PAN of the WEEK: Cruise America RV Rental & Sales
8950 North Federal Blvd., Federal Heights, CO 80260
Seldom have I experienced a business that is so daft when it comes to understanding its customers. Based upon a single three-day rental of a 30-foot motorhome this past week, I believe I could teach a graduate-level business school course on how to misunderstand your business niche, relying strictly on Cruise America as a case study.
The Mesa, Arizona company, a 38-year-old family owned business, is the largest recreational vehicle rental company in America. The problem is, Cruise America seems to have lost sight of the “recreational” aspect of its mission in favor of a mechanical, perfunctory execution of the unfriendliest sort of vehicle rental service.
I honestly believe that the worst U-Haul rental location I’ve ever visited is more customer friendly than the Cruise America rental center in Federal Heights, Colorado, where my family and I picked up our motorhome rental.
No one at the Federal Heights location, which has all the vacation charm of a tire-repair shop, smiles. No one welcomes customers. No one thanks customers. No one inquires about your destination, your satisfaction or your needs. Indeed, no one seems the least bit aware that Cruise America is in the vacation and entertainment industry.
I think the Cruise America ethos is actually comparable to what you might expect from a disgruntled parking lot attendant – although that may be unfair to parking lot attendants.
Truth be told, if I hadn’t gone out to our car and phoned company headquarters in Mesa to complain, I never would have gotten off the lot with my reserved RV at all.
Why? Because Cruise America’s so-called “Hub Manager” at the Federal Heights location insisted that I watch a 23-minute video on how to operate an RV before he’d release the vehicle to me, even though I assured him that I had already watched the entire video as recommended on the company’s web site.
To say that the “Hub Manager” was unpleasant and combative is an understatement. He told me that I scare him because I wouldn’t comply with his rule that each customer must watch the Cruise America video on site. He said he has had other customers who claim they watched the video online only to go ahead and damage the RV after renting it and ignoring the warnings of the video. In fact, he bragged that he has made some loyal Cruise America customers watch the 23-minute video as many as eight different times.
Imagine how long Hertz would stay in business if prior to renting a car it required each driver to watch a 20-plus minute safety video – and then refused to believe customers when they attested to the fact that they had indeed already screened the video online? (Ironically, the founder of Cruise America was a former president of Hertz.)
Since I was unwilling to invest another 23 minutes screening a video I had already viewed – and it turns out that despite what the Hub Manager maintained, there is zero requirement that Cruise America customers ever watch the video – the Hub Manager told me to take an inglorious hike and to forget my $300 deposit, since he wouldn’t refund it to me because of my insolence.
But for the fact that I’m a stubborn customer, our family weekend outing and my $300 would indeed have been flushed down the refuse tank.
When I asked the Hub Manager to provide me the name of his supervisor so I might appeal, he refused. Undeterred, I went outside and on my mobile phone tracked down Sean Dickinson, a pleasant and apologetic executive at Cruise America headquarters. Dickinson heard my tale of woe and after his calls to the Federal Heights location, my family and I were out of the driveway and off on our holiday.
Dickinson told me, without yet knowing I was a journalist, that my experience would be used in refining the training Cruise America provides to its customer service personnel.
To wit, Cruise America needs more employees like Dickinson. But the problem, I’m afraid, runs deeper than a dismal Hub Manager.
Indeed, I would strongly advise Dickinson and his bosses, brothers Randall Smalley and Robert Smalley Jr. – the sons of company founder Robert Smalley Sr. – to take an actual aquatic cruise or visit a nice resort hotel and compare the customer service they receive at those vacation spots to the experience of Cruise America travelers.
While it might be convenient for Dickinson and the Smalleys to blame the Hub Manager in Federal Heights, they allow him to continue to treat their customers worse than fingernail dirt. Someone so poor in customer service isn’t in place by accident. The Smalleys enable him and his surely crew of rental agents to haunt unsuspecting vacationers.
To be the largest RV rental company in the country, Cruise America must do many things right. Our vehicle itself was splendid and the cost for our rental was really quite affordable, even in these difficult financial times.
Nonetheless, it is hard to imagine how truly successful Cruise America would be if it designed its rental centers to feel like vacation launch pads and if it trained all of its service agents to send each and every customer off with a smile and a warm bon voyage.
