NRMA Motoring and Services + ClubAssist (Battery service)

This post is more of a personal point of reference (leading on from an ongoing, personally conducted investigation into a different matter)…

National Roads and Motorists’ Association (“The NRMA”) to me these days are more of a Travel and Tourism company and would say in my own sole opinion they are perhaps now a different organization from what they were originally before demutualization.

They apparently own several Resorts & Holiday Parks, Travelodge Hotels (as a Joint venture with TOGA / TFE Hotels), Manly Fast Ferries, Thrifty Car rental Australia & NZ along with a couple of Tour companies. To confuse matters, they do not actually own NRMA Insurance (which is currently a brand of Insurance Australia Group since 2000) nor do they own NRMA MotorServe (now also a brand of IAG). Even to this day, appears many of their own clients and members are unaware of the distinction between NRMA Insurance and NRMA Motoring and Services.

Some NRMA roadside assistance personnel (while still being provided with a NRMA branded Van and Uniform) are in fact employed through a separate company called Club Assist who NRMA Motoring and Services have contracted out to for the provisioning of battery replacement sales + assistance, and auto-glass replacement to their members. While it looks like NRMA owns 30% of Club Assist, I’m not sure how many of the other Roadside Assistance personnel are still directly employed by or otherwise contracting directly to NRMA Motoring and Services.

Club-Assist are apparently contracted to do quite a bit of the Battery related call out work by other Motoring clubs in Australasia including Automobile Association Batteries here in NZ and supply batteries bearing the branding of the Motoring club they’re working for. That said, anecdotally, some people within my immediate social circles have claimed they did not find them the best value (Club Assist reps are allegedly incentivised to sell new batteries) and I would say it still pays to shop around if you’re in need of a new battery.

Club-Assist have also been deploying the NRMA branded charging stations over New South Wales along with the RACV branded charging stations across Victoria.

NRMA Motoring and Services + ClubAssist (Battery service)

Seeing straight through Thrifty Car Rental Australia “Smiles all the way” marketing

Update: 14 July 2020 – Have decided to move much of the commentary around Australian Consumer Protections to another post here instead.

I have had largely reasonable experiences with this car rental brand in Australia. Vehicles provided have predominantly been received in clean, tidy and good condition. Majority of hires have been smooth with one disappointing experience in the middle involving one of their licensees operating in Suburban Melbourne who I felt were dishonest and were also caught posting fake reviews to boot (Dandenong Thrifty / Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd). Continue reading “Seeing straight through Thrifty Car Rental Australia “Smiles all the way” marketing”

Seeing straight through Thrifty Car Rental Australia “Smiles all the way” marketing

Melbourne Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations Not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

I have been receiving the occasional inquiry from those looking for alternative Thrifty Car and Truck Rental locations in the Melbourne area that are not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

The background is that, as a regular repeat customer to the Thrifty Car rental brand, I’ve had issues with their independent Licensee, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd which I’ve written about and it appears some other repeat Thrifty customers have as well. It would appear Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd have their own different way of doing things despite carrying the Thrifty banner.

Anyway, to the best of my ability…

Thrifty Locations Operated by Other Business Units

‘Thrifty’ branded locations in the Melbourne area that are NOT operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd

  • Melbourne Airport – Kingmill Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne City (Spencer St) – Kingmill Pty Ltd
  • Brighton – Christer Australia Pty Ltd
  • South Yarra – Unknown
  • South Melbourne – Christer Australia Pty Ltd

‘Thrifty’ branded locations in regional Victoria that are NOT operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd

  • Ballarat – Lyme Hill Pty Ltd
  • Bendigo – Unknown
  • Horsham – Unknown (Operated as Part of a Holden Dealership)

Kingmill Pty Ltd is the Australian Master franchise holder for the Thrifty brand in Australia.

Thrifty locations Operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations which are operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd T/A Thrifty Car rental Victoria (and which I’ve made a personal pledge to avoid dealing with)…

  • Avalon Airport, VIC
  • Bayswater, VIC
  • Blackburn, VIC
  • Clayton, VIC
  • Coburg, VIC
  • Campbellfield, VIC
  • Dandenong, VIC
  • Derrimut, VIC
  • Footscray, VIC
  • Frankston, VIC
  • Geelong, VIC
  • Hoppers Crossing, VIC
  • Moorabbin, VIC
  • Pakenham, VIC
  • Preston, VIC
  • Richmond, VIC
  • Tullamarine, VIC (Not the Airport one)

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd also operate…

  • Thrifty Mount Gambier Airport (South Australia)
  • Thrifty Vehicle Sales (Dandenong, VIC)

 

With that said, Thrifty in Australia are no longer my “go-to” brand as such. When I am due next to be travelling around Australia will now be looking at each individual car rental franchise / agency on their own merits, independent of the brand they carry

 

Melbourne Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Locations Not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

Thrifty Car Rental Franchise Caught Posting Fake Reviews

Update: June 2019 – Thrifty Australian Head Office have also since been notified and have advised they have since started working with their Dandenong based Licensee, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, to gradually remove the offending reviews posted by franchise staff.

