Travel Alert

Your personal information may be at risk if reserve your limo transportation from an independent operator network. Learn what the other limo companies don’t want you to know about the Limousine industry from Travel and Transportation EXPERT Ted Malecki of National Black Car. From general service failures to pure unadulterated corruption at all levels in the industry, Ted Malecki blows the doors of the limo industry in this ongoing series.

“Dirty” little secretes of the limo industry – the risks of using an independent operator network

Secret 1:

Picking a limo company isn’t what it once was. The market is dotted with faceless and brand less independent operators that have banded together in an effort to share leads as well as to market to larger scale corporate accounts. Buyers beware! These independents are as different as snowflakes. Some of these independent operators (also known as “IO’s”) offer outstanding service and reasonable rates, whereas others provide unreliable, unsafe and unacceptable service.

It is important for a limo company to provide today’s business traveler with reliable ground transportation at a reasonable price. The independent operator network is wrought with problems that must be brought to the attention of YOU, the travelers.

The way the independent operator network works is simple, leads and reservations are shared via email and text messages among an uncontrolled group of participants within the network. The individual who booked your reservation more often than not is not the person providing the service. To make matters worse, the individual who booked your reservation many not even know WHO the chauffeur is that is providing your transportation because your reservations was passed from one IO to another IO and so on. Call me old fashioned but I want to know something about the person I am getting in a car with. Does this person have a criminal record? When was their last at fault accident? Did they ever get a DUI? Are they certified (for example the City of Chicago Chauffeur License called a Hard Card). What is their customer service like? When was the last time their vehicle was inspected? Do they have valid insurance just in case of an accident? Needless to say the list of concerning questions goes on and on! Simply put, the independent operator network does not guarantee the degree of qualified service I would desire for myself and demand for my family.

In short, when you use the independent operator network you lose this level of control. In my opinion this level of control to ensure a save ride is the minimum level of control you should expect for your money. Again, in my opinion (you will notice I have a lot of opinions but know one thing, my opinions are based on fact and 20 years of experience) you need to look deeper into the loss of control. Identity theft is a growing business for thieves. What type of exposure do you submit your financial existence to by using one of these independent operator networks?

Did you ever wonder how the independent operator’s shares excess reservations among the independent operator network? I can tell you from experience YOUR personal information is shared via emails, text messages and in many cases slips of paper. In most of these cases, sensitive personal information such as home addresses and credit card numbers are sent in an unprotected format. In short, the data sharing breaks countless PCI compliance rules and regulations. I do not feel it is incumbent on the intelligent business person to give what amounts to a blank check to people they don’t know from Adam.

The last point I would like to make may actually be a saving grace for the customers of a Limousine service. A trade mark service failure of these independent operator networks is “not showing up for the order”. The independent operator is almost like a gypsy (in fact that is what they are called in New York) with their only loyalty to the almighty dollar. Given the choice of servicing the first order they accepted (your order) or a last minute order for a few dollars more, the gypsy will leave you waiting on the curb. In an unfamiliar city or airport this can be a very stressful situation.

My recommendation is simple, find a limo company that is a company and not a front for a group of gypsies. Don’t just pick your limo company from a Google search. You must consider more than just rate with you look for a limousine company. Pick up the phone and make a call. If the operator is also the driver, chances are you are dealing with an independent operator.

To get the biggest bang for the buck, I would suggest looking for a mid-level, no frills service provider. When I say no frills I mean no frills – a clean car with a smooth ride and a friendly chauffeur. Who really needs a copy of the Wall Street Journal in the back of the car? Who knows how many people touched that paper before me…heck, isn’t there a little thing called Swine Flu going around? The true mid-level provider has more than competitive price points. In fact more often than not the mid-level provider offers the best price in the market because they can take advantages of the economies of scale. The service offering is standardized with reservation and pick-up process the same from trip to trip.

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