Zipcar told me that they’re going to make it much clearer on their website that their liability coverage is pretty weak; this fact has been very, very buried up until now.
Two months later, what’s happened to the web page saying that “gas, reserved parking and insurance are included in all of our rates and there’s no crazy paperwork and waivers to fill out”? Um, it’s still there. The main “How does Zipcar work?” page still tells you to “remember, gas and insurance are included”. The only change is on the insurance page (part of the small print, and hard to find), which used to say that “Insurance is just part of your Zipcar membership” and now says that “Basic insurance is part of your Zipcar membership”. They do now helpfully provide a list of state-mandated insurance levels, too.
The main thing that hasn’t changed is the insurance situation. The amount of insurance that Zipcar provides (or doesn’t provide) is exactly the same as it ever was, and you still have no ability to buy extra insurance from them if you want it. Instead, you’re told to “consult with a licensed agent” to see if you can buy the extra insurance elsewhere — something which is both a major hassle and very expensive, since no one’s going to sell you insurance for a two-hour car rental.
I’ve also learned something else about the holes in Zipcar insurance, thanks to a comment on my second post. It’s not just liability coverage they lack: it’s also uninsured motorist insurance. What that means is that if an uninsured or underinsured motorist runs into you, Zipcar’s insurance will not cover your bodily injuries. And again, of course, they don’t offer that even as an optional extra.
I sent Kristina from Zipcar an email two weeks ago, asking her what the developments were on the insurance front. I never received a reply. So this afternoon, at 3:39pm, I phoned her at her PR company, RF Binder. I was told she was working at Zipcar; I asked for her number there, but the woman answering the phone wouldn’t give it to me. Instead, she took down my message, and said that someone would get back to me.
At 3:59pm, I got the following comment on my old Zipcar post, from someone calling himself “Jude Carlson”:
Why are you so negative about Zipcar? Did you know that 100,000 people use it? Obviously, they can’t all be wrong about the company. Morover, you are loosing sight of the fact that their program reduces gas emmissions at a greater rate than any other organization and helps people become more mobile at a reasonalble cost. It is easy to point out faults with anything or anybody, but one question we should all ask ourselves is; “Am I doing as much as Zipcar to improve the enviroment and the lives of a hundred thousand people? What have you done latley?
My Movable Type software helpfully logs IP addresses, and this one came from 184.108.40.206, which I looked up. And guess what? It’s registered to Zipcar California Inc!
At this point, then, I’ve stopped giving Zipcar the benefit of the doubt. I think that they are not serious about fixing their broken insurance situation, and indeed it seems that rather than simply return my phone call and talk to me, they’re much happier to leave sock-puppet comments on my blog — a classic sign of bad faith.
Up until now, I was reserving judgment. My commenters generally seemed to think that Zipcar was being deliberately misleading, while I still thought there might have been a genuine mistake. Now I agree with those commenters: I’ve caught Zipcar red-handed in one of the most notorious and devious tactics of all. Shame on Zipcar, and I’m going to start looking for an alternative car-sharing company.