Have also been fielding the occasional E-mail from those purporting to be past employees of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, describing Working Conditions, etc, however have chosen not to elaborate on those here in this particular blog post.

Topping off personally my most disappointing consumer experience to date either side of the Tasman that I can recall… upon looking to place a review regarding my last hire experience with Thrifty Car Rental out of Mickelham Road, (Melbourne), discovered that the franchise owner along with certain senior staff of franchise operation Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, had posted several of their own reviews whilst failing to disclose their commercial and/or employment connection to the business…

Lawrence (Vic.) Pty Ltd. T/A Thrifty Vic Car and Truck rental – Glenn Lawrence…
Personally I think that these guys are the best rental company in Victoria. They always have great service a delivery on time with a smile. I would recommend them to anybody.“ 
– S
ource: Google Maps
(This has since been removed upon advising I had referred the matter to the ACCC and CAV)

Thrifty Franchise owner Lawrence (Vic.) Pty Ltd for Dandenong, posting a 5 star review of his own business. This has since been removed.

…Being the owner, of course he would think and say that about his own business.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer, was also discovered to have placed multiple 5 star ratings of a number of Thrifty Car and Truck rental locations…

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer placing 5 star ratings for various Thrifty locations. (Weipa Thrifty is owned by a different Franchise)

Some more ratings placed by the same person. He has placed 5 star ratings on at least 8 (possibly more) locations owned by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd along with 5 star ratings for a handful of other Thrifty Locations owned by other business units.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer placing several 5 star ratings for Thrifty Car Rental locations owned and operated by Lawrence Vic Pty. ltd.

 

Also briefly came across this… Known employees (confirmed upon glancing at their profiles) including the owner of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd are seen posting fake ratings and reviews for Thrifty Vehicle Sales location that they operate in Dandenong.

Fake Reviews posted to the Thrifty Vehicle Sales page in Dandenong by those in the employ of the reviewed business (Lawrence Vic Pty ltd). These have now been removed after advising I had referred the matter to the ACCC and CAV

Furthermore, if you glance at the rest of the profiles from where the ratings and reviews have come from, quite a few of them I feel appeared (at least to me) to be from direct friends to one of the Staff in question (Profiles liking and commenting on posts from the staffer’s profile and vice versa or more apparent, the staffer appearing on the friends widget of those profiles).

While friends of staff are well within their right to place a review if they are genuine customers, a potential conflict of interest is present and this should really be disclosed within any review they post as per the ACCC Guidelines in respect to asking friends to leave a review.

More Lawrence Thrifty staff posting positive reviews, this time for Thrifty Weipa. (While this may be a different business unit to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, they are still part of the Australian Thrifty Car Rental network and any such review should disclose this)

Thrifty Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd employees posting reviews for Thrifty Weipa. While a different Franchise, they are still part of the same network and should be disclosed.

 

An older review from 3 years ago posted by another employee of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd…

Another Google self review from a Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd staffer for Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Campbellfield.

 

Here’s a more recent glowing review for Thrifty Car and Truck Rental for Footscray…
(the statement “…team that works together to achieve their goals” caught my eye as it’s not normally something posted by a genuine customer)

(The review below was quickly removed after I posted a temporary review publicly challenging it)

Glowing review of Footscray Thrifty Car and Truck Rental posted by a staff member of Thrifty Footscray. This was quickly removed after posting my own review to challenge it.

From then I looked at the reviewer’s other review for Coles Express, a service station very close by Thrifty Car and Truck Rental Footscray where he mentions “…as part of my job for a rental car company…”

Same employee mentioning he worked for a car rental firm. No surprises which one.

 

…All the above fake reviews were the ones that were known about and could be directly linked to Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel.

The last fake testimonial above was only caught by virtue that the staff member in question had posted in another review mentioning he worked for a rental car company.

In my mind, it certainly raises the question…
How many of the other customer testimonials could also be fake or otherwise have been posted by Thrifty Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personnel?

Wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd management possibly encouraged their employees to engage in the practice particularly since the owner himself was seen placing at least a couple of his own fake reviews.

Reviews posted to Lawrence Vic Pty ltd. New location: Thrifty Coburg in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. While an individual review from a profile where this is their only review is not sufficient by itself to raise a red flag, the ratio of such reviews do raise a red flag with me.

Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s newer location, Thrifty Coburg, Melbourne, Victoria. 4 out of 6 reviews revealed anomalies. 3 out of 6 reviews were posted by people with only 1 review with a 4th review from below…

The reason why this looks fishy…

  • The ratio. Out of 6 total reviews, 3 were made by reviewers with only 1 review,
  • One of them being especially and suspiciously hyperbolic. “Wow, what an experience” is a sizable red flag to me as such reviews have in the past often been found to be fake upon my own investigation. How often would one be so over the moon renting from a car hire place?
  • A 4th review was made by a reviewer who has a total of 4 Google reviews to her name. However, out of those 4 reviews, 3 of them are for Thrifty locations all operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd, another red flag…

 

This reviewer has a total of 4 Google reviews to her name. 3 of them for Thrifty locations, all operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.

There is a Michael Nguyen who works as a manager for Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s Thrifty Footscray location. Whether he is the same Michael Nguyen who posted this (in my view) rather anomalous review for Thrifty Vehicle Sales Dandenong is not able to be definitively confirmed as there are a ton of People called Michael Nguyen in the Melbourne Area.

While I acknowledge that Lawrence Vic Pty ltd isn’t alone in such antics (Far from it), Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd is the first business (that isn’t an outright cold calling boiler room “wire” scam operation) who I have both personally had any sort of interaction with and seen engaging in the posting of falsified testimonials.

Regardless, I don’t anticipate dealing with this particular Thrifty Car Rental licensee again given there are so many other hire options – including within Thrifty’s own network itself (Alternate Thrifty locations in Melbourne not operated by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.)

Overall my hire experience with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd was far removed from my usually smooth hire experience under the Thrifty brand in Australia. I will admit to totally letting my guard down in this instance due to trust built up from multiple positive hiring experiences before hand under the Thrifty brand. Issues with the Lawrence Franchise included…

  • Failure to disclose full fee structure in their written legal documentation
  • Upon contacting the Licensee’s HQ at Dandenong thinking that these matters would be easy to clarifty, was instead met with a defensive attitude with the chain of communication abruptly closing at “Thanks for your feedback on our disclosure”
  • Failure to provide a copy of the agreement at initiation of the hire requiring several follow ups. (This doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident with Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd.)
  • Upon eventual receipt of the above, discovered a break down add on I never requested and which I strongly believe was snuck on by the RSO under IMO obvious pressure by his bosses to meet his monthly sales target. The RSO agent I strongly believe highlighted the agreement in such a way to draw my attention away from it and skipped over it in the walk through.
  • On presenting a New Zealand Driver’s license, Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd demanded 2 x Australian Phone numbers and an Australian Address. No where was this stated anywhere on booking nor the unified thrifty.com.au Website. This is different from Thrifty Melbourne Airport and Thrifty Melbourne city (Spencer st) where no such requirement exists.

Their employment ads suggest a rather Sales driven culture I feel (“…totally focused on achieving targets and budgets”) and this has been emphasized in Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s ads far more than for Front line roles advertised by other Vehicle Rental agencies (operating under the Thrifty banner or otherwise) I feel.

I have also since dropped a note to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) to let them know of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd’s conduct.

If would be fair to say that I hold the management of Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd personally responsible for the matters arising out of my hire with them. Nor have I ruled out possibly taking out a case against Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) when I’m next back over the ditch on business.

In-spite of that, have since continued to rent through other ‘Thrifty’ branded business units in Australia without experiencing anywhere near the same sorts of issues. However, my continued custom with Thrifty as a brand is now under review (particularly so now that NZ AA and Thrifty Australia between them seems to have ended the hire car deals for us NZ AA Members).

In a nutshell…
I consider trust extremely important in any transaction I undertake and Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd through their conduct I feel have completely failed to demonstrate this.

If you have to rent through the Thrifty brand (for what ever reason) in Victoria, Australia. A listing of alternative Thrifty Car and Truck Rental locations in Melbourne operated by other business units and franchises can be found here.

Status

Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Short of a population contraction. Auckland transport crisis I feel is NOT going to be measurably alleviated in the next two decades for the average resident.

