Greg Hounslow

My U-Haul review: aka why does U-Haul suck so much?

As someone who lives and breathes social media and online customer service every day, I am not the first person to complain when something goes wrong. I understand that no business is perfect and that mistakes happen every now and then. While I would love all my experiences as a customer to be flawless, I realize that anyone looking for perfection from a business generally won’t find it and will go home unhappy at the end of the day.

It is with this in mind that I entered into my most recent rental experience with U-Haul. I was hoping for a much more positive experience than the past two rentals my girlfriend and I had with U-Haul. Unfortunately, the people at U-Haul didn’t deliver on my lowered expectations. Some of them did (and kudos are due to a few of the people I spoke to), but the inconsistency in service attitude amongst the people I spoke to on the phone indicates that there is a much bigger problem at U-Haul.

Indeed, when I search online for things like “U-Haul Sucks“, “negative U-Haul experience” or “negative U-Haul reviews” I find a lot of stories of people who have either been rented unsafe equipment or have been treated like crap by U-Haul customer service.

I feel that it’s important to briefly note (for reasons you’ll read later) that in 50+ rentals with U-Haul, I’ve only ever had two previous poor experiences. I’ve been renting from U-Haul since I was old enough to sign a contract on my own and can’t count the number of trucks and trailers I’ve rented from U-Haul while I was moving regularly 2-4 times per year for school or for my seasonal jobs.

The first time I had any sort of negative U-haul experience was in June 2010 when my girlfriend and I were getting ready to pack up and move our stuff across Canada. We took our car into one of the local U-Haul locations in Montreal to have a trailer hitch installed. The technician tasked with installing the trailer hitch was so incompetent (or poorly trained, if you prefer) that he actually resorted to Googling how to install a trailer hitch and do the electrical wiring while my girlfriend waited in the lounge.

After a few painful hours of watching him fumble his way around our car, she decided that she had had enough and told him to stop. She took the car to another company that specializes in installing racks and hitches, and in about 15 minutes, they finished checking his work (he actually installed the hitch correctly!) and corrected his wiring mistakes (he had started to hook everything up backwards and probably would have ended up damaging our car’s electrical system).

My girlfriend submitted a complaint online, and received an email apology and $60 credit a short time later. Simple, easy and appreciated.

A year later, we needed a truck to move our stuff into our new house. I went back to my old trusty rental company and reserved a big truck, complete with “Mom’s Attic” for our moving day. Everything about this rental was good, except for the fact that the agent at the rental location informed me that he was unable to apply our credit. It was unclear why, and he told us to call U-haul to have it applied. Nobody that we spoke to was able to apply our credit, so we ended up sucking it up and eating the $60 charge. With a new house to take care of, I didn’t feel like spending countless hours on the phone with U-Haul reps. Could I have pursued this further? No doubt that I could have, but it really wasn’t worth my time.

Queue the most recent experience; the one that really blew my mind and made me wonder “why does U-Haul suck so bad at customer service?”

With a now pregnant girlfriend and twins on the way, it was time to do some basement renos. After tearing-out carpet, ceiling panels, drywall and other things for the entire day, I looked at the pile of garbage that had accumulated in the back yard and decided that it would be a good idea to get rid of it as soon as possible. The problem: It was Sunday night, and I didn’t have a lot of time. I needed to be at work early the next 2 mornings and had baby-related appointments on Monday and Tuesday night. The solution: U-Haul had several locations that were open late on Sunday evening and one of them wasn’t too far from the dump! I realized that I could pick up the trailer and load it up that night, then dump it early the next morning, drop it off and be at work on time.

Awesome! I love when a good plan comes together. I made my reservation online (note: this is a big mistake) and rushed over to pick up the trailer.

Unfortunately, the weak link in this plan was the U-Haul contractee that decided they’d go home early on Sunday because business wasn’t booming. When I arrived to pick up the trailer at the location in the SE of Calgary, I discovered that the owner had closed up shop early and had gone home. Understandable that someone would want to spend Sunday evening with their family, but why advertise that you’re open if you’re not? I called U-Haul and was lucky enough to get an amazing customer service rep. who helped me find another location. She was polite, apologized many times, and actually called the other location to ensure they were open and that they had a trailer.

I arrived at the alternate location (which was about as far as you can get in Calgary from the 3 landfills) and completed the paperwork with the guy behind the counter. Again, he was awesome, and very helpful and I made a mental note to include the “Entertainment Plus” location in my good books.

Dirty u-haul trailerHe apologized in advance that the trailer was very dirty, and explained that he’s not supposed to have trailers at his location, but that someone in the U-Haul office gave the OK for a customer to drop it off there and that it showed up like this.

