If you didn’t read what it’s like to be an early customer of Fair.com, please read this before continuing.
Fair was the best solution to the we need four cars in the summertime problem. It was not a pain-free process getting the car, we had a hiccough or two while I had the car, but here’s what it’s like to return a used car with the Fair app.
Five days before it’s time to return the vehicle, simply notify Fair. Keep in mind that the timeline is yours and yours alone as these are open-ended leases. I did this with a phone call. I also did this approximately a month in advance as I was concerned that Fair might be having growing pains and I was on a schedule. I received a return phone call where the transport company gave me time windows in four-hour blocks and asked me what my three preferred times were. I opted for three consecutive evenings after 6pm, and then a week before my car was due to be turned in I got a call from a transport company confirming one of those choices.
Owners will be told to remove everything from the vehicle, that once it touches the transport truck, there will be no opportunity to retrieve anything, personal items included. The transport company informed me that the driver would contact me a half hour before they were due to arrive.
I received a call the night before the driver arrived and then a text again that morning directly from the driver, reconfirming that he’d be here. An hour before the pickup window I received a phone call from that same letting me know he’d be late. I was given the option of rescheduling or waiting for him. I opted to wait as I was in for the night anyhow. This is the beauty of selecting the last appointment of the day in a city like Los Angeles where traffic routinely conspires against you.
When the driver arrived, he visually inspected the car first noting no damage and then the mileage. He waved goodbye, and a week or so later I received my final bill which included some miles we’d driven over the contract limit. As with the other months, a payment would be automatically deducted from my checking account, and then it got weird again… you know because it’s Fair and because things are sometimes weird in startup land.
I returned the Convertible Beetle mid-August. Here is the text I got on September 13th.
And the bill in the mail. This was curious as I’d already received and paid my final invoice.
Upon closer inspection, I noted that a refund was also issued to me. This billing confusion was easily resolved via email, however to date I remain uncertain if another $478 had been owed or if it was a mistake. I’ve been assured there is nothing more to pay but I’m holding onto that email because I have my doubts.
Here’s the check. Have you ever seen anything like it before? No logo, no return address on the envelope either. Nothing. Again, in the email correspendence I was assured that this will not be the case moving forward, so it’s just something interesting to share with you about what it’s like to be an early customer at a distruptive business.
Much of the process was very odd, but again, it was still the right car, the right amount of time, and the price was… Fair. The Beetle was carted off to auction from my house. I didn’t have to drop it off at a dealership. Fair.com is much kinder to you on returns than Kia, Mercedes, or BMW. Lexus is still the easiest lease return I’ve ever experienced, yet Fair was better than Lexus by leaps and bounds because I didn’t have to leave my house or beat off a high-pressure sales person with a stick who is trying to flip you into your next vehicle. In a year or so I’ll let you know about returning a Porsche to the dealer (I am not optimistic).
When all is said and done I’ll likely use Fair.com again next summer.
There is no better option for short-term car leasing or long-term rentals, especially in a household with drivers under 25. I know that both Ford and GM have their options, but I found those to be even less user-friendly than Fair…. and less friendly. DriveCanvas.com was downright unpleasant. GM is absurdly priced with Maven, and they have The Right Trac for open-ended business leases… which are prohibitively expensive and your average salesperson isn’t even familiar with it.
Tangent: someone, please remind me to do a write up of the McLaren lease scams that Hollywood producers routinely pull. It’s evil genius, and I want to break it down for you but not today. Remind me. I promise, you’ll love this scam as much as I do.
I maintain that Fair is not in the automotive business, but rather in the finance business and it just happens to be automobiles they finance. We’ll see what it looks like in a year or two. I could be wrong, I made at least seven mistakes before making my way downstairs this morning so be sure to consider the source.
I believe Fair will get better and I know that being an early user at any service oriented company requires patience. Perhaps since it’s been a few months, I’ve forgotten just how much of my patience this process required.
Update: Today I visited Fair’s offices in Santa Monica.
I met with a woman in customer service who is best described as earnest, organized, serious, and thoughtful. Her tech pedigree is impeccable. I met with marketers and customer experience people as well.
Mostly though, I listened to Jennifer Parke (Fair.com co-founder and EVP of brand) who has a background in advertising. Jennifer’s demeanor changes when she talks about car purchases, automotive debt, and depreciating assets. When she talked about Fair.com she talked as an altruist, not as an experienced marketer.
Jennifer made everyone watch this, including me. Well, she didn’t make me watch it, but after she spoke emphatically about how many points it drove home, I felt obligated to watch it.
I have sold enough used cars in my lifetime to know that financing a used car is a sucker’s bet and a sales person’s dream. Journalistic sources estimate that Americans carry between $1.1 and $1.4 trillion in automotive debt. You can watch the John Oliver video above, it’s more entertaining than I could ever be, but there’s a word everyone should know, usury.
Now, I get that Jennifer is passionate about eliminating predatory lending, helping people get out of vehicles without being upside down, and creating a system of car purchasing that’s both simple and fair… but I’ve sold vehicles new and used, and I’m here to tell you that this is the exact language that I used to steer people away from cash purchases and towards leases.
I sold cars, trucks, and minivans to people who had saved their cash to buy a car and in my 20’s, I’d flip my foursquare over and draw crude x/y graphs where I showed them how one should own an appreciating asset like a home and I’d sketch that graph charting up and to the right. Then I’d diagram a depreciating asset like a vehicle left to right top to bottom and circle the sweet spot where all the value was, and the lease ended.
The moral of the story is that one should never take financial advice from a 23-year-old in a slutty skirt and foursquare at her borrowed desk… and that solid information can be bastardized to sell you anything at any price or rate, especially in installments.
The other moral of the story is that should a car become out of budget due to job loss, illness, moving or some other life event a Fair.com lease can end in as little as 5 days leaving the driver with little to no payment at all. This is why I believe Jennifer Parke when she tells me she solving the problem of predatory automotive lending.
I am a skeptic and a critic by my nature. I spend joyfully, and sometimes frivolously, but I am always informed. Cars bring me joy. I’d rather drive a minivan on a closed track than a supercar on the 405, and I’m willing to pay for that joy – but again, these are informed purchases. I want to peek in the corners, and I enjoy seeing the trends as they come and as they go. I will also follow up with Fair.com and try to find the best, most current discount coupon codes for new users because at the end of the day I do recommend Fair.com for the right vehicle owner.
Fair’s going to be around for a while. They’re humble; they’re hard-working, they’re singularly focused on making this a better customer experience. And make no mistake, Fair is selling experiences because anyone can sell a car.
So, I’ll try Fair again next summer because I love the idea of my kid coming home for just a few more summers, and you know that if I raised her, she loves a good car just as much as I do.