Our first Cruise America experience was an experiment. If it had gone well, we planned to rent another motorhome at the end of this week for a second mini-holiday. As it is, we now plan to use our own mini-van and stay at a hotel instead. None of us can face the prospect of returning to the Federal Heights rental center.
Our lost business alone will cost Cruise America thousands of dollars in the years to come. That’s enough money to invest in better training for its Federal Heights staff.
The bottom line is this: We loved the motorhome but will never again entrust our family vacation to some grumpy parking lot attendants.
[This story originally appeared on Examiner.com]
I believe there are some concepts in the world that are absolute and charity is one of them. There is a huge, huge difference between what is legal, what is constitutional and what is right.
Eli and Edythe Broad have not yet met a building they don’t want to see their names on. Do they have the right? Of course. Is it right? Obviously, I think not.
I believe great art museums enrich us all, Jew, non-Jew, atheist, communist, you name it. I am a member of LACMA and my family and I regularly visit area art museums.
But if my enjoyment of art is at the expense of securing the long-term viability of the Jewish people, then I can live without it. I simply can’t equate the two as being morally equivalent.
The Broads have done plenty for the art world. Enough! Time for them to step up and bolster the many worthy Jewish causes.
Some may question whether or not God notes the difference in charitable giving. All I can say is that the God described in the Torah most certainly does—if that matters to the Broads or any other ‘genetic’ Jews.
What, you may ask is a ‘genetic’ Jew? A human whose DNA says s/he is Jewish, but whose behaviors would argue otherwise.
After 8 years of prosperity under President Clinton, we have, in the following 8 years, become bogged down in two wars; we are in a recession brought about by the policies of our lying, incompetent, Republican Administration and supported by a Republican-Controlled Congress; our Constitution has been weakened by the loss of Habeus Corpus, unchecked government spying and torture. For these reason alone the Republicans should not be returned to power. However, John McCain supported all of these Bush Policies, and ran one of the worst campaigns ever, showing that he is largely now inept.
I just read Dean Rotbart's brilliant tongue-in-cheek apology for the Jewish vote for Barack Obama. The tip-off, of course, was his naming of Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and Mike Gallagher as deserving of an apology.
These talking heads -- with Rush Limbaugh -- have committed one of the worst of Jewish sins, i.e., malicious gossip. Rotbart even repeats some of them in his positive take on guilt by association and fear-mongering.
Unfortunately, as Rotbart points out, there are about 22 percent of Jewish voters who will look upon his opinion piece as being serious, which supports President Lincoln's observation that you can fool some of the people all of the time.
I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and gave demagogic credence to the poisonous venom that spews like raw sewage from the convoluted minds and mouths of conservative television and radio hosts.
I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and embraced hatred, bigotry and fear, while eschewing the traditional Judaic values of love, acceptance and hope.
I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and want the continuation of the war in Iraq, a war that has left Israel with more enemies and fewer choices and options to chose from.
I apologize for the 22 percent of Jewish voters who voted Republican and abandoned the majority of non-Jews who elected a president that carefully addresses the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio and seeks to end the Wild West shootout that has become the Republican substitute for thoughtful diplomacy.
And finally, I apologize for Rotbart and his ideological cousins at the RJC, who believe that in Orwellian doublespeak, a fact is an epithet and a falsehood is the truth.
I think the definition of spam involves me sending out mass emails to persons I don't know. Obviously, we now know each other. I think the law would say if you don't want email from me, block it or don't open it.<< MORE >>
When I studied law, I seem to recall that if you send me mail and ask me to abide by any "restrictions," I'm under no obligation to do so unless I previously agreed to some such restriction, which I most certainly never did.
I'm a journalist and a blogger. You knew that when you emailed me. If you didn't want me to publish what you write to me, you probably shouldn't have sent it.
Could it be that you are full of yourself when you write one-on-one, but sheepish to stand in public exposed for the shallow intellect that you really are? Just curious.
I am a Los Angeles-based writer and have a question about your remarks in the Op-Ed titled "Tough Questions about Obama..."
I am planning to comment on your thoughts and hope you can clarify your thinking so I don't inadvertantly misrepresent your remarks.
What most caught my attention was this sentence: "Obama was unable to exceed Bill Clinton or Al Gore, and only slightly improved on John Kerry's support in the Jewish community."
