Recently, I was in Houston running a bit late to the Hobby Airport. The Hertz return center is off-property, but they have a separate lane for those who can get an electronic copy of their receipt. Normally, you can simply pull up, grab your stuff, and walk away, but since I wasn’t at the airport yet, I had to have a Hertz shuttle bus deliver me to the terminal. Typically, there is a five-minute or less wait.
That was not the case this afternoon. Initially, I was the only person waiting, so it’s possible a shuttle had just left before I arrived. From where I was, though, I could see two parked Hertz shuttle vans with drivers inside, not coming to pick up passengers. After about 10 minutes, one shuttle van moved about 150 feet away, but still did not come to get us.
More people were now waiting for a ride to the airport, and I was not the only one running late. Eventually, several of us went to customer service to ask about the shuttle, only to be told it would be “right here.” Ten more minutes passed. Twenty total minutes is an eternity to wait for a car rental shuttle. When a supervisor came outside, I asked why the drivers in plain sight were not coming to pick us up, to which he replied, “Oh, that guy’s on break and the other one is off his shift”.
Finally, a third Hertz shuttle van came, dropped off passengers and parked where our group was waiting. As we boarded, one man let his impatience get the best of him and started complaining to the shuttle driver. This was clearly the wrong move. In no way was it this driver’s fault, but the passenger continued to really let him have it.
This resulted in the driver leaving the shuttle and going inside the service center. To do what? Complain to the supervisor? Use the restroom? Blow off steam? Who cares? We were already running late and now we had to wait longer. The key point: don’t complain to someone who has no control over your past situation, and who is in a direct position to make your current situation better.
As far as the shuttle availability, let’s think that through: one driver was off and one was at lunch, so why were they in their vans where customers could see them? There were plenty of places those shuttles could have been other than in the view of passengers waiting for a ride. Maybe the group didn’t know the whole story; in fact, I know we didn’t, because the shuttle driver later returned and told me he was off today but came in to cover for someone else. Kudos to him.
This whole episode was a three-part lesson. One, you should always leave extra time for unexpected issues at the airport. Two, you shouldn’t make a bad situation worse by upsetting people in a position to help you. And three, if you are a service provider, don’t allow situations to occur where your customers think you are offering bad service. It’s not that hard, just use the “eyes and ears of the customer” and put yourself in that situation. If it appears to look or sound bad or negative, fix it. It’s that simple.