Zipcar, that post-dot-com-era savior of car-rental-haters everywhere, recently got a big boost to its already somewhat high-tech take on part-time car acquisition with the launch of its iPhone app. A mix of simple map-based search and reservation functionality and a neat headline-getting software remote to lock, unlock, and honk the horn on your car--it's a nice mix. I was sure to download the app as soon as I could, since I'm a frequent Zipcar user in New York City. Or, at least, I used to be. See, there's an area of Zipcar that could still use some improving.
The actual capability to find one's reserved car, for instance. For two consecutive weeks, Zipcar promised me a vehicle that simply wasn't there.
Week one: I had reserved a car less than 10 blocks from me. The day before my reservation, a customer service representative called me on my iPhone to tell me that my vehicle needed "emergency steam-cleaning," and rerouted my reservation to one of the only available emergency cars left on short notice, which was located miles away. I'd need to take a cab there and back or use an elaborate path of subways and buses, and the representative told me to save my taxi receipts and fax them to Zipcar so that I could be reimbursed.
Week two was worse.… Read more