Marti's Theory

Today Car Rental, Tomorrow the World

Posted on: March 27, 2009

“I am JT, the Branch Manager!”It wasn’t the words that caught my attention; it was the way he said them. Spoken slightly louder than necessary, with equal emphasis on I and Manager, it was less of an introduction as it was an announcement, as though he couldn’t quite believe it himself. This had must be pride from the recently promoted, I thought to myself.

Watching him preside over the tiny car rental outlet, all five feet, five inches of perfect posture and immaculate aloha business attire, I thought back to the first time I was able to claim the word manager. For me it was “I’m Marti, the Assistant Advertising Manager for Madison’s,” emphasis on ADVERTISING and MADISON’S, as the field and the classy women’s clothing chain were the important parts of my introduction/announcement. It was the first time a job and its title really meant something to me.

JT, the Branch Manager had a day that industry folks refer to as getting snowed. It was Boat Day in Kahului – when the cruise ship docks and central Maui is flooded with several thousand folks with ocean fever – and impulse car rentals are common. On this day the “boat people” descended upon the small lot like a swarm of photo snapping locusts. By noon the rows of parking stalls were nearly empty, but the waiting room was full.

Nevertheless, JT, the Branch Manager didn’t waver. He stuck by the troops, greeting, registering, apologizing for delays, always in that voice slightly louder than necessary, as though the Regional Manager was spying on him from behind the silk ficus tree over by the soda machine.

“So to summarize, you elect NOT to take the totally inclusive, just walk away with a new rental insurance that would prevent you from being totally liable for any damage done to the car whatsoever?” As the exhausted customer glared at him in silence, JT the Branch Manager regrouped, offered a chipper “All right, then!” and finished the transaction.

I finally got the keys to my hastily washed white Hyundai and as I left, he thanked me and shook my hand, as he did with everyone else. “If you have any questions, please feel free to call me. I’m JT and I’m -–“

We finished the sentence together: “…the Branch Manager.”

Instantly contrite for being such a smart ass, I was relieved that he missed my sarcasm completely. He smiled broadly, “Yes, I am.”

Pulling away from the now quiet lot, I wondered where JT will be a year from now. Will he still be front and center? Or will be hiding in the back office, surfing the web and avoiding the customers that he now nearly body slams with Guest Contact 101?

Turning on my left blinker, I waited for an opening onto the Hana Highway. Easing into traffic, I headed home hoping the more seasoned JT of the future manages to keep his spark.

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