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Nena Knows Jeeps: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Posted in Features on October 11, 2017
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People ask me all the time: “What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the Jeep rental business?” I have to say that just when I think I’ve seen it all, someone comes up with something new. While there is the cliché image of a rental vehicle as the “drive it like you stole it” rig, if even a measurable percentage of our customers behaved like that, I wouldn’t be in business. The vast majority of our customers are responsible and wonderful people who just want to rent a bit of “fun” for a while. Nonetheless, as with any business, there is the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.

This guy called our office and said, “I just got off the trail and the steering feels a little funny.” When I showed up at the trailhead expecting a bent steering damper, I found this.

The Good
By far the most common response we receive after a day out with one of our Jeeps is “This made our vacation!” We love being a part of weddings, engagements, and reunions. Family bonding is nice to see too, such as the time those parents with jaded teenagers returned and proudly announced, “Our kids declared us hardcore!”

Then there are the customers who become part of our Jeep family: “This ended up being an expensive rental —it made me go out and spend $XX,000 to buy my own Jeep!” Usually, we get to see them for Jeep School and Barlow Adventure trips for years after that.

Some of the stories we also love to hear are how our guests really took the Barlow attitude of trail stewardship to heart and helped out some lost four-wheelers they encountered on the trails, or picked up some stranded hikers, or extinguished an abandoned campfire.

While we don’t appreciate having to do a lengthy cleanup job on a Jeep that was bombing through mud puddles, our goal is prevention of this problem, not because of the hours spent cleaning, but more importantly, the impact that such behavior has on our trails.

The Bad
Naturally, there are mishaps from time to time. We understand that accidents happen, and we do our best to help streamline the insurance claim for the guests who just make an honest mistake or had a little more fun than their skill level allowed. The perfect example was the guy who succumbed to peer pressure and drove one of our Jeeps up the Escalator at Moab (not recommended), which resulted in him buying us a hardtop and pretty much everything on the right rear corner of the Jeep. He still had to answer to his wife, who had advised him against it. Please note: We do not offer marriage counseling.

Sometimes, people try to bluff their way out of paying for damage. There was that guy who returned with a 4-foot-long tree branch sticking out of the fender like a lance. When we asked him what happened, he said, “Oh, that was there when I picked up the Jeep.”

Then there are just the “what were you thinking?” moments. One guy drilled holes in the floor so the rainwater would drain out. Among all of the possible responses one could have to that, I know you are wondering the same thing I was: who carries a drill with them on vacation?

This is our Jeep “Sable,” waiting for me in an impound yard in Sierra Blanca, Texas, after a scary couple of days last fall when she was stolen. Fortunately, a border checkpoint in Texas caught the culprit and rescued our Jeep.

The Ugly
On a rare occasion, we have someone who really goes out of his or her way to get on the “Do Not Rent List.” There was a guy who took a look at our line of Jeeps and said, “All Jeeps suck, but I’ll take one if you give me a 50 percent discount.”

Or there is the woman who returned an excessively muddy Jeep and thought we didn’t charge her a cleaning fee. One of our crewmembers asked her to slow it down the next time they were out on damp trails. The now-former customer screamed back, “Do your darn job and I’ll drive however the heck I want.” Not with our Jeep on our trails, you won’t.

Having said all that, I know that, 99 percent of the time, we get a warm and fuzzy feeling when customers come back, all smiles, just having done something they never imagined possible and seen backcountry they never knew existed. Those people are the reason I rent Jeeps.

One of our regulars (a local family) is enjoying some time together on the trails in this photo. This is what it’s all about!
Fortunately, rockcrawling is so slow that injuries are rare when the Jeep goes wrong side up, but we insist on seatbelts and no drinking. Most of the time the Jeep goes back on her wheels and can be driven out just fine. However, these are always awkward phone calls, “Um...we have your Jeep, and we...um…”

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