So here I am, ready to post my first blog about shopping and what do I do… I write a post that isn’t about shopping. Great start!
However, all is not lost as I am writing a post about service! In fact it’s all about some really great service I’ve had from a place you wouldn’t normally expect it. A van hire company.
So my wife asked me to go and hire a van so I could help her Dad move some furniture for a the daughter of his friend. I know.
I sighed (internally – I’m not stupid enough to openly sigh in front of my wife after she makes a request). I have history with van hire. back in the dark days, I used to drive a van for a living.. I wasn’t quite a delivery driver, but to keep the story simple I’ll say I was (I wasn’t!). I remember turning up to work one day to find the van gone (they only had one) someone else had taken it to run an errand.
“So what am I supposed to do?” I asked, with far less sass than you just read that with. “We’ve got an account with [insert national hire company here], I know the guy, just give him a ring and he’ll sort a van for you… oh and by the way I need you in Sunderland by lunchtime!”
So I gave ‘Chris’ a ring… I remember the phone ringing for ages and then a woman answering the phone. So it turns out Chris no longer worked there and actually hadn’t for quite some time. I explained I needed a van and was put through to another guy whom I can only assume was called Surley. After firing a barrage of questions at me, faster than I could literally answer he decided that I needed a something something van… I didn’t hear what he said other than, “It’ll be ready in 10 minutes”
The hire place was only a mile away, so the boss suggested I walk (“briskly mind, as you need to be in Sunderland by this afternoon”). I got there and within the 20 minutes it had taken since the phone call they had forgotten my hire and the fact I existed.
“I’m sure we have a van we can use… it’s pretty short notice though”, the man behind the oversized counter said, looking at me as though I had asked him to hand over his first born.
30 minutes later, I was told the van was ready, but it was explained that I needed to pay. “we have a company account” I said.
“I wish you had told us that before”, said ‘the man’.
“I did explain that and gave my details over the phone… when I booked it an hour ago”, they must love these vans I thought to myself; they sure as hell don’t like letting customers have them.
After numerous phone calls the payment was sorted and the keys were dropped into my hands. I stood there, in the office, waiting for someone to show me to my van or give me a pep talk. Nothing. It was as if the keys, once placed in my hand, had rendered me invisible.
“uhhh.. which van is it?” I asked.. trying to illicit an emotional response or even just an acknowledgement.
Without looking up, the man who I subsequently named ‘roadblock’ and who manged to speak with zero empathy or tone simply said “The reg number is on the key fob.. match it up with the van”
So I ventured outside, there were only 20 vans, all varying sizes and shapes, rather than check the registration plates I simply clicked the key fob and went to which ever van beeped. It worked and I got in.
Of course the van wasn’t what I asked for, it was twice the size and to my horror there was no gear stick.. it was a stick shift. having never driven a stick shift before I really could of done with some tutelage, but I didn’t want to push my luck. I sat in the car park for a further 15 minutes figuring out the stick shift (I hate them .. but luckily have never come across one since!) and trying to manoeuvre the van out of the parking space.
All in all.. a shitty experience.
Finding good van hire
Fast forward 15 years and here I am again going to hire a van… I couldn’t wait!
I didn’t really want to drive all the way into Bath, to then have to drive all the way back out to Midsomer Norton. So a quick search on Google revealed a few hire places nearby.. most seemed like van owners who were making a quick buck by hiring their own van out at the weekends (probably not – but that’s what their websites felt like!)
The one that stood out was VansGB (which I thought for a minute might be an evil national – but they’re not), they had pretty good reviews. They were no cheaper than the nationals, but they had already scored a point with my by letting me hire a van on Saturday and return it on the Sunday.. a lot of the big boys make you keep it till Monday making you spend even more unnecessarily.
I went to their website and selected the van I thought I needed… bearing in mind I still wasn’t 100% sure what exactly I was moving. filled in the quote form and within 30 minutes I had a call back with a price. The guy was really friendly (which took me back for a minute as I was expecting some variation of Surly or Roadblock) I agreed to the prices and an extra for insurance (I was driving, but no way was I paying for any damage that my father-in-law and mates might inflict with haphazard furniture removal)
The weekend came and I went to get the van. I walked in the door (preprogramed from my last experience at ‘the other place’) expecting to have to explain everything again.. but to my joyful surprise I didn’t. the paperwork was ready, the van was ready. I had to sign a few things and they took my photo (not sure why but I guess it’s something to do with insurance). The guy asked what I was doing with the van and I explained… he said it might be worth checking the dimensions of the furniture as I have the smallest type of Ford Transit, “it doesn’t have much wiggle-room”, he kindly suggested. So, I made a call to My father-In-law who somehow knew the measurements (albeit approximately) I relayed them to the VansGB guy who said while it would ‘just about’ fit in the van I’ve chosen the next one up would give a bit more space.. and allow for a margin of error. I thought this might be a cunning sales technique.. but then to my surprise he offered to do the bigger van for the same price. Wow.
Paperwork complete, he took me outside (after offering me a sweet), showed me the van.. he got in and moved the van out of the parking space for me ready to go. he explained the controls… they were far more standard this time, and although I knew them, I was so overjoyed with the service I let him continue. he explained the fuel policy. the van was supplied full and I have to return it full. Luckily there is a Petrol station on-site so that was one less thing to worry about.
I drove off happy.. well happy with the service I just received, not so happy with the job I was about to do. Which surprisingly went without a hitch.. Oh, except for the fact that my Father-in-Laws ‘mate’ had hurt his shoulder and ‘couldn’t dare risk lifting anything’.
I agreed to return the van on Sunday Morning which I did, I dropped the van off an picked up my car which they had let me park in their secure parking area for free.
So I’m not sure if it’s van hire that has changed in the last 15 years or the VansGB are just really good at what they do. I suspect it’s the latter.