Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Car Rental Policies and Socialism

"Don't worry, you can go at least 50 kilometers on the tank of gas," said Emir, the car rental agent via his friend who had worked at a hotel in Ankara and was acting as Emir's translator.

I didn't pay much attention to the "50 km" because I figured there was some mistake in the translation. Knowing I would have to buy gas anyway, I just made a mental note to buy gas sooner rather than later. I continued my walk-around to point out all the dents and scratches: a glued-together, cracked front bumper, a oddly located dent above the rear passenger door, scrapes, nicks, and cracks on the rear bumper.

"Looks fine," I said.

"You can return it on empty," said the car rental agent as I stepped into the driver's seat.

"Well, that's nice," I thought to myself. But I knew I would never be able to drive a car on empty. I'm the type of person who can barely let a car get below half-full before I start rerouting my errands to include a gas station. I'm the wife who can't pick up her husband who has run out of gas without launching into a huge, preachy lecture. I'm the mom who reminds all her daughters for their safety, they should never let the tank go below half full.

I smiled, waved through the window, put the car in gear, and eased myself into traffic with an audience of four Turkish men watching my every move. I was so happy I didn't kill the engine. After a few more minutes of adjusting to the traffic and making myself comfortable- turning off the Turkish music, squirting and wiping the windows, adjusting the rear view mirror - I glanced down at the gas gauge. Empty...Below the red line... Gas can illuminated... No wonder he offered the "you can return it on empty!"... S@#$!

I was in an unfamiliar part of town. I wondered if I should drive the 20 km to the gas station I knew. Should I hope to find a closer one? Should I pull a u-turn and return the car before I had to walk down the freeway? Would I make it to the airport in time? Seriously, I couldn't believe there was anything close to 50 km of gas left in that tank.

I did eventually find a gas station. And, thank goodness, I didn't have to walk. But I don't like this Turkish car rental culture of leaving the car with some or very little gas. I didn't like it when several agencies said to return car half-full. I didn't like it when I was told I could leave it really empty. These are not accurate measures. They do not measure my usage of the car. They do not measure the previous or the next renters usage of the car. I want to pay for what I use and I want everyone else to pay for what they use. Starting a rental contract with a tank of gas that is anywhere less than full is socialism. And today's rental car owner got a nice gift of a 1/4 tank of gas. At $10/gallon that's no too shabby for absolutely no work.

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