Auckland as a city is already on the back foot due to decades of laissez faire planning and the damage has unfortunately been done decades ago… it’s going to be difficult to reverse the effects of this through conventional means.

We have key zones scattered all over the place with reckless abandon, with absolutely no forethought for the longer term. We are continuing to build swathes of urban sprawl without any adequate transport infrastructure to go with it, continuing to repeat the same mistakes in the short term with long term consequences.

Bring up a map of Auckland and compare it with say Perth, Melbourne or Adelaide  and in contrast to the semi grid type layout of the aforementioned, Auckland’s roading layout frankly more closely resembles a city in a developing nation (Bali, Indonesia; Port Vila, Vanuatu). Roads placed seemingly at random with no planning what so ever.  Any buses that we introduce are made to zig zag all over the place in a vain attempt to capture the key zones. No regard for putting in proper rail corridors to new greenfield development sites.

This 28 Billion that the Labour government is planning to pour in, should they suggest conventional public transport measures again, I fear will tragically could end up being a gratuitous waste.  I strongly feel Auckland requires a more tailored approach in order to have any hope of mitigating the transportation frustrations facing residents in this city.

Ground Hog Day on Auckland Transport Crisis

Victoria – A Fine State

If you are planning to drive in the state of Victoria, during your trip to Australia, please note…

Self Drive Tourism Warning

While I never received a fine during my Road trip in Victoria, Australia, many other foreigners including tourists and those newly emigrated to Australia haven’t been so lucky (much to their horror at how comparatively strict and expensive the penalties were). If you’re used to driving at the speed limit, there is less wiggle room for even a momentary lapse in concentration should you be in the vicinity of an enforcement camera.

In Australia, the ethos of the “Speed limit not being a target, but the absolute maximum speed you are allowed to drive at” is perhaps instilled a bit more vigorously than say in New Zealand or North America for that matter.

  • The State of Victoria for example may set higher speed limits, but enforce them a lot more strictly (with a 3 km/h effective tolerance, by way of deducting 3km/h of the detected speed to form the alleged speed, along with heavy fines for even low level speeding).
  • In New Zealand, the speed limits may be set lower for the equivalent roading environment, but enforced more loosely (Higher general speed tolerance enforcement of 5km/h during holiday periods along with much lighter fines for low level speeding)

Victoria, Australia has some of the heaviest monetary penalties for speeding with fines that I’ve heard of, starting from 200 AUD for even just a few km/h over the speed limit along with 400 AUD fines for running red lights.

  • There are concealed (Not easy to spot) traffic enforcement cameras all over the state of Victoria. Melbourne in particular is swarming with Fixed Traffic Enforcement Cameras dotted all over the place, particularly on their Highways / Freeways, particularly under the over bridges cross over the motorways.
  • In Australia (and New Zealand), You can not make a free left (kerb side) turn on a red traffic signal as you can in many places in North America.
  • Road works zones are ENFORCED at the temporary speed limit, The State of Victoria’s fixed cameras can be adjusted to accommodate on the fly. There have been countless reports of even locals losing their licenses while traveling on the Freeways at 100km/h having missed the temporary 50km/h speed limit in place.
  • If you are driving a rental car at the time of the infringement, your Rental Car provider will most likely also slap an additional Administration Fee on top of any fines of around 66 AUD (if it’s a mailed speed camera fine). Unfortunately, it appears many Car rental companies do not make the hirer aware of how comparatively heavily and strictly enforced speeding is in the State of Victoria upon the hirer picking up the car from Melbourne Tullamarine international Airport.
  • The parking signs to those unfamiliar can be extremely confusing. Again heavy fines from around 80 AUD upwards applies for parking infringements.

While as a foreigner you may be able to get away with not paying any infringements, issues may arise at the border should you wish to enter Australia again.

The reason I’ve heard for such seemingly heavy enforcement for low level speeding is that it’s “aimed at bringing about cultural change in the driving public”. Another words, an attempt at “Nipping it in the bud”. That said, Victoria still has their fair share of speeders (The occasional hooner that is clearly 30 km/h above the speed limit) and the usual tailgaters following other vehicles closely as anywhere else in the world.

Continue reading “Victoria – A Fine State”

Victoria – A Fine State

Car Rental Relocations

Occasionally I will take advantage of Rental Relocation deals to usually to do a road trip after a key event concludes (be it, after a hike or after a work trip) to explore an area that is new to me.

Kapiti Island from State Highway 1

After attending the Outdoor Training NZ AGM in Wellington in the weekend just past, A JUCY Condo Camper van was lined up in order to go back to Auckland, where we took turns driving it back to Auckland. It was perhaps my first time experiencing driving a Van and a Camper.

