By ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Tampa is beautiful and home to tons of beaches, malls, restaurants and more. But let’s face it, if you don’t have a car, you aren’t getting the full experience. Taxis and other car services are great sources to get around, but the biggest flaw is the cost.
This year UT partnered with Zipcar to provide a 24/7 car service for students, faculty and staff of at least 18 years of age. The three vehicles UT offers are the Ford Focus Sedan for $8.50 per hour and $77 per day, the Nissan Versa Hatchback for $9.50 per hour and $77 per day, and the Toyota Corolla for $9.50 per hour and $77 per day.
The Minaret sent me to get the full Zipcar experience.
Those interested must enroll at www.zipcar.com/UT in order to become a Zipcar member and start renting. There, it’ll ask for personal information such as name, birth date and driver’s license. After submitting your information, you will need to wait three to five days for an email that will tell you if you were approved. If approved, the email will also tell you a membership card will be mailed within five business days, which was accurate. I received my card three days after the membership confirmation email.
Since a shopping trip was way overdue and taking a Yellow Cab would cost $25.50 one way,Taxi Plus would range between $25-$30 one way and an Uber would be between $18-$20 one way, I decided to reserve a Zipcar. Although I already knew what I’d be picking up at the mall, I rented the car from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. to allow time for traffic. My total for the two and a half hours came to $21.14.
I reserved was the grey Ford Focus Sedan Motonaga, which was parked on Frederic H. Spaulding Drive, in front of the Ferman Music Center. In order to get into the vehicle, I had to scan my membership card on the scanner which is located on the top left of the windshield.Not only was there a gas card but an AUX cord so I can play my music.
After a 15 minute drive to University Mall, I parked the car and took the key off the lanyard it was attached to. Although Zipcar says to leave the key in the vehicle, you can never be too sure about an area like University Street.
Three sets of earrings from Claire’s, a pair of running shoes from Kids Foot Locker, a couple undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, a much needed restock of the Twilight body spray from Bath & Body Works and a cinnamon pretzel from Auntie Anne’s later, and I was back at the car.It was now 3:58 p.m., and considering that UT is only 15 minutes away, I was running right on-time… or so I thought.
Getting to I-275 wasn’t so bad. It was a Friday and at this time, kids were getting home from school and adults are beginning to get off work.
By the time I reached the West Tampa area, it was already 4:20 p.m. and I was pushing my luck. Seeing the Downtown East/ Downtown West 45A sign was the happiest part of my day. It was now 4:26 p.m. and I knew if I sped up a bit, I’d be able to make it back on time.
The traffic getting to the West Kennedy Bridge was unbelievable. The lights went from red, to green, to yellow and back to red. I pulled into campus at 4:31 p.m. and I was officially late.
A Zipcar representative called me at that very moment and kindly asked if I was close. I informed her that I was pulling into the school and would have the car parked within the next minute or so. She thanked me and hung up. Hearing her speak to me in such a respectful way alleviated my stress.
That was until I reached the Zipcar Parking Bay and the student who had reserved the car for 4:30 p.m. was angrily approaching the vehicle. Rather than waiting for me to get out of the car or even take the key out of the ignition, he began tugging at my door. When I moved to get out of the vehicle, he swung the door open and said, “You know you were supposed to be back at 4:30?”
Trying to be considerate of the student’s reservation, I informed him that the traffic was out of my control.
“Well I had a doctor’s appointment and now I’m late,” he said.
I then apologized for the two minutes he was late in which he rudely shot back, “Well maybe you shouldn’t be reserving any vehicles if you don’t know how to bring it back on time.”
“Oh well,” I rudely shot back while walking away.
He then got into the vehicle and sat there for a while.
The next day I noticed one of my new Twilight body sprays was broken. I then signed onto my Zipcar account to reserve a car so I could go back to University Mall and exchange it. As soon as I signed in, there was a notice saying I was being charged $62.04 for my reservation the day before. I immediately called Zipcar.
“Hi, I rented a Zipcar yesterday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. however I just received a notice stating that I was charged for $62.04.”
She then kindly asked for the email I have linked to my Zipcard account.
“Okay so the charge you are seeing is a late fee,” she said. “Your reservation was supposed to end at 4:30, however, your reservation wasn’t ended until 4:58 p.m.”
“No, no, no,” I said. “If I am to be charged a late fee it should be for nothing later than 4:32 p.m. As soon as I pulled into the Zipcar parking spot, the next student reserving the vehicle got into the car.”
I continued to explain the confrontation I had with the student and then she asked if I scanned my membership card before leaving the vehicle. After I told her no because the student immediately got into the vehicle, she knew that was the problem.
“Okay I see what happened. I am going to refund you back the $62.04 but next time make sure you scan your card before leaving because that is how you start and end your reservation,” she said. “Even if the next person is upset, let them wait until you successfully end your reservation.”
Other than my confrontation with the other customer, I really enjoyed using Zipcar. It was cheap, definitely reliable and I was able to get off campus for a couple of hours.
Ariel Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org