Friday, August 15, 2008

They should be prosecuted...

There are so many times that you put your life and the lives of your children in the hands of others out of necessity. Using mass transit, flying in a plane, booking a hotel based on their brand, website and reviews, and renting a car. You trust that the people in control are diligent in their maintenance, safety reviews, and operation. You trust that they will live up to their promises (both those they state explicitely and those they assume based upon their status and industry). When they do not earn that trust, it often puts you (and your family) in an inconvenient and possibly dangerous situation.

That is what has been happening with this story. You don't have to be neurotic about the safety and wellbeing of your children to appreciate the situation that many rental car agencies put parents in. I happen to personally be a little neurotic about carseat safety so this story struck a particular chord with me. But, any parent who has relied upon the integrity of a car rental agency to supply them with not only a safe vehicle in good working order, but a safe and well-maintained carseat has literally put their lives in the hands of that agency. Debbie, the mom behind the DeliciousBaby blog has been in that situation.

She first blogged about Advantage Rent-A-Car's unsafe carseats last year after what can only be described as a horrible experience. Thankfully for the rest of us she and her husband had the presence of mind to document the experience and as any good mommy would, share it with others to serve as a cautionary tale. The pictures actually make me sick to my stomach. The condition of the available carseats (which you have to pay an extra fee for, by the way) is deplorable. Some of the carseats had been subject to recall, others were well beyond their expiration date, all of them were so dirty I wouldn't want them in my car, let alone put my child in them. It further validates our decisions in the past to travel with our own carseat - a decision that brings with it a whole host of other issues, but that is another post.

The local press got wind of her plight and picked up the story. The result at that point was promises from Advantage to clean up their act and completely overhaul their available carseats. As Debbie is realizing, mommy bloggers are becoming a source of information and a source we put our trust in. Her most recent update to the saga regards a mommy who chose Advantage based upon their stated promises to provide their renters with safe, clean carseats. What she found was far from that. Here is a quote from the story:

Exhausted after a long flight, she struggled for two hours to find a seat
that could be installed safely in her rental car and finally drove away with
what she thought was the best of the bunch... a dilapidated car seat so old
that the manufacturer and California State Law both recommend that it be destroyed.

Deplorable. Absolutely unacceptable. I can't even imagine what must have been going through this mom's mind. The last time I was there, they didn't sell new carseats at the airport. So, even if she could have dropped over $100 to purchase a new seat of her own, she would have had to place her precious six month old child into the horrible excuse for a carseat that the agency supplied her with in order to drive to a store, thus putting her child in danger out of necessity.

I get so angry thinking about it, I can't think straight. So, spread the word to anyone you know with kids. Consumer demand is going to be the only way the car rental agencies are held accountable for living up to their promises and THE LAW. Clearly, existing law is not enough incentive for agencies to provide safe carseats. I know this is not a universal complaint. There are agencies and locations that do provide adequate seats. However, until there is a national standard that is universally followed, it isn't enough!

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