Six reasons not to rent from Thrifty Car Rental in Denver Colorado

A photo of the Thrifty Car Rental parking lot at Denver International Airport on Saturday, June 18th.
Note the lack of rental cars at the rental car agency.

Recently, I was coordinating a trip to Denver Colorado for 14 people. I planned ahead, and reserved rental cars through Travelocity, about a year ahead of our trip. Unfortunately, I went with Thrifty Car Rental, and here’s six reasons I came to regret that.

I’m having to post about experience here because despite me making multiple calls, in-reaches via social media, and filling out their customer survey, I have yet to hear back from Thrifty Car Rental about my experience.

So, if you’re renting a car in Denver, Colorado, and you think you may want to choose Thrifty Car Rental (perhaps it’s the cheapest option on Travelocity), here’s 6 reasons to consider going with a different company instead.

As one of my relatives explained: Yes, Thrifty Car Rental may be cheaper, but if costs you 1-3 hours of your vacation time waiting around for your car to be ready, then it’s not worth it.

1) False promises from 1-800 number and social media: I had reached out to Thrifty on the 1-800 number and via social media before the rental to ask if there was anything I could do to ensure the cars were ready.  I was coordinating 14 people flying into Denver and we counted on the cars being ready, based on the promises from both your Twitter team and the 1-800 number.   Both of them assured me they had noted it in my file, but that clearly wasn’t the case.

2) Cars were more than 90 minutes late: We had reserved two minivans for 12pm. Luckily, I was in the long line at Thrifty by 11:30. Unfortunately, neither car was ready by the time we checked out, and nobody wanted to take responsibility- I heard it was the vendor’s fault for not having the cars cleaned, etc. etc. Then I was told that having a reservation for a set time really didn’t mean anything, and I was lucky to even be getting cars at all. That’s an awfully low bar to set. 😦

3) There is NO local Denver number provided for the Thrifty Car Rental DIA location.  Why not make communication easy for your customers?

4) Oil change adds to delays: After waiting over 90 minutes for the cars, one of them got “flagged” at the exit booth (meaning we could not leave) because apparently it needed an oil change.  Thankfully a manager magically appeared (in the 90 minutes prior to that, I was unable to find any sort of manager who would take responsibility for the situation) and was able to fix this, but it added yet another 20 minute delay to the trip.

5) Desk agent tried to sneak insurance onto our bill: After an extensive conversation with the desk agent we DECLINED any extra insurance. We were very clear about this with him because I remember talking about the fact that both my sister and I have Geico.  So you can imagine my surprise when I looked at the emailed receipt and found that he had tried to add it on.  I don’t know if he is paid on commission for that, but that’s wildly unethical behavior.   Thankfully, I think the manager I spoke with after returning the cars was able to fix the problem.  

6) We also had an “extra driver” fee tacked on for one of the minivans that I had reserved.  I’m not clear how Thrifty thought I’d be able to drive two cars at the same time, so you can imagine that extra charge was also a big surprise to me.

After filling out the customer experience survey from Thrifty Car Rental, I received a one sentence email from a Hertz representative (Hertz owns Thrifty), not addressing any of these issues. I emailed him back, but never heard back.

As a general note to ALL companies. If you’re going to ask for your customer’s time to fill out a survey, it’s good business practice to actually respond to those surveys. And that doesn’t mean sending a 1 sentence response about “sorry, we’ll take this feedback into consideration.”

Have you also had a terrible rental car experience? If I were in Congress, I’d hold hearings on this yesterday. There are horror stories throughout the US of experiences like mine and it’s high time somebody held these companies to account.

Xfinity Customer Service Fails

Are you also an Xfinity customer? I thought I’d share my most recent experience with them.

Our family of four is all at home during the mornings during the pandemic, which can mean four people on zoom calls at any given time.

Last week, our Xfinity internet service was really spotty, prompting me to call Xfinity to find out if there had been service outages, or if there was a problem with our modem/router.

Here’s how that experience went:


Step 1: Try to find Xfinity phone number. It’s not obvious or apparent where it is on the Xfinity website, so I had to google it to find it.

