Philly CarShare / Fraudulent charges
I joined Philly Carshare late last summer as a way to offset travel and vehicle expenses for errands I run for my home business. I encountered problems right from the start. You must enter a creditcard # to join, which the site says will not be charged when you enter it. When I contacted them after a few days to get the status of my membership application, they told me it had not been processed because my card would not go through. I didn't authorize the card to release any funds because they said they weren't charging it. This is very misleading because the customer thinks their application will be processed first and merely must include your card# to be considered, not that they are charging it alongside the application. If they intend to charge the card at the same time as processing the application, why does it say your card is not being charged? So I waited a couple days and decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and let them charge the $25 application fee. So far, so good...
Now, the site says in case of emergency preventing you from returning the vehicle to simply call in. So what should happen? My very first time using a vehicle, which did not run properly I might add, I got stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam with an accident blocking up traffic flow completely. So I called in to let them know, thinking that was all I had to do, only to be asked if they could charge that to my card. I was shocked. The site makes it sound as if it's no problem- in fact, it specifically says 'it's no problem, it happens!' They lead you to believe that if you need more time with the car, you can extend your reservation, but if you have an emergency that prevents you from reaching the pod to return it for a few extra minutes, you can just let them know & all will be fine. But in reality this is not at all the case. So fine, they gave me 15 extra minutes to return the vehicle, which costs a few extra bucks, saying someone else needed it after that. The 15 minutes allowed me to get back to the space to park it, but there was no one else in sight waiting for it, and I found out weeks later that they then charged my card an additional $40 late fee for this! That's on top of the cost I already paid for the time I used the vehicle. I sent an e-mail to their billing dept explaining this and requesting a refund, to which they never responded.
At this point I figured, lesson learned, so it's not quite as they said it would be, and I would catch up w/them later on the 40 bucks- holidays were coming, and I was busy w/orders. Months go by, and I had forgotten about the first $40 charge, using vehicles w/no problems, no late fees. The vehicles have occasional damage, debris, etc, but nothing really bad, except for the pick-up truck near 43rd & Baltimore Ave, which never runs properly and caused me a wasted trip (which they don't refund for). You can tell it is never repaired properly because it does not run smoothly like the other identical Tacomas in the fleet parked at other locations. I have reported it twice now, and finally gave up trying to use it, after wasting $ reserving it twice before where it would not run well enough to complete my errands. They did respond to that e-mail, but only to defend the truck and tell to call the emergency line. On the second trip it had become so bad that getting in it to return it, the engine would not start for several minutes. It's a good thing I finally did get it started, because now I know that emergency or no, they would have billed me 40 bucks for it. This might be a good place to add that there are times when it takes several minutes waiting on hold to reach anyone on the phone, and the automated reservation line has never worked at all.
The final reason I'm submitting this complaint is my latest invoice. This is the straw that broke the camel's back- I recently received my statement with an erroneous charge in the sum of $80 for 2x late returns. I have never returned a vehicle late, and I have always called in and extended my reservation as needed. I believe the late charges are a mix-up because of the vehicle and the lot location. Carshare refuses to acknowledge this. The van I prefer to use was always parked at a very open and accessible lot at 3rd & Fairmount. At some point, they moved the van all the way down to 11th & Cherry, so there is no van anywhere near my location. I didn't mind having to take the El down to 11th & Cherry to get the van, but the problem is the lot where two of the Dodge Caravans are now kept- it is constantly being blocked by other vehicles, at both start and return times. It is very common to wait 10-15 minutes to get the vehicle out or put it back in the lot.
So here I am thinking I've returned the vehicles on time every time, because I'm in the lot prior to my deadline, waiting for the attendant to clear the way. But now carshare says I have to pay 40 bucks extra per trip because the car was not locked on time! How on earth am I supposed to lock the vehicle on time when I have no idea if I will be able to pull in to the parking space? How can you charge people 40 bucks for pulling the car into the space and keeping it clean? Now I understand why the other users are always haphazardly parking the cars and leaving all sorts of trash and debris in them, which I stupidly have been taking the time to clean up when I return the car, figuring I'm helping the organization and being courteous to other users, and hey, I'm back on time & there's no one else here that needs to use it. I might as well help out. Little did I know I would be harassed for 80 bucks because of this. Keep in mind that this did not happen at the other location, where I used the car over the course of several months previously.
Carshare says this is to keep members on time so that it doesn't effect the next person waiting for the car. Well, obviously if someone were there waiting for the vehicle I wouldn't have had to wait for them to clear the lot so I could put it back in the space! That other person would just take it w/o parking it in the space. There was no other user affected by this. They also claim their system does not make mistakes and knows to the minute when & where the car was, but that is also not true because one night I accidentally dropped my digital camera under the seat when returning the car and I ran back to retrieve it a full hour after the end of my trip. I really didn't think anything of this in terms of carshare billing because I had returned the vehicle on time & no one else had a reservation after me. The car unlocked, and I breathed a heavy sign of relief to find the camera, which is integral to my business and pretty expensive to replace. Careshare's sensers did not pick up the car unlocking and did not trigger any late charge billing as a result of this, so their assertion that their equipment is infallible and would just know is just plain bogus. To add insult to injury, carshare offers reimbursement for having to take public transit to the 'pod' where the car is kept, and the 11th St. location is specifically not included for that credit.
A few days ago, after getting the invoice, I called carshare to discuss it, and they were not very helpful. This is where I 'rediscovered' the previously forgotten $40 charge. The reps could not agree on whether there was a grace period of a few minutes on the return deadline- one rep said no, the other said yes, and when they offered to connect me to a third rep, somehow higher up the chain, they disconnected me. They simply will not budge on the fees. They offered to remove one of the two charges 'as a courtesy' but it doesn't appear that that's been done. If that's the case, why didn't they already refund my 40 bucks from September when I asked about it? I refused to pay either fee. I don't know what I'm paying for. I returned the cars on time and was no longer using them during the time period they are charging me for. And carshare has other cars in parking garages with attendants who park them, so the idea of having to wait there while your space is cleared to put it away cannot be a foreign concept. Do members using those cars also get charged 40 bucks for the time it takes the attendant to put the car back in the space? If they didn't mistreat the customers, or excuse me, 'members', this way the cars would probably be returned cleaner as well. And frankly, the convenience of it is pretty much demolished at this point, as is the attraction of lesser cost than owning a vehicle. It's very sad because I really did believe in the 'green' concept of it when I signed up, too. I junked my 18-year-old gas-guzzling custom van for this. Very disappointing...