This article is an account of the personal experience of the writer - Mr Satyajit Desai. Autosite India has verified the occurence of this accident on the said date. However, the opinions expressed below are purely of the writer and the team at Autosite India bears no correlation with the same.
I have always been a lone wolf, travelling around on my motorcycle with the sole motto of enjoying the exhaust note and nature’s beauty. On the long weekend of January third week, I was planning to ride to Jaisalmer. But, then, under the bombardment of all sort of emotional talks like – student life ka last trip hai / wapas saath me pata nahi kab ghumenge / ek baar toh humare saath ghoom, etc., I had to go for ‘THE TRIP’ with my college friends. For the first time in my life, I ditched my motorcycle and who knew that was going to be one hell of a mistake! I am never going to rent a car ever in my life! Here’s what happened during my first road trip with friends in a ZOOMCAR Mahindra Scorpio.
We were 7 guys, so any car smaller than an SUV wasn’t suitable. So we decided to go for the Mahindra Scorpio. We rented the car from the Jaipur centre of ZOOMCAR. Even though I don’t usually travel in cars, I had realised within first few minutes that something was terribly wrong with the car’s handling. My feelings were soon confirmed when my friend, who was driving at the moment, found it difficult to steer as the car kept pulling to the right. Either the rack and pinion units were defective or the tyre pressure was non-uniform. At the nearest petrol station, we decided to get it checked.
Guess what? The recommended tyre pressure for Scorpio is 35-40 PSI. In our case it was different in each tyre – 60 PSI, 55 PSI, 50 PSI and 40 PSI! Shocked? I am not kidding! That’s when we also noticed that the tyre treads had undergone so much wear-n-tear that the texture was super flat / plain. Due to this, the road grip was also compromised!
Fir bhi dil hai Hindustani! The trip must go on! My warnings were not taken seriously and my friends decided to continue the trip. God’s grace or the time favoured us, whatever you believe in, we reached Jaisalmer safely and enjoyed the stay. It was only on our way back to Jaipur that things went terribly wrong. Since there is a speed limit barrier by Zoomcar of 120 kmph, we drove responsibly, turn-wise and did not exceed the speed limit at all. About 63 kilometres from Jaipur, somewhere ahead of Nawa city, there are no streetlights on the state highway. My friend was driving and the speed was around 80-90 kmph. An overloaded truck ahead of us which must be at 40-50 kmph braked suddenly. It did not have taillights. Before my friend realised that the truck had actually decelerated drastically, it was too late to press the brakes. He hit the brakes hard. But, the car was a base variant and wasn’t equipped with ABS. As a result, the car skid and ran into the rear of the truck!
It was 7:30 PM (23 January, 2018) when this happened. The car was in an unrecognizable and immobile state. The radiator had ruptured, fluids leaked from the engine which made it pretty obvious that the car was immobile now! Touchwood, I was fully conscious and did not have any injuries. But one of my friend’s nose was bleeding at an uncontrollable pace. Two others also had minor injuries on the chest, arms and legs. I called up ZOOMCAR to report the incident and this is where things fell apart! The replies I got from the other end of the helpline were – ‘We are really sorry that you have had an accident. Our support and sympathy are with you.’ Seriously, is this what we needed at that point? There were no specifics given about what we were supposed to do next. We were totally helpless as nobody was stopping by to help us.
As per ZOOMCAR’s accident reporting procedure, I sent images of the car to a number given by ZOOMCAR employees. My friend was hurt so I asked if they could arrange for some towing van or spare car for us, at least to take the injured to the hospital. The response I got made me lose faith in humanity – ‘Sir, first report the accident at Police Station and complete the formalities. Then send the photo of the document on whatsapp. Only then we will be able to send a towing car/alternate vehicle’.
What he did next makes me hate Zoomcar to the core – He hung up the call while I was talking. Further when I tried calling numerous time, nobody answered the call. To make matters worse, the area where we were stuck is known for exploiting people, theft of car parts and you can think of the rest. With 3 injured friends, limited cash at hand and absolutely no help, I somehow arranged to tow the vehicle to the police station and to keep it in safe custody until the ZOOMCAR guys would come along with the driver to do their job – get the car out of legal matters and claim maximum insurance.
It was already 2 AM of the next day (24 January, 2018) when we parked the car in the Nawa police station premises. There was no call from Zoomcar till now. Neither was any vehicle sent to get us to a safe location or to take us to a hospital. Wonderful isn’t it? The Scorpio costs almost Rs 11 lakh. Forget we live or die, forget about humanity, are the ZOOMCAR employees not even worried about their vehicle? It was really shocking that nobody from Zoomcar helped us but the accident fine/penalty was already updated on their portal. How sweet right! Next day, my friend who was driving, along with the Jaipur centre employee, went back to the police station to complete the legal formalities. The same employee said that as per rules, if the accident happens within 100 kilometres vicinity from any of the company’s centres, a towing van is supposed to come to the spot. But despite being just 63 km away from the location where we were supposed to return the car, ZOOMCAR didn’t provide any support to us.
After all this, I only have these questions for Zoomcar:
1. How long should an injured person wait until your help arrives at the location?
2. How fair is it on your part to hang up a customer who seeks help in an emergency?
3. In case there is no internet connectivity, how is a person supposed to send photos of documents at 2 AM in the morning?
4. What for is the customer care if it cannot answer phone calls or chooses to ignore people in an emergency?
5. The tyre pressure can be slightly less or more. We understand! But how can it vary with such shockingly high margins? Shouldn’t it be checked before handing over the car to a customer?
6. Is it safe to drive a car with blunt tyres and no ABS?
7. Lastly but most importantly, with such an ‘excellent’ experience, why would I ever rent / recommend / suggest ZOOMCAR to anyone in my life?
The major takeaway I learned from this hell of an experience is that a rented car is a big liability and responsibility. The entertainment or fun we seek from a self-drive car is far lesser than the problems we may face if things go wrong. This is where customer service of the rental service providers come into the picture. It’s high time ZOOMCAR improves the way it responds to emergencies. Till then, it’s better to drive you own cars!