To my eyes, such a result is a huge disgrace. Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry didn't have Obama's long record of associations with anti-Jewish preachers and other hateful leaders. That the Jewish community actually voted Democratic in numbers similar to past Presidential elections sets off five-bell alarms with me.
What am I missing? If the Jewish community didn't abandon the Democratic party in 2008 with Obama at the head of its ticket, what would it take for them to vote Republican?
<< MORE >>
Fox News' Chief Political Correspondent, Carl Cameron, who covered the McCain campaign, breathlessly reported on the O'Reilly Factor about McCain insiders who were now letting out the 'truth' about how dumb, how uncooperative, how greedy and how bitchy Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin really is.
To single out a specific example is probably unfair because there are so many worthy examples. But I simply can't let pass unnoticed the incendiary, flagrant television dispatch I witnessed the day after the election.
Early on, they [McCain operatives] began to discover that there were these gaps in her knowledge. I just want to rattle off a couple of the things that insiders say she just simply didn't know. There were real problems with basic civics, government structures; municipal state and federal government responsibilities. She didn't know the nations involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement, we're told. She didn't understand, McCain aides told me today, that Africa was a continent and not a country, and actually asked them -- they argue, they say -- if South Africa wasn't just part of the country as opposed to a country in the continent.And this Leona Helmsley-like characterization from Cameron*:
There are stories that say she would look at her press clippings in the morning and throw what has been described to me as "tantrums." .... They have suggested that she's a bit of a shopoholic and that on more than one occasion she would go out and buy clothes that to many seemed unnecessary because the campaign had already provided her with a very large wardrobe, uh, a wardrobe that famously rang up a bill of $150,000, mostly because they bought extra sizes to make sure everything fit.For the sake of argument, let's say that Cameron's reporting is 100% accurate. One does not have to be a fan of the Alaska governor to realize Cameron's unprofessionalism in conveying those "facts' in a vacuum.
Is it acceptable for financial journalists to take their children to special screenings of soon-to-be-released films, when those children don't have a byline and could never get in if mom or pop weren't a journalist?
| Medill's Richard Hainey|
| A Chance Encounter: Will and Talya |
| The paparazzi were so focused here...|| ...they missed Minnie and her pooch|
"He is still quite handsome, with his patrician cast of features and exceedingly erect carriage; his salient chest suggests military training, and his blond hair is still worn high, though time has thinned it considerably.
He was clad in light tweeds, with white boutonnikre and kerchief in evidence, the note being repeated by white spats, which he always wears. He had a bulldog in leash, smart with its curious clown-like ruff of heavy leather trimmed with monkey fur, and the frantic greetings between it and Mme. Carolus-Duran's dog, one of the same litter, stopped all conversation temporarily and threatened the physical equilibrium of guests and furniture alike."
"Given the performance of these investments so far, how much worse does it have to get before pension trustees and university endowments and the top-tier private-equity firms they back ask whether it makes sense to keep doing this?" Richardson asks. "How long before rich overseas funds stop giving cash to Wall Street firms that lose their money?"
| H.C. Chatfield-Taylor in 1897|
There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don't have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues. No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.
In my nearly 36 years of public service I've known of a few like you. No doubt you will "clean up" as the liberal anti-Bush press will promote your belated concerns with wild enthusiasm. When the money starts rolling in you should donate it to a worthy cause, something like, "Biting The Hand That Fed Me." Another thought is to weasel your way back into the White House if a Democrat is elected. That would provide a good set up for a second book deal in a few years.
I have no intention of reading your "exposé" because if all these awful things were happening, and perhaps some may have been, you should have spoken up publicly like a man, or quit your cushy, high profile job. That would have taken integrity and courage but then you would have had credibility and your complaints could have been aired objectively. You're a hot ticket now but don't you, deep down, feel like a total ingrate?
|Portfolio.com Blogger Felix Salmon at Milken|
|Top Left: Maria Bartiromo prepares for a live CNBC|
broadcast from the 2008 Milken Institute Global
Top Right: Steve Forbes ready to go live as a
guest on Fox Business Channel.
Bottom Right: New York Times DealBook editor,
Andrew Ross Sorkin, drafts a column in the Global
Conference press room.
|Nobel Peace Prize Winner (r) pauses to have his photo taken|
with an unidentified registrant at the 2008 Milken Institute