What does a car rental company have to do with a sports goods sales company that also provides free information? Apparently nothing. Read on.

I am presently dealing with a case of miscommunication between corporate office and the local Miami office in which I rented a vehicle. In lay terms, “something went wrong, someone failed to do their job”. It is simple: I hired a vehicle until a certain date and instead of returning the vehicle, Eric, my boyfriend, went to the Stuart, FL, office where it should be returned, and transferred the rental to his name. It seemed a simple procedure to the Stuart Enterprise personnel and to Eric: it’s like exchanging half a dozen for six eggs. Instead of returning a car and renting another car, the rental was extended, only under a different name. I have all this properly documented.

As from two days ago, the company started to harass me with threats that go as far as theft. When we received the first absurd absurd letter, signed my some manager called Dadmara Martinez, we immediately acted on it: we returned the car and reported the situation at the Stuart office, I filed whatever number of complaints you can imagine, starting with their own contact channel, through Better Business Bureau and on, and rented another one at Budget. But that was not enough: today I received an e-mail, by another manager called Dwight Brown, repeating the threats, in a milder manner, but adding that I would continue to be billed. Remember: the car has been returned already. Illegal billing, therefore.

I am evidently unhappy with their customer service policy. It is bellow inefficient: it is stupid. Had either Dadmara or Dwight taken the time to even read the documents I attached with my complaint, it would be obvious to them that they needed to contact the Stuart office. I have an official e-mail from this office confirming all I said. Instead, they decided to follow whatever customer service policy the company has and went on in their intimidation campaign.

Let me describe an analogous case with EliteFTS, a sports goods company that also provides service in education and information. Swede Cory Burns’ book had just been released and I was eager to read it – me and a couple of thousands of other lifters. I filled all the billing information form but, not to their fault, I couldn’t conclude my payment. The reason for this is a complicated set of financial decisions based on old-fashioned and counter-productive international trade policies made by the Brazilian government (and the Colombian and the Argentina government). This is a long story made short. The result is that whenever possible, they make international purchase difficult and/or over-taxed. In this case (and it depends on the interface each company uses or if they have international agreements, like Amazon or Paypal), Brazil made my purchase impossible. Attention, please, reader: it was the Brazilian government’s fault – not EliteFTS.

What did EliteFTS do? They could ignore it: after all, it was not their fault. Instead, I was personally contacted by Chuck Kimerline, Purchasing Director, who forwarded the case to customer service and other divisions in the company that would have to take notice of the case. His decision was first to make sure I had my copy of the 5th Set (the book) and then proceed to whatever was possible to do. I was also contacted by customer service.

In the comfort of my home, I read the 5th set, wrote and published a review of this excellent book. According to Google analytics, my review was accessed over 600 times. I have no idea how many people actually made a purchase based on that.

Let us compare the cases: in one, the company doesn’t even try to understand the customer’s issue and adopts the “smart” choice of intimidating him. In the other, the company opts to risk losing a purchase, but not a client. The happy client spreads the word about the product and the company.

In strictly economical terms, which company is acting in the most clever and rational way? Let us put aside, for the moment, ethics and respect. Let’s just focus on the economic health of a company. If the car rental niche were not something close to a collusion, Enterprise’s policy would be suicidal. An unhappy customer has a multiplicative effect. Even if I weren’t determined on making their customer disservice go as viral as possible, because I am angry, my answer to anyone asking for advice on car rental would be “not from Enterprise”. Guess what my reply on someone asking for advice on anything sold by EliteFTS would be? Yes, you are right: “log into their website, they probably got it and it’s good”. Did I test every one of their bars? No. Did I test their kettlebells? No. Did I test their sandbag? I don’t even know how to handle it. Bottom line is: make a customer happy and you probably have an informal representative. He will write good reports about you, he will even recommend items he doesn’t totally know about, but you gained something of extreme value in corporate economy: TRUST.

So, Enterprise: maybe you have something to learn from a small (relatively speaking, as compared to the car rental business) sports goods company. They will grow stronger and you may go bankrupt. I hope you do, actually.