Step 2: Get through to Xfinity’s 1-800 number (here it is, in case you need it: 1-800XFINITY). Xfinity’s system then insists on having me reset my modem, which I tried. Here’s something interesting- Xfinity won’t let you get through to a human being (in their phone system) until after the modem reset has happened and 10 minutes has passed.

Step 3: Finally get through to an Xfinity person. He said he needed to do another sort of reset, but promised he’d call me back afterwards (given challenge I had getting ahold of a human being). He did not call back.

Step 4: Call Xfinity. Next Xfinity rep tells me I should plug an ethernet cable into the modem to try and troubleshoot the problem. Only problem here is that many computers don’t have ethernet ports (luckily my work computer did), and I’d have to guess that in this increasing wireless world, I’m also not the only person to struggle to find an ethernet cord. This representative suggested buying a new router/modem, which I did at Best Buy this afternoon.

Step 5: Set up new Arris modem/router. Xfinity keeps trying to force me to download its app in order to get it going. I finally get it to work by telling the Xfinity website that I’m trying to set up a phone line, and it lets me get past the set-up website.

Step 6: Speak with another Xfinity rep, who tells me I should have bought a DOCSIS 3.1 modem/router (I wish the second rep. had told me that)…After running several speed tests, he suggests that we should still have appointment with an Xfinity representative, so I agree and we schedule an appointment for that weekend.

Saturday (the next day)

I get a phone call from an Xfinity representative, who is now trying to convince me to cancel the appointment. I’m in the middle of something else, so I ask him to call him back. Several hours later, he does, and while he doesn’t want to admit it, his job is clearly to get me to cancel the appointment, so I agree.

I had received an earlier text message, from Xfinity, asking for my feedback, and I’m not making this up, here’s my experience:

First picture is beginning of my text exchange with Xfinity. I have no idea if I was speaking to a real person or a bot.

After receiving the “We’d love to know more!” text, I took the effort to type out 7 ways that I thought Xfinity could have done better with this situation. I received no response for about 5-6 hours.

I’m not making this up. About 5-6 hours later, I get this response from Xfinity, telling me this survey had expired.

So, Xfinity, with the many urgings that I had about “please let us know how we did,” I’m doing that right now. I tried to give you feedback (took time, in fact to do it), and that totally failed.

A few suggestions:

  1. Make it easier to find your phone number on the website.
  2. Think about how many of your customers have ethernet cables and ports – is there another way to test modems/routers?
  3. Don’t ask your customers for feedback and then not have the technology (in this case text messages) to accept it.
  4. Don’t force your customers to do things they don’t want to do (like download your app, or force people to reset their modem, or not allow people to speak with a human being while they wait on the modem reset).

Buying a Cafe Induction Stove? Don’t Count on Free Pots and Pans Rebate

Our new stove: To use it, we had to buy our own set of pots and pans instead of the ones that were supposed to be part of a “rebate” from Cafe Appliances. Counter-intuitive, right?

Are you thinking about buying a Cafe Appliance stove?

Here’s the TLDR version: If getting a free set of pots and pans is part of your motivation to buy a Cafe induction stove, you should know that you won’t actually get the pots and pans until 4-6 weeks after you take delivery of your new stove. In other words, if you don’t have pots and pans that will work with a Cafe induction stove, then the rebate offer is essentially worthless and you will have to buy a “placeholder” set of pots and pans until you get the other set from Cafe.

If the “incentive” of a free set of pots and pans (valued at $1,203, according to Cafe) is part of your rationale to buy a Cafe stove, I want to share our experience as a warning.

This is a warning not just for potential customers- but also for marketers working in corporate America whose companies also offer incentives. This is definitely not the way to do marketing or rebates if you want your customers to have a good impression of your company.

Here’s what happened.

Back in November, my wife and I were looking at stoves at Airport Appliances in Emeryville, California. We were debating between several stove options (our current stove is from 1982, is a General Electric, and came with the house).

We ultimately purchased a Cafe Induction stove (Café™ 30″ Smart Slide-In, Front-Control, Induction and Convection Range with Warming Drawer) from Airport Appliances in Emeryville. One of the appealing things about this oven was the “Free 10-Piece Cookware Set” (Valued at $1,023*, for a limited time with the purchase of a Café smart induction range) that came with the stove.

