As a frequent rental car user, I occasionally leave items behind in a vehicle. On a trip to Dallas with National Car Rental, I left a cell phone that I use as a backup. It was simple to locate the item from a Good Samaritan, but recovering the item was an expensive ordeal.
I left my phone in a rental car. It happens. It’s my fault and no one else’s, it was only a mistake but it was all mine. I realized my mistake almost a week later and tried to reach out to National’s office in Dallas but couldn’t get a local number despite my best efforts. I let it be and waited a few more days as I searched my bags to ensure I had not simply misplaced it. I had lost my phone, it was all my fault, but National’s response was less than ideal.
A Good Samaritan
A work colleague who texted (instead of email or calling) my old phone prompted a Good Samaritan (aka the next renter) to notice the phone in front of the cupholder. He texted my colleague from his phone stating he had my device, soon enough we were in touch and I was grateful he located the phone.
To be clear, National did not locate my phone. The gentleman offered to drop it off at FedEx Office location for me and ship it back. I declined that because I didn’t want to cause him further inconvenience. That was a mistake. He texted me once he dropped it off with National upon returning the car and gave me the name of the manager with whom he had left it. He texted me to tell me this and I waited another couple of days hoping the manager would give me a call. He didn’t.
Lost and found items are turned in by management to a lost and found service. Customers can come to the location and pick up their lost article if they are in the area. Customers can donate the item if they don’t need it back or do not want to pay the return freight, or they can have it shipped to them for a fee.
National has a website dedicated to the return of lost items which are cataloged upon collection and customers may receive notification that the item has been found.
I’ll say it one more time: I lost my phone, it was my fault.
The cost of returning my item seemed high if not egregious. The service (which I suspect is outsourced) allows for several shipping options, all of which include signature and insurance. There were a few choices but all of them seemed really rather expensive for the service. I have shipped a device this size and weight before and it has never been anywhere near as expensive. The USPS charges less than $7 for priority for the same sized item delivered priority.
Next day business delivery with National is ten dollars more and Priority with the same one-day delivery adds another eight dollars. Delivery in 5-7 business days will save you $10. What’s been made clear is that the cost of the service has little to do with the cost of shipping. Insurance and signature were not optional (and are more than Fed Ex charges).
The markup on this shipping is at least 300% and while I do not believe that they should ship it back for free or for cost as a courtesy, adding bloated insurance and signature fees is an insult to injury.
I left a Dopp kit in a hotel and held status with SPG albeit at a lower level than my status with National. They located the item, packaged it up and sent it to me for the cost of shipping. I understand that there is some cost to doing this for the hotel, there are labor and time for the packaging and shipping of the item. But that Dopp kit was substantially larger and heavier and cost me less than $15 to receive.
I don’t mind National charging something to return a lost item, I am sure there is an issue with the volume of items they discover. But this one they didn’t discover, the next patron did (I wonder how thoroughly the cars are cleaned). I would have been happy to pay a more reasonable price or at least be able to drop the insurance and signature fees. But instead of treating this as a service for their members with a reasonable markup, National has chosen (or partnered with a company) to gouge their customers, even some of their best customers for a simple mistake.
What do you think? Are these fees fair?