Sunday, April 26, 2009

Philly Car Share Shits Bed, Eliminates Free Membership Plans

philly car shareOh Philly Car Share. How things have changed.

Last Year, co-founders Clayton Lane and Tanya Seaman were given the boot apparently for being too smart/idealistic.

Since then, it's been a little rough.

Instead of adding more hybrids, rates were raised on existing hybrids.

And now, due to cash concerns/recession troubles, they just announced that they're ending free memberships.

Adding insult to injury, they sent out the notification after 5 pm on a Friday so they wouldn't be bombarded with calls. Giving less than a week's notice.

Classy.
From: PhillyCarShare
Sent: Friday, April 24, 2009 5:40 PM
Subject: Important News Regarding your PhillyCarShare Account

Rate Plan Change to Benefit You: Please read on...

PhillyCarShare is pleased to announce that we're simplifying car sharing in Philadelphia!

Starting May 1st, we will streamline our offerings into one plan, the Philadelphia Plan, which will give every residential member access to the lowest PhillyCarShare hourly rates. The monthly fee will be $15 and the hourly rates will range from $3.55 to $8.55, with the continued monthly 5 cent reduction in the hourly rate through July 2009.

All current Basic Freedom members will be converted to this new membership plan on April 30th, when the first of your $15 monthly membership fees will be charged to your credit card.
[...]
If you have any concerns, please call Member Services at 215-730-0988, ext. 5. If this plan is not for you, then please use the link below by April 30th, 2009 to cancel your PhillyCarShare membership and avoid being charged the $15 May membership fee.
Blah, blah, blah.

For shame.

For the record, Philly Car Share retains our allegiance because in the end, it's still fucking amazing — we just wish they'd be cooler about it.

Regarding their other 50,000+ members, however, we're thinking they lose at least 10,000 and maybe even half.

So that's why this really sucks — it hurts car sharing's mainstream appeal.

Related:
Philly Car Share to charge monthly fee for all acounts [ Philly Blog ]
Exclusive: Shake-Up at Philly Car Share [ Philly Mag ]
PhillyCarShare First in Nation to Offer Free Memberships [ Business Wire ]

Previously:
Philly Car Share Makeover Results in Sexiest Surface Parking Lot Ever

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know I for one will be turning in my keyfob. While I've loved having the service available the reality is that I only use it once every month or two and I'm not willing to keep them on retainer on the off chance that I take enough trips down to Ikea in a given month to make it worth it. This seems like an insane business decision to me, I cost them nothing to simply have an account open and now they are going to lose whatever business I was going to be doing with them.

BB said...

Guess I'm ending my car share account.

Jeff said...

I'm pretty pissed because I just paid the application fee a few months ago and haven't even had the opportunity to use the service. I have no interest in paying a monthly fee, so my 25 dollars basically went in the toilet.

Fuck em

Ben said...

Did you read any of the talk that came to light after Clayton got the boot? Very little was flattering.

Anonymous said...

Come on Illadelph! Didn't you see that they're honoring the $0.05 hourly reduction through July!?! I could save up to like, um, uh, well $1.15!

Josh said...

I've been carrying my fob around for years, raving to friends, and bragging to non-Philadelphians about the great service we had access to. After buying a car last year I happily paid the few bucks to downgrade my membership to the Free level, anticipating a need for a truck or something fancy every so often. Now I've canceled my membership like so many others. And trying to sell it as a "benefit" to us late on a Friday night is an insult. FAIL.

Anonymous said...

I closed my account with PCS months ago. The customer service is nowhere near where it once was, and it seems like every time I reserved a car (once a month at most) I was always called and told that car was out of service for "maintenance" and that my reservation had been transferred to another car nowhere near that location. When I cancelled they tried to slap me with the $50 insurance payment because I hadn't elected to NOT join the insurance plan, despite the fact I had already closed my account and had no access to choose to opt out. That $50 was refunded when I threatened legal action, however. Still its a shame how far PCS has fallen.

Anonymous said...