Part of the reason this Cafe appliance rebate offer was so attractive is because we don’t currently have an induction stove. So, getting free pots and pans would be really helpful with this new stove so that we wouldn’t have to buy a whole new set of pots and pans.

As our Airport Appliance salesman explained, Cafe stoves have been on back order because of COVID-19 and told us it would be several months before we got it.

Meanwhile, I submitted the rebate form to Cafe Appliances. A little while later we received an email back from Cafe Appliances, telling us they wouldn’t process the rebate because we didn’t have the serial number yet. We didn’t have the serial number because the stove hadn’t been shipped. A catch 22, don’t you think? Especially annoying because we shared an invoice as part of the process of submitting the rebate form.

So what’s the problem? Well, if you’re buying a new Cafe stove, and you don’t already have pots and pans that work with an induction oven (we did not), then it is not helpful to get the free pots and pans weeks and weeks after you get the stove.

It’s unclear who, how, or why Cafe appliances thought this was a smart way to provide this extra incentive- in our case, it’s mostly started us off on a bad foot with this new company.

In our case, we had to buy a whole new set of pots and pans that would work with a Cafe induction stove because the “free” set of pots and pans weren’t going to be shipped by Cafe until our stove arrived at our house and we submitted the serial number to Cafe to send the pots and pans.

Here’s my advice for the Cafe Appliance social media, marketing, rebates, and product teams:

  1. Think through timing of this rebate program- does it make sense to not send the pots and pans until 4-6 weeks after people have taken delivery of their new Cafe appliance? What do you expect people will do for the 4-6 weeks while they wait for the pots and pans? Not use their stove?
  2. Think through your social media response. I’m the type of consumer who lets you know when your products or services aren’t working. And, since I’ve done that a lot, I’ve seen how different companies respond (or don’t) when their customers reach out to them on social media. In this case, I reached out on Cafe Appliances Facebook page (not that helpful), and I’ve also reached out on Twitter and thus far have been underwhelmed with the response. To give an example, this email address listed on the GE Appliance Rebate website doesn’t work: It bounced back when I emailed it to ask about this problem.

Have you also had issues with GE Cafe Appliances? Share them with me as a comment and I’ll include them here.

13 Resources For Your San Francisco Nonprofit Job Search

Having just finished a mostly nonprofit job search in the San Francisco Bay Area, I want to pay it forward and share a list of the many email lists and resources that were suggested to me by friends and colleagues or that I stumbled across in my search.

These are mostly focused on the nonprofit world, but a few for profit resources are included too.

Also, one quick suggestion: you may want to start a new email account just for your job search.  It makes it easier to not clog up your personal email account and when you’re dedicating time to a job search, also easier if you have an email account that’s only receiving new job emails.

  1. CalNonprofits Job Board (full disclosure: I used to work here). Good resource of nonprofit jobs around the state, and as new ones are posted, you’ll see them on Twitter at #CalNonprofitJobs.
  2. Deciding between for profit, nonprofit, or government work?  They all have jobs on Glassdoor.  And, if you’re getting further along in the interview process, you may even get to see reviews from current/past employees about the company (though you only get a few “free” views- then the website requires you to share a review about a previous employer).  It can be a little annoying to look at a job and then get a follow-up email an hour later asking why you haven’t applied for it yet, but I guess this is “encouragement”?  🙂
  3. Work for Good (used to be Opportunity Knocks): Strictly nonprofit jobs.
  4. Idealist: Nonprofit jobs, nice ability to customize what sort of jobs you get in your daily email.
  5.  LinkedIn: If there’s particular orgs/companies you’re interested in, see if that company is on LinkedIn, check out the jobs they have listed on LinkedIn (though make sure they’re current), and I believe there’s a functionality where you can let that company know that you’re interested in jobs with them.  Also, every time you log-in to LinkedIn, you’ll get a notification (sort of like Facebook) about new opportunities that either match a job search you’ve set up, or if companies you follow have posted new jobs.
  6. craigslist: You can set up alerts to get jobs that match your criteria, like “Communications Director” in San Francisco.
  7. Nonprofit Remote: This handy site lists nonprofit opportunities (jobs) that you can do remotely.
  8. Kimble Group: A search firm.  I like the clean layout of their emails.
  9. Democratic Gain: Looking for more political/advocacy type jobs?  Sign up for this email.
  10. Amanda Ussak Job List. Not sure how I came across this, but lots of roles (including international NGOs).  You can see past issues to get an idea about it and sign up at the bottom of the issue.
  11. David Careers: Also not sure where I found this, and their email formatting could be improved, but also a good option.
  12. Social Enterprise Jobs: A fair number of these job openings aren’t in the Bay Area (they’re international), but some Bay Area jobs.
  13. The Bridgespan Group.  Nicely formatted emails!  Other recruiting firms should take note.

