise, don't be an asshole. 

1 comment:

  1. It's probably no surprise to you, but Budget is about the same. I worked there almost 4 years. Luckily, I didn't have to deal with customers too much; I just washed the cars. But I saw it all going down. Evil corporations.