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)

Australian Consumer Protections + Regulatory frameworks

Update: 15 July 2020 – Rewritten to correct some of my own views and information.

I concede this is more of an unquantified feeling at this stage and this post will likely be added to or otherwise edited…

While Australia has both Consumer and Retail investor Protection regulatory frameworks in place, the supervision and enforcement of I feel of is rather weak and probably weaker than anyone, even Australians actually realise. This extends to their financial sector as well In terms of retail investments and retail banking. Continue reading “Australian Consumer Protections + Regulatory frameworks”

Australian Consumer Protections + Regulatory frameworks

ProductReview.com.au Australia

This blog post originally documented in detail some personal concerns I had regarding the validity of ProductReview.com.au’s claims, in particular it’s claim of “independence” made via their trust centre if they also happen to supply paid services to the businesses being reviewed on their site.

The matter originated from coming across what I feel were some fairly sizeable anomalies in terms of a significant surge of suspect 5 star reviews (that were too large to simply casually ignore) on a listing during what was intended to be a casual visit to the site.

Will look to refer this to the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading in due course purely to get their opinion on the arrangement. Right now with the COVID-19 situation worsening globally together with the fact this matter is in another country and really does not affect me personally in any direct way, have decided to put any such follow up on ice.

 

 

 

ProductReview.com.au Australia

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

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

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, Internal Culture issues, 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 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. (These have since been removed in haste upon advising I have turned the matter over to the ACCC and Consumer Affairs Victoria)

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 upfront the full fee structure in their written legal documentation in respect to minor damage caused by a small Roo jumping into the side of the vehicle. An undisclosed and non-specific 3.5% Administrative fee was levied on top of other Administrative fees and was not disclosed to me verbally nor in writing.
  • Upon contacting the Licensee’s HQ at Dandenong thinking that these matters would be easy to clarify, I was instead met with a defensive attitude from one of their accountants (who I now learn has since left the organization) with the chain of communication abruptly closing at “Thanks for your feedback on our disclosure” with no further attempt by Lawrence Vic Pty Ltd to explain or otherwise point out where in the written agreement these charges applied.
  • 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 most certainly skipped over it in the walk through of the said agreement.
  • 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.

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