Sixt car hire take the “Customer expectation versus experience reality test and score….9/10

The car hire industry has come under some sustained attack over the least 6 months with countless stories of motorists being ripped off by unscrupulous companies  – some of the bigger names are involved.  The charges about refuelling costs, hiked insurance premiums, charges to “clean cars” that have been returned amongst others.  With this in mind it was with some trepidation that I set about hiring a car for a section of our recent family trip to Florida.  As you might expect my going in expectations were actually quite low..So how did it go!

The office was small but busy and just off the airport, directions to find it were fine and the sat nav directions actually took us to the offices not some random destination as so often happens when the location is around an airport ring road.  The wait was about 3 minutes and the booking was all in order, the only problem was that I offered a debit card to secure the vehicle only to be told “we don’t accept then only credit cards”…what?  Apparently it is much easier to recoup charges off a card that is credit based I guess that debit cards are limited to what you might have in your account – I can see the logic but this was not made clear at any point during the on-line booking process…not that I recall anyway.  This caused panic as potentially we could not hire a car as I don’t carry credit cards…the guy behind the counter said “hold on let me get a Manager and see if we can sort this out”,,,that took a couple of minutes and the Manager agreed to waive the condition and accept the debit card…I guess we looked trustworthy!!  The guy then advised us about the toll charges and sold the inclusive package, the return on empty, but did not try and sell us anything else, that was a pleasant surprise.

The car was ready 5 minutes later and not only was the considerable pile of luggage loaded in for us but he gave me a really helpful teach in on the things I really needed to know (the filler cap, lights, screen wipers, sat nav, etc they had clearly thought about what information a driver needs..and what they don’t need to know) and then we are on our way.

After a few days of trouble free motoring we retuned the car to Miami Airport to be met by a very friendly and efficient young lady who checked the car over and said “your good to go thanks for using Sixt”, in due course the deposit was refunded and our Sixt experience ended.

Bearing in mind the horror stories abounding about this industry the Sixt team far exceeded my expectations with the exception of the credit card issue …that could have been a disaster.  But they did recover it and had a process in place to deal with the eventuality…so that cost the one mark deduction in my test.  I trust that this experience is replicated every time if not but they are on the right road…WELL DONE!!


Hard Rock Hotel Orlando takes the “Expectation versus customer experience reality” test and scores 4/10!

This has to be one of the iconic brand Hotels and having stayed recently in the Hard Rock, Tenerife ( see my earlier post on this hotel) I certainly had an expectation of what to expect, yes the hotel charges a not insignificant premium ($2000+ for three nights) but it is on the theme park at Universal and has that cache of Hard Rock.  Those were my going in expectations.

Perhaps what I had not factored in was the age of the Hotel (but then again why should I not expect a consistent experience) and how very tired it would therefore feel relative to the newly refurbished Tenerife Hotel.  Same baseline experience of music and music memorabilia but without the glitz and sparkle we had seen previously.

The biggest problem and let down was the room, now to explain we are a family of five including three teenagers and as such we are used to being dysfunctional as hotels like to deal with round numbers  – if you’re two you are ok or four but not FIVE!  So we do take extra time when selecting and booking to ensure everyone is clear about what we need.

That said I had called to book the hotel direct and explained that we needed space for five of us, effectively adults in terms of size and was assured that the upgraded family Suite on the Club floor would be plenty big enough and provide enough beds – well having seen the size of the rooms in our first Hard Rock experience that sounded reasonable.

So at Check-In I asked about beds to be told that there are two doubles, that is not very helpful and why did I even have to ask that question unless they assumed five of us would be squeezing into two beds!!!?

The best they could then do was add a camp bed squeezed in to the room.  The booking was for five people why had this not been seen and the requisite number of beds been in place??  When we actually got to the room the space was totally unfit for five people and that, given the price, was a major major disappointment.

The other hotel facilities, the pool,the river transfer to the Theme Parks, were ok to good and the pool bar staff were helpful and provided a good service.  Of course the upside of these aspects was overshadowed by the room problems  – that tells you something!

At check out time of course you get hit with all those extra charges in so many US hotels, the “Resort Charge”, the “Room Tax” and so on that can and do add $100’s to your bill often unexpected.  It would make sense to make all of that information much clearer upfront to avoid potential embarrassment!

So the core issues are firstly inconsistency the bane of any operation that has multiple locations and second the in effect lying to make a booking saying that room can accommodate 5 people when plainly it cannot in any comfort.  The expectations are then not met and you are only as good as the last experience – the result for me is uncertainty about visiting any more of the hotels in the group, as I felt (an emotion that means this may not be rational but so what) short changed by the experience and of course when that happens my ‘value equation’ shifts from value for money to pure pricing comparisons.