When I walked up to the trailer, I saw that it was caked in about 1 inch of dried mud, so I asked him to make a note on my file so that I wouldn’t be charged the cleaning fee when I returned it the next morning. I also took a couple pics (right) to be sure I’d have proof that it was like this when I picked it up.

I also asked if it would be possible to drop the trailer off at another location so that I could go to the landfill that is closest to my house and actually get to work on time. He said that he understood why I was asking that, but that I would have to call U-Haul customer service to get an exception as he wasn’t permitted to do it. When I called U-Haul, their customer service rep told me that it “may” be possible, given my circumstance, and that I’d have to call the local “traffic office” the following morning as they are the ones that arrange where each piece of equipment ends up.

What ensued was truly the cherry on the cake for me.

As I was finishing up at the landfill the next morning, I called the traffic office and spoke to what I can only describe as a unhappy, power-tripping nerd who felt that this was his time to show someone “who is boss”. Knowing how many reservation systems work (i.e. every time I talk to someone on the phone they put a note on my reservation) I said, “There’s supposed to be a note on my file about dropping this trailer off at another location.” The attitude that came back from him was unbelievable and I’ve done my best to capture the actual conversation below. It’s probably not 100% accurate, but it’s as close as I can remember.

“What are you talking about,” he said.

“There’s supposed to be a note, in my reservation, from the customer service rep I spoke to last night, about me dropping off my trailer at another location this morning,” I replied.

“I don’t see any note.”

“Ummm… OK,” I said, thinking that I’d now have to explain (for the 4th time) that I felt inconvenienced and that I was looking for a little goodwill from the company to allow me to drop off a dirty, muddy trailer at a full-service U-Haul location close to my home (read: do U-Haul a favour and get their trailer back to a location where it’s supposed to be), so that I can get to work on time.

So I explained what happened and why I’d like to drop the trailer off at another location. “The location I reserved online from closed up early last night, so I had to drive 1/2 way across the city, to a location that isn’t as convenient, to pick up my trailer. I had to go to a different landfill, and am now done with the trailer and would like to drop it off as quickly as possible, pay with my credit and get to work on time.”

“You have a credit? Why do you have a credit?”

“It’s from a previous experience I had with U-Haul. The gave us a credit to apologize.”

“Oh, so you’re one of those people who complains all the time. Why should I do anything for you?”

“I was hoping that you’d be able to see it from my perspective and to work with me to find a solution to a simple problem.”

“You can drop it off at another location, but there will be a charge for that. Would you like me to add THAT to your file too?”

“No. What I’d like you to add to my file is that you’re willing to make an exception and allow me to drop it off with no extra fee.”

“That’s not going to be possible. I’m going to leave a note on your file to say that you complain all the time and that we shouldn’t give anything to you.”

“Really?!! That’s the best you can do? Brutal. Is there someone else there that I can talk to?”

“No. I’m the only person you’re going to talk to. So we’ll see you at Entertainment Plus to drop off the trailer then. Buh-bye.” The line goes dead. The little shit head hung up on me!

The rest of the story is pretty much irrelevant after this point, but for the sake of documenting it, I spoke to about 3 more people that morning, followed by a call from a supervisor. My concerns were documented and apologies for having a closed location were made. I was also promised that my credit would be applied and that my credit card would be refunded.

It’s now one month later and it stil hasn’t happened.

Lessons learned: 1) U-Haul has some real assholes that work for them, 2) They also have some really nice customer service reps and some great contractors who use their own businesses to allow U-Haul to have locations all over the place, and 3) never reserve online close to the end of the day, 2 hours before you pick up a truck or trailer – always call the office to make sure they’re still there!

There are three obvious gaping holes in U-Haul’s policies. First, someone from a traffic office, which I can only assume is NOT a customer service office, was allowed to bring their real life problems to work and treat a customer like shit – taking an already poor experience and turning it into one that I’ll probably never forget (oh, and add a scathing, anti-U-Haul blog post to his list of accomplishments). Second, it is obvious that the group involved with developing U-Haul’s customer service guidelines (or policy) don’t really care about their customers. They don’t provide their employees with any sort of true problem solving ability (read: empowerment), and prefer to make the customer sit though another phone call. They also make it infinitely difficult to actually use a credit, further increasing the frustration.

The most important thing that a company can do after screwing up is to treat their customer with respect, offer an apology and find a solution. I got several apologies from U-Haul representatives, and apart from the first woman I spoke to – the one who found me a trailer on Sunday night at 6:30pm – nobody was ready to help find a solution to something that was a very simple problem.

If anyone from U-Haul is monitoring mentions on the Internet and reads this, I hope you can take this as an opportunity to improve what you do. I’d like to rent from U-haul again in the future, but “uhaul” has become a dirty word in my household, so I’ll probably be looking at other options for now.