I deleted the email from Car Share and never even read it. Could some one post the link to terminate your account? I tried calling their number but it was busy... big suprise.

Ben said...

I have a suspicion that many of the users on free accounts have been responsible for disrespecting the vehicles or acting otherwise "unneighborly" as a member. These people cost CarShare money, and having a monthly fee is a barrier that will keep out some of these people.

Yes, it sucks for responsible members, but the bottom line is that CarShare is a business (albeit a non-profit one), not a charity, and keeping cars in good shape is expensive.

Holly H. said...

Mother F-er. I'm canceling as well. And guess I'll even start reading my Philly Car Share emails.

Anonymous said...

"I have a suspicion that many of the users on free accounts have been responsible for disrespecting the vehicles or acting otherwise "unneighborly" as a member. These people cost CarShare money, and having a monthly fee is a barrier that will keep out some of these people."

Other than "your snooty ass", what source do you have for any of that?

Jen said...

@Ben

Can you substantiate that claim at all?

Just because the carshare isn't an integral part of someone's life doesn't mean that they'll act less neighborly.

I think you're confusing high insurance rates with prejudice against the less trve and kvlt. They are not one and the same.

Do you really blame every low tank of gas, dirty car, scratch, dent and empty soda bottle on free members?

round guy said...

Damn. I was going to downgrade to the no service fee account because I haven't been using the cars for a couple of months and thought I could save a few bucks.
I have noticed a huge decline in service quality and have gotten some really poorly maintained vehicles.
It's a pity because I am such a supporter of the model and bragged to everyone I knew about how exciting this program was.
On the fence now as to what to do; it's not so much the $15 but it's the way they've been doing business.
Hopefully the fee only tactic will get rid of the a-holes who destroyed the cars.

Anonymous said...

3 memberships canceled today in my circuit. Way to go 'gree'dy PCS

Stephen said...

F-minus, Philly Car Share - so much for that. I used Philly Car Share for many expeditions, for both business and pleasure, with exceptional results. I am quite happy with the service and will be canceling it promptly; I looked at my previous monthly bills, which read like: $0, $0, $40ish, $0, $0, and so on. Why would I pay a monthly fee? Sorry PCS - you lose.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is a little hard to compete with ZipCar in Philadelphia, when ZipCar's prices here are 30% lower than anywhere else in the US. Just a look at their website tells that story. It also is an open story that ZipCar is loosing ton's of money in Philladelphia because of PhillyCarShare.
ZipCar has a history of raising prices and pulling out vehicles once there is no competition. Look at the Fleck Car blogs after the buyout.
My hope is that PhillyCarSHare can stick it out. Without them I am sure ZipCar will raise their prise that 30% and with only 20% of the cars on the street it will be a real dogfight to make a reservation.

Anonymous said...

It's ridiculous to say that it costs them nothing to have an account open. You're insured by them when you drive, right? So I'd imagine they have to pay for your insurance coverage even when you're not using cars. It also costs money to keep cars serviced and ready to go when the whim strikes you to take a trip to Ikea. It's all about money here, folks.

Luke said...

Wow, good thing I read this! I admit I don't bother reading the carshare blast emails because I have (had) the free account and didn't use the cars very often at all. Now I'm canceling for sure. How many people like me who didn't get the message are going to suddenly have unexpected charges from carshare showing up on their credit card accounts? I'd guess there's quite a few. Seems pretty scammy and scuzzy and shitty to announce by blast email that you are suddenly going to change your deals unilaterallly and start charging your customers' credit cards--people who otherwise have no reason to be expecting to see charges unless they actually use your product. assholes.

Anonymous said...

Turned in my keyfob. Needed to have access to a car 3-4 times/yr. The free membership was perfect. It was a good idea -- oh well -- I guess I'll rent a car for those times when I need it.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if this applies to corporate accounts, as well? I can't get through to their customer service ....

lokihands9 said...

Honestly, this is just plain mismanagement. I have been a free member and am canceling. Here are my thoughts:

1. Free Members Are not Free:
Free members apparently are not free. They do have to pay for insurance, according to blogs I have seen.

