"Capitalism works, bad acting companies are weeded out, and those who treat their customers well will be those who remain."
This might be true if it weren't for advertising and public relations departments. Most established corporations can easily overcome a little bad press with a few individuals. Even BP after its gulf oil spill doesn't have a disapproval rating as low as Congress'.
The example I'd like to present here is Enterprise Rent-a-Car. This company was founded in 1957. Everyone knows what it is, and what they do. They have paid to feature happy people getting in and out of their vehicles on television for decades. Business Week magazine listed it as a "Customer Service Champ" in '07, '08, '09, and '10. It also won Budget Travel's Reader's Choice award in '10 and '11. They have annual revenues of over $12 billion and almost 70,000 employees. However, it is a privately held company, meaning it doesn't answer to stock holders or 'the public,' just their bottom line.
So, what we have is the illusion of a perfect example of a great American business model. Clearly, this company acts in good faith, or they wouldn't be so popular with their customers, right!?
In reality, this car rental company is horrible. Do a search on customer reviews. They get a 1 out of 10, on most I found. They log thousands of complaints about the outright fraud perpetrated every day with their hidden insurance fee agreements, damage accusations, and unauthorized charges to credit cards. However, unless you go looking for this information, or it has happened to you...then you probably have no knowledge of such things and so have a positive image of this company.
I am in a wheelchair, so car rentals are a whole other headache for me. I have portable hand controls that bolt in and out of any automatic in about 5 minutes. All that I really need is a 2-door coupe, because the door opens to a wider area in which to get my wheelchair through. However, I can't just show up and expect perfect service anywhere. I have to call ahead, make special requests from their homepage, then call ahead and make sure the local office received my special request, blah blah blah... Which I did here, with great efficiency.
I was in a collision wherein the other driver was at-fault on a Monday around 5:00 pm, and I needed to be in class the next day, so I put in the 2-door request that night. Tuesday morning I called to see if the local branch had received the special request and if they were working on it. The associate said they had, they were, but they would know more that evening or the next day. On Wednesday I was told they had several cars from which to choose, but that they had no 2-door cars in their fleet and that if I'd like they could send me to another company. Having rented from this company before, I knew that there were lots of 2-door coupes available in Enterprise's 1 million car stockpile. So, I took the sedan, but requested that as soon as they get a coupe, to call me.
After about a month I had to take the sedan back. The awkward transfer in an out was keeping my injured shoulder from healing, so I returned it only to find out that Enterprise had maxed out my credit card with a daily insurance fee. Initially, I had paid for the rental and insurance fees, but after the other driver's insurance "picked up the contract," because they finally accepted liability, I thought those charges had stopped, and that both me and my card would be reimbursed. I should have known something was amiss when I was provided the hand-written receipt for the cash portion of my payment. In total, to drive a car I didn't request for one month cost me $1161.91, when in fact I only owed a mere $258.79.
Undeterred I followed up, made another special request for a 2-door coupe, and sought to remedy wrongful charges through the local office. I was met with incompetency and an arrogant disregard for me and my situation. I was hung up on and repeatedly told a vehicle was 'on the way,' but after almost 11 days, I began to lose hope. They finally stuck me in tiny coupe, but still refuse to reverse the charges...
My story is not unusual or out of place. Talk to anyone who's dealt directly with this company and you'll hear similar stories. The problem is that as individual consumers, we lack the resources to affect any positive change here, and capitalism is failing us. My next stop is small claims court and possibly a Title III complaint, but honestly I can't say I have confidence in remedy through those options either.