About the “JUCY” Campervan itself. Main points…

  • A pleasant and friendly lady at the Wellington JUCY branch showed us around the vehicle, how to operate the various functions and provided instructions for return.
  • The JUCY “Condo” camper we got was in a good state of repair, very clean and tidy
  • A Freshly cleaned set of Blankets and duvet supplied as well as towels for 4 occupants.
  • All Cutterly, Bowls, Plates and Cups have been supplied
  • The Vehicle included two LPG hobs including Pots, Pans and a kettle.
  • A Chemical toilet was included.
  • I did find the Vehicle to be quite thirsty, drinking about 12-13 litres of petrol every 100km at Highway speeds.
  • The Vehicle only had a 2.0 litre naturally aspirated petrol motor and given the size envelope and weight of the vehicle, it naturally struggled with hills, while noticeably labouring at 100km/h on the flat. Be prepared to pull over frequently to allow other traffic to pass on hilly sections.
  • Noticed the Camper was perhaps a little more tiring to drive than a regular rental car. (e.g. in comparison with a Toyota Corolla Hatch)

General observations about renting a car (not necessarily confined to Relocation deals)…

It is in my feeling that you really need at least 48 hours to make the Car rental relocation journey a worthwhile undertaking, otherwise it could all just driving point to point with little time to actually stop off on the way to look at things.

Many Excess reduction insurance options offered by many rental car companies excludes the likes…

  • Under Body and Overhead damage.
  • Hail damage
  • Tires / Punctures.
  • Windscreens
  • You may still be levied with a claim fee of about $75 even if you took up the $0 excess option.

Most standard Holidays parks charge per person in terms of Camping, not per site, bear that in mind when looking around for places to stay. Cabins and motel units at the same Holiday parks are usually advertised at the Twin rate.

If you have a self contained Camper van, it may be prudent financially to take advantage of that and Freedom Camp where ever possible and as long as it is legal to do so.

Car Rental Relocations

Caltex pricing between their fuel grades

For about a year, noticed that the pricing many Caltex service stations set between their 91 octane and 95 octane products has somehow diverged percentage wise from about 5% to about 15%. I did inquire with Caltex New Zealand as to the reason why the gap has widened to the extent that is has, though it appears they’ve palmed off the responsibility to individual service stations, while the said stations have pushed it back on to Head Office.

Caltex Manuwera (Near Takanini Motorway interchange)

Anyway, in the interim, I shall exercise my responsibility as a consumer (as I did to Two Degrees Mobile) and go to their sister brand, Z Energy or to Mobil where both brands often have their 95 RON petrol priced about 15-21c cheaper than Caltex.

It also does bring in to question how often Caltex turns over their 95 product as well as I have noticed my engine recently appears to behave rather differently between different tank fulls of the same Caltex product. For example, one tank full of Caltex 95 RON gasoline may feel quite perky, while with another tank full from the next Caltex station, my engine may instead feel surprisingly sluggish with me needing to noticeably mash the accelerator a bit harder to get up hills.

So far with Z Energy, all my tank fulls have felt a bit more consistent and dare I say it, smoother running with a small increase in fuel economy (according to my written logs) overall. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it’s because Z Energy turn their 95 RON fuel over more frequently.

 

Caltex pricing between their fuel grades

Waterview Tunnel Pre-opening Visit

After landing back in Auckland, Embarked on the Waterview, Tunnel Walk, kindly hosted by the NZTA. Could walk about 900m in via the Northnound tunnel then crossing over to the southbound tunnel to walk back. (Though have to admit, was thinking we could walk straight through to the other end)

Waterview Tunnel Southern entrance

Beware, Fixed Speed cameras at each end and variable speed limit up to a Maximum of 80km/h.

Waterview Tunnel Pre-opening Visit

98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor

Updated: 25 July 2020 – Still no issues with the motor. Also fixed up some errors and typos in this post.

From the “Individual experience not matching conventional wisdom” files…

The NZ AA representatives routinely bags any “D4” (including the 1AZ-FSE) or GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) motors on their publications due to issues of Potential carbon build up on the intake valves, potentially restricting the airflow to the engine as a result of the petrol being injected directly into the combustion chamber as opposed to washing over the intake valves as per normal port injected engines.  They also recommend running Toyota D4 motors  on the “Highest Octane possible”. Continue reading “98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor”

98 RON Petrol in a Toyota D4 Motor