And, also a few temporary firms to check out to keep the $ coming in:

  1. Robert Half International:  While I didn’t get any postings through them, I was very impressed with the person I spoke to for my initial intake (over the phone).
  2. McCall Staffing: I worked for them when I first moved to the Bay Area.

I’m likely missing a few- feel free to leave a comment if you have one you’d suggest I add to the list!


Hampton Bay Fans: A Harrowing Home Depot Hassle

Earlier, I wrote about what a hassle it has been to try and take the glass globe off of my Home Depot Hampton Bay Sovana model fan.

A quick update:  Since I could not get the glass cover off (similar to lots and lots of other Home Depot customers who also made the unfortunate decision to buy a Hampton Bay fan), I will now be forced to break the glass in order to replace the light bulb.

I tried calling Hampton Bay last week, was told by a customer service person that they don’t have the part, and the manufacturer would get in touch with me.

Today, I received an email from said Home Depot/Hampton Bay customer care representative, telling me to call a woman named Belinda.  I tried calling Belinda at the number provided, and the operator answered with the name of a random company that was neither Home Depot nor Hampton Bay.

Belinda apparently does work for Home Depot (not sure in what capacity) and was able to help me a little bit by giving me the model number and explaining that the information I received last week was inaccurate.

So, I’m now paying Home Depot $27 for a replacement globe because I’ll have to crack open the glass to get this one off.

Home Depot- this is not a great way to treat your customers.  😦

Hampton Bay Fans from Home Depot: A Cautionary Tale Against Buying Them

Does your home have ceiling fans?  They can be a great, cost-effective way to cool your house, but as I’ve discovered, getting the wrong brand of ceiling fans (in this case, the Hampton Bay brand offered at Home Depot) can make your ceiling fan into a time-sucking nightmare when the light-bulb goes out.  In fact, based on my experiences with Hampton Bay today, I would strongly recommend you buy almost ANY other brand other than Hampton Bay.  And if you look at these reviews on Home Depot’s own site for another Hampton Bay fan, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The back story:

My wife and I had lived in our house about two years when we decided to get ceiling fans in two of our bedrooms. We purchased two Hampton Bay fans (the Sovana 44 inch model, it’s item #184-595, Model 14412), and had them installed in our house.  So far, so good.

However, the first time the light bulb went out, I discovered why some customers (including me now) hate Hampton Bay fans.  The glass over that goes over the light bulb is incredibly difficult — if not impossible — to remove.

In theory, it twists off.

In reality, getting it to twist off can be incredibly hard to do.  And, you’re not alone.  Try googling “Hampton Bay Fan remove light” and you will see the stories of hundreds (probably thousands) of other customers who have also make the mistake of purchasing a Hampton Bay fan.

There are tips on YouTube (and in the YouTube comments), such as using duct tape and making loops on the glass so you have something hard to pull on, or using a toilet plunger.  I think these might have worked for me previously, but as of right now, my kids don’t have an overhead light in their room because I can’t get the Hampton Bay fan light cover to come off.

Hampton Bay Ceiling Fan Hack

So, after trying looking at the owner’s manual (not helpful) and looking online, I thought perhaps I’d try the customer service line at Home Depot/Hampton Bay (can’t tell if they’re the same company or not).

That was a colossal waste of my time.

After waiting on hold for 9 minutes, I was given helpful advice such as “try turning it counter-clock wise, and hard.”

People ask why I’m skeptical of corporate America, and I will now point to Hampton Bay ceiling fans as exhibit 1.  Home Depot clearly knows that its customers are having problems with this product, yet it continues selling it, probably because the profit margins are high.  In other words, sorry customer, we know you’re going to lose hours and hours trying to replace a simple light bulb, but we at Home Depot just don’t care enough to fix the problem.

