Kari Paul, whose fate rested in the hands of technology, rented a car-share (a hybrid Toyota Prius) through a car app called Gig. Modernity! Sharing! Yay! Except that on their trip the car suddenly lost service—which it requires—in the mountains, rendering the car unusable.
According to Paul (whose tweet about the experience went viral, leading her to write a piece for The Guardian), “We had stopped the car for a quick hike down to the beach and when we returned found we could no longer use my phone to start the car. A customer service representative told us by phone the car’s software could not be remotely reset as it was out of cellular service range. It needed to be towed.”
today in sharing economy struggles: our app powered car rental lost cell service on the side of a mountain in rural California and now I live here I guess pic.twitter.com/XoqqMpEwdN— Kari Paul (@kari_paul) February 17, 2020
The Gig representative actually told Paul that that happens often on that stretch of road. They then told them to sleep in the car and wait it out.
I can’t even express in tweets how insane this has been but we are safe! after @GIGCarShare told us to sleep in our car on the side of the road and try again in the morning we called a tow truck on our own and made it back to our Airbnb. TBD on whether I’ll be refunded for this.— Kari Paul (@kari_paul) February 17, 2020
Paul wrote, “According to an email from Gig sent that afternoon – which I did not receive until much later – to offer customers the “best experience”, cars are re-synced automatically every 24 hours; in other words, the car needs to update its connection to the cloud for security purposes. Without the ability to re-sync the car, customer service agents cannot remotely assist members, the company explained to me in a separate follow-up email.”
So, not only does the car need impeccable service in order to run, “it cannot be re-synced easily if it is more than 50 miles outside of the ‘HomeZone'”… or if the car runs out of “alotted restarts.”
also we were able to turn the car back on somehow but now we are afraid to turn it off because it may not start again and Gig told us we used our “allotted restarts” of the car so we are on a literal endless road trip through California now— Kari Paul (@kari_paul) February 17, 2020
Still confused? Us, too. Here’s some clarification:
no we parked the car and then it wouldn’t turn on due to an issue with the software, which the company couldn’t address because there wasn’t enough cell service for a reset it requires every few hours? I’m still unclear but the customer service person said it happens a lot???— Kari Paul (@kari_paul) February 17, 2020
So what happened in the end? “Ultimately, I was refunded for the trip and given an $85 credit for my troubles; I’m also being sent a Gig Card for long trips in the future. And when I walked outside this morning, the car I had gone through hours of trouble with was gone – someone else had checked it out and taken it on its way,” Paul writes.
People were shook about Paul’s ordeal, calling Gig’s failure everything from inconvenient to dangerous:
This is amazingly bad design by this company. Embarrassing.— Patrick Thornton (@pwthornton) February 17, 2020
"Embarrassing"? I'd call it dangerous negligence by @GIGCarShare.— Theodora Michaels (@tmichaels1) February 17, 2020
It's even more amazingly bad customer service. They should have sent a replacement rental (from 3rd party if needed) and handled retrieving this car themselves...— Ummon Karpe (@The_Equationist) February 18, 2020
@JoeSilverman7 “just rent a car if you need to travel out of your electric car’s range”— SoothingDave (@SoothingDave) February 18, 2020
In general, the modern world kind of makes things more complicated:
Modernity is at once incredibly complex, impressive, and dumb.— Gordon Chaffin (@GordonAChaffin) February 17, 2020
"Hey let's make a rental car service except it depends on an always-on network or it fails catastrophically" is incredibly complex and dumb but I wouldn't call it "impressive". impressively stupid, perhaps.— Harik (@HarikMCO) February 18, 2020
That there’s not an offline mode is incredible to me.— Just Jill (@egrishom) February 18, 2020
The last time I rented a car, they gave me a key so I could start and stop the engine.— Fred Garvin (@fgarvins2) February 18, 2020
How old-fashioned of them...
once smart cars get programmed with red lined hard shut downs, or no ability to start w no cell phone service - are deep design flaws that really go back to engineering, qa as well as human testers— Alan W. Silberberg (@IdeaGov) February 18, 2020
Apparently, some very tone-deaf human being STILL somehow defended Gig.
This is clearly a miserable experience, and inexcusable.— Peter Merho🛴z (@peterme) February 17, 2020
as an occasional @GIGCarShare driver, I’ve found that for bopping around the East Bay and in and out of SF, it’s a great service. It’s made it easier to be a one-car household for my family with 2 kids.
To which someone responded…
may i offer you an ad in this trying time— Martin Martinaise 🐮 (@typhoonjim) February 17, 2020
Next time you get stuck somewhere for 14 hours because of something outside of your control, please revisit your tweet, and imagine telling yourself these words. If your family is with you, have them join in as a learning lesson for the kids.— em (@brunchbinch) February 17, 2020
Someone had a pretty great response to Gig’s pretend “we’re sorry” tweet:
Tell us how awesome you are some more, why don't you?— Gary Tyrrell 📎 (@fleenguy) February 19, 2020
As the late, great Frank Zappa would tell his band members when they were too focused on drawing attention to their solos on stage, "You are jerking off [in public] and [we] know it."