Thursday, May 03, 2012

How to irritate customers with imprecise English


English! Do you speak it!??
(CC2.0: Romana Klee)

Self-appointed grammar police, will you back me up on this?

Does the AVIS car rental agency know how to speak English? Are they intentionally trying to mislead their customers?

Granted that the company is headquartered in New Jersey, a portion of the United States named for a region of the world that does not generally speak English. [Ed.: Yes, that was a joke. No, it wasn't very funny.]

A few days ago, I made a rental reservation for this coming Saturday. Today (which is Thursday), I cancelled that reservation.

Read the following excerpt from the reservation agreement and tell me what you think I should have been charged for cancelling today.

Personally, I think I shouldn't have been charged anything whatsoever.

I read this as:

  • If you cancel more than 24 hours before the scheduled pickup time, there is no fee.
  • If you cancel less than 24 hours before the scheduled pickup time, you will be charged $10.
  • If you do not cancel and merely fail to show up for the car, we will keep all of your money (except a "fee" of $50 which we will force you to accept).

Now, it may just be that I learned English from professors who went to elementary school with William Shakespeare, but I'm pretty sure that before means before and fee means something you have to pay us. But AVIS seems to think this program means:

  • If you cancel more than 24 hours before the scheduled pickup time, we will charge you $10.
  • If you cancel less than 24 hours before the scheduled time or simply don't bother to cancel at all, we will charge you a boatload of money, either the full original amount less $50, or the full original amount plus $50, or some other plan that we're not even sure of ourselves because this literature was so poorly written by three drunk monkeys and a typewriter, or possibly three drunk typewriters and a monkey.

A person (not me) who apparently just read this AVIS literature
(CC2.0: Kalavinka)

Do you read this the same way I do? Or do you side with AVIS on this one?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

1 comment:

s-p said...

I had to read it a couple of times, but the convoluted language seems to indicate (after the 24 hour deal):

Full prepaid amount
less 50.00 fee WILL BE CHARGED =
Your refund is 50.00.

Of course a quick reading (my first reading) was I'd be charged 50.00. But no, I'll be charged the full amount less 50.00.

I wonder how many lawyers and English majors they had work on that one. Sigh.