2. Insurance not proportional to risk = Business Model Failure:
The fact that they have to pay for insurance means they have done a crappy job with their business model. If you have 50k people, who each only drive a car once a year- then you should be negotiating with an insurer to have the amount of risk insured reflect the total hours driven. Ex. Low-mileage insurance plans given for personal insurance.

3. I can see no reason why a free member will be less responsible than an advantage one. Either way they have your credit card and your trips are personally identified. There's no tragedy of the commons going on here.

4. Car Maintenance = Nonissue:
It's a business expense, but if this is a problem then you either: A. Not getting enough usage out of your cars (so maintenance exceeds income)
B. Your users are beating up your cars too much (so you charge them for damage).
C. Your rates are too low.
All of these issues are business model issues. A can be affected by proper car placement, purchasing, and marketing. C you can just plain change. And B should be covered by maintaining a good membership pool.

Honestly, they failed at making a good business model. If they were getting killed on their insurance rates for free members, they should have just made a tiered membership system that limited free members to "N trips/M hours" per month.

As a non-profit, Philly Car Share should be able to beat out Zipcar. They don't have the tax overhead. Secondly, Philly Car Share had some good will built up. Why do they even need to compete on price? Keep the free plan, hike the rates.

Anonymous said...

I cancelled my account immediately after the email. Then I shot them a nasty email. It was a huge slap in the face to all their free membership users.

I encourage everyone to cancel their accounts and send PhillyCarShare an email voicing your anger.

philadelph-eli said...

For the casual user this is unfortunate, but even if you only use Philly Car Share once a year, the company is still paying to insure you the other 364 days. It could have been handled in a better way, but Zip Car is not the answer. The only reason Zip Car is cheap now is because they are making up that revenue with crazy expensive rates in other cities. Once healthy competition is run out of town they will double in price. Ask your friends in New York how much they pay for a car. I was shocked when I heard.

Either way, people need to relax. The rage out there in the blogosphere is out of control. The people in Member Services at Philly Car Share are people and most importantly, the are most definitely not the people who made the decision to start charging this fee.

Maybe the new charge isn't an economically good decision for you. Just cancel. Don't scream at the person on the other line. They aren't ruining your life, they're just forcing you to take a cab or rent a car every so often. If you're that reliant on a service that a few years ago didn't even exist maybe you should just pony up the $15.

I'm hoping PCS can survive. It's a good service which has suffered from some poor management and marketing. A little more transparency would have prevented a lot of the ill will out there. In the end they are a non-profit which is invested in the city of Philadelphia. I really hope we can keep them here.

Anonymous said...

They suck. I never heard of a company add membership fees out of nowhere with 6 days notice.
It is a horrible company. They will soon realize that they lost a lot of potential customers for adding fees for everyone. Stupid move, especially since you alienate the few customers left and scare away new customers, and doing this in financially tough times. I am surprised if they survive this year out.

Anonymous said...

I have been a PhillyCarShare member for a few years now. I used to have the paid plan and switched to the no-pay plan because I was fortunate enough to get a car. I still have my car and keep the PCS account in case of emergencies or my car just won't start. I was less than pleased to find out last month they withdrew 16 dollars and change from my account with no authorization. I used the service last month and then realized they charged my account. I called PCS and left a message for them to call me back. They did and I told the lady who called that I was very displeased and most likely going to cancel my account. It's not so much the money as it is the poor business practices. Well, that and what other people posted about the cars being messed up and filthy. They really have gone downhill as far as maintenance and upkeep. The last car I had was a dinged up Prius with cigarette burns in the seat. Very classy to say the least. On an observatory note, I work arount 21st and Chestnut and the car park on the corner used to have all PCS signs. They have took them all down, removed all the PCS cars, and now there are signs for Zipcar. I'm not saying the for-profit should push out the non-profit, but come on people, bad business is not good for any industry and what they pulled with that e-mail and charge scam was dirty. Now I feel dirty even carrying around their little key FOB. It should be called a key SOB instead. I will cancel before the end of the month.