Every so often, we have to do something unpleasant -- something much worse than cleaning up after sick kids or vacuuming under the fridge.
We have to admit we were wrong.
And so, to anyone at RelayRides who happens to be reading this post: we apologize.
When your company debuted in 2011, we laughed at your demo video. We said, "Renting your car to complete strangers? Who's going to do that? We haven't heard an idea that bad since the pitch for Ghost Dad."
But you have proven us wrong. You've expanded your service area. You've strategically grown your business through partnerships with General Motors and OnStar. You've leveraged the power of social media. And now, you're doing something we never thought possible.
You're giving airport car rental outlets a run for their money.
TODAY, SFO. TOMORROW, THE WORLD
Car rental companies make a considerable chunk of change from airline travelers -- so much so that finding rental outlets in suburbs and downtown areas can be difficult. For RelayRides to be truly competitive in today's rental car market, it needs to infiltrate airports.
And in San Francisco, it has.
The company has opened a new lot at San Francisco International Airport just for RelayRides members -- and it's free. RelayRides currently facilitates rentals at dozens of airports across the country, but this marks the first time that the company has created a dedicated lot just for car owners.
The gist is pretty simple: before jetting out of town, car owners agree to make their vehicle available to RelayRides renters while they're away. They then drive to the RelayRides lot at SFO, and a shuttle takes them to the airport terminal. (Estimated travel time: about three minutes.)
While cars are on the lot, RelayRides assumes all responsibility for theft and damage. And as an added bonus, RelayRides gives all cars a wash before owners get home.
The downside? If an owner return from her trip early, there's no guarantee that her car will be available, and RelayRides is under no obligation to provide her with a temporary vehicle. And there's also the chance that the schmuck who drives off in her beloved ride will crash it into a million tiny pieces.
Also a bummer: RelayRides keeps all cash generated from the rental of cars on its free airport lots. So, you can either get free parking, a carwash, and a lift to the terminal by using the RelayRides free lot, or you can park in the paid lot and rent out your vehicle the normal way using RelayRides. Sadly, you can't have it both ways.
If you live in the Bay area or are traveling there soon, check out RelayRides' airport policies FAQ and, of course, the terms of service. (Owners, pay particular attention to the section marked "Terms for Owners Participating in RelayRides’ Airport Parking Program".)
If you don't live in SF and have no intention of visiting, don't worry: RelayRides has plans to expand the airport program very, very quickly. In fact, the company thinks that airport rentals could generate over 50% of its revenues within just one year. Cool your jets and sit tight.