You get used to some restrictions online when you live in Russia. There are a few novice server admins who block Russian IPs and I’ve lost count of the number of times an online order needed to be confirmed. “Yes I live in Russia. No, this credit card has not been stolen”. I think though that this case may take the biscuit.
Alamo Rent A Car and their sister company’s, National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent-A-Car will not let me hire a car from them. I fill out their form, explaining that I live in Russia, using their locator to select Los Angeles Intl Airport (LAX) as both the pick up and drop off point. What do I get told? That they have “sold out” of available vehicles and a suggestion that I try the same search with their one of their partner companies. Searches which all return the same result.
First I thought it must be the dates. It’s almost understandable that Alamo, National and Enterprise have all their cars booked at that time. I try another date. Any dates. Turns out they don’t have a car for me anytime. My suspicions are confirmed when I change the form to tell them I live in the UK. Suddenly the page is flooded with results. I feel like Bruce Lee, in the famous scene from “Fist of Fury” when he’s told No Dogs or Chinese are allowed into the park. Grrrrr.
So why do these company’s not wish to do business with Russians? Was it the Georgian invasion? Are they secret Republicans that approve of McCain’s hardline attitude towards Russia? Enquiring minds wish to know?
Seriously though it shows that Alamo, National and Enterprise need to take a good look at user experiences on their sites. It maybe a bug or maybe by the question “Where do you live?” they really want to know which country you want the car in. Either way, they have blocked any Russian tourists from renting their cars.
So what’s the lesson here? Testing is everything. If you are serving a global audience then always check your system from the perspective of that user. Use a Proxy IP from that country too, just in case the company’s server admins have blocked access and not told anyone. Resolving an issue like this can bring in significant revenue for the company, for example 12m Russian tourists travelled abroad this year alone. I wonder how many of them had the same experience as me?
Update 03/11/08: I’ve been contacted by National Rent a Car. They agree that their computer system has a bug at the moment but they promise it will be fixed shortly. I’m glad this post helped. They also offered to take my rental order over the telephone which was nice, so +1 on their ORM monitoring and customer response.