So, save yourself hours of pain, and get a fan from a company other than Hampton Bay!

Has Budget Car Rental Also Tried to Upsell You?

Earlier this month, my sister and I traveled to Denver, Colorado for a mini family reunion.  Because we were planning on doing a tour of Denver with one of our taller relatives, I made sure to reserve a Full Size rental car from Budget Car rental (using Travelocity, which I’ve used for years) so that he would be comfortable.

Budget rental

When we arrived at Denver International Airport, we took the Budget Car Rental shuttle to pick up our car.  While it did not offend us, it did strike us as odd and perhaps off-putting that the shuttle radio was playing Christian rock music.

Once we got to the Budget Car Rental counter, the “upsell” began.

The representative started by telling us that it was supposed to snow that weekend in Denver and we should really consider getting an All Wheel Drive SUV (instead of the full-sized sedan we reserved).  He explained he could do it for “only about $20 more a day.”  (It did not actually snow that weekend).

We declined that, and he said he had to go back and talk to his colleagues.  He came back a few minutes later to announce that, “good news, now we can have the SUV for the same price as the car we had reserved.”  You know where this story is headed, right?

So, I asked “You don’t have the car we reserved, do you?”

And he admitted that they did not.  So, you can imagine how I felt that Budget Car Rental was trying to make more money off of the fact that they did not have the car ready that I had reserved.  Not only are you wasting my time, but you’re also trying to profit off this?

Because we wanted to get going (and this was wasting our time), we took a quick look at the SUV he was pushing us to take.  However, it was clear to us it would not have been as comfortable as the full-sized sedan we had originally reserved.

So, we returned back to the rental counter, and explained to him that this wouldn’t work for us and that we wanted the car we had reserved.

Unfortunately, on that particular day, it appeared only one computer could be used to determine which cars were available (I don’t know if that was a problem just that day, or if it’s like that every day you rent a car from Budget in Denver).

So, after about 30 minutes of extra back and forth with the representative, they were able to track down the car we had originally reserved.

Once we left the Budget Car Rental location, we discovered that the car was low on washer fluid (which is dangerous in Colorado during the winter) and that the windshield was fairly pitted (possibly because the car had almost 40,000 miles on it).

Budget Car Rental Low on Fluid

We returned the car to Budget early.  Isn’t it funny how rental car companies charge you an arm and a leg if you return it even an hour late, but they don’t give you money back if you turn it in a few hours early?

I contacted both Travelocity and Budget Car Rental to share my experience with them, and I was less than impressed with their responses.  Travelocity offered a $25 credit, whereas Budget Car Rental offered me a $10 credit- but I’d have to log-in to their system, create an account, give them my email, etc.  Hardly worth $10, right?  And I’m guessing they were counting on that.

Have you had an experience of a rental car company trying to upsell you a more expensive car after they made a mistake and didn’t have the car you reserved?

I’d love to hear about it- you can contact me by leaving a comment.

Share your Valic Retirement Stories with Me

Valic Retirement

Work at a nonprofit and planning to retire? You should read this.

Do you work at a nonprofit, and is Valic your retirement provider?

I’ve had Valic at two of the nonprofits I’ve worked for in San Francisco, and in both cases, it was a bad experience where over-priced retirement products, unclear information, and costly fees slowed down my retirement progress.

As I’ve shared with Valic, their costly products are especially problematic in the nonprofit world.

That’s because nonprofit employees often have lower salaries and so it’s even more important that their retirement money is growing- instead of being sucked away by their retirement company charging fees.

As somebody who works in the nonprofit world, and who knows that decision makers often have limited time, I am going to share my Valic experience to help other nonprofit employees and decision makers.

If you are in charge of HR or Operations at your nonprofit, I would strongly encourage you to find out what sorts of fees your retirement provider is charging, if your employees are aware of these fees, and of course, whether or not there are better companies that will help your employees achieve their retirement goals.

During my most recent experience with Valic, here were some of the issues I encountered, and I’d love to hear if you have had these “challenges” with Valic as well:

1) Valic helping itself to 5% of my retirement money. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I divert money out of my paycheck to put into my retirement accounts, I’m doing that because I want MY money to grow so I can retire one day.  So, imagine my surprise when my account finally got rolled over, and the rollover paperwork included a column that said MVA ADJ/Charges ($) $70.51. I didn’t know what this $70.51 was for, but I did know that my final rollover check was for $70.51 less than I would have expected it to be.  After about 30 minutes of phone calls and getting a manager on the phone, I was finally informed that Valic was charging me a whopping 5% fee to close my account because I hadn’t had it open for five years.  That is not a misprint. A whopping 5% fee!  Luckily for me, that five percent fee was only $70, but can you imagine if I’d had $10,000 in that account and Valic helped itself to 5% of my retirement?  Or $20,000?  Or even $30,000?  Ouch!

2) Unclear expenses and retirement options: My Valic representative had a very hard time telling me what my options were in terms of the mutual funds I could invest in- and what their costs were- until after I had opened an account. If Valic were truly interested in supporting nonprofit workers having a secure retirement, then they would make this information clear and easy to get to- before you open your account.  The reason I wanted to know about the mutual fund options and their expenses (before I opened the account) is because when I had Valic previously, all of funds I could choose from were wildly over-priced compared to their peers.

3) Mis-leading and inaccurate information when I tried to roll over my Valic retirement account. After leaving my job, I wanted to roll over my Valic account into my IRA, where I would have access to far cheaper retirement options at Vanguard.  However, the instructions for rolling over my Valic 403B account were contradicted by the customer service people at Valic.  These were things like whether or not my wife needed to sign the paperwork.  Or whether the program administrator needed to sign the paperwork.  Call me pessimistic, but I have to wonder if Valic does this intentionally to make it harder for people to get their money rolled over.  Have you had the same experience where Valic’s written instructions are contradicted by their customer service people?

I’ll be writing more about Valic and some of the legal issues it has faced in the coming weeks, but I’d also love to hear from other people who have used Valic.

Want to share your Valic experience?  Leave a comment on this post.  And, at the top of the post, let me know if I can share your experience, and if so, how you’d like to be attributed. For example, I’m happy to use your full name and city, just your initials, or just a description like “A Social Worker from Oakland.”  Or if you’d prefer I don’t publish your experience, that’s okay too.

Here’s some questions to get you started:

  • Do you know what the expense ratios are on the funds you’re invested in with Valic? And do you know how they compare to some of Valic’s peers?
  • Have you ever been hit with a 5% surrender fee by Valic?
  • Tried to roll over your money out of Valic? How did it go?  Did you get clear instructions?

Keep Your Home California Program is Over

This blog featured a number of posts about the Keep Your Home California program and how its various programs could help homeowners in California who were possibly going to lose their homes.

In case you missed the announcement in August, 2018, the program is over and is no longer accepting applications. (More here)

More than 82,000 Californians benefited from this program.  You can learn more by reading The Economic Impact of Keep Your Home California: A Statewide and Regional Analysis.

Also, quarterly reports about the program are available on its website under the reports and statistics section.

If you’re a homeowner who used the program and have questions, there are still representatives available to answer your questions.

Wells Fargo in the News For Overdraft and Foreclosure Lawsuits and Settlements

Wells Fargo

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wells Fargo Bank!

On April 4, the LA Times reported that the US Supreme Court declined to hear Wells Fargo’s appeal of a class action lawsuit against the bank that it lost.  After losing this lawsuit, Wells Fargo was ordered to pay $203 million related to overdraft fees it had charged Californians from 2004-2008.  Read more here: Supreme Court upholds verdict against Wells Fargo on overdraft fees in California

Then, on April 8, Courthouse News Service broke the news that the City of Oakland’s lawsuit against the bank can proceed:  Wells Fargo Must Face Oakland’s Lending Suit

And, last Friday, April 8, Wells Fargo agreed to pay the federal government $1.2 billion related to FHA mortgages the bank had underwritten (rather poorly, it turned out).  The irony is especially rich on the heels of a recent Paul Krugman article which suggested that main street banks hadn’t really played a role in the mortgage meltdown.  Or, the Op-Ed from GE’s CEO, lecturing Bernie Sanders about “creating jobs.”  Just don’t remind GE’s CEO about GE’s role in creating the mortgage meltdown with its lender, WMC Mortgage Corp.