OZOCar FAIL heads up
Being out at JFK the other night reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile:
Looping back and forth to the airport(s) as much as I do, I was really looking forward to trying out OZOCar, the outfit that bills itself as “New York’s first eco-luxury private car service.” Not only does the firm rock a fleet of Priuses (Prii?) instead of the NYC car service stand-by, the regrettable Lincoln Town Car, but I’d heard that each of their cars sports ultrafast WiMax wireless broadband. This, obviously, is a hook baited with people like me in mind, and I bit.
You know what? The experience sucked so bad I’m not even willing to give them another chance. They failed both my major mission-critical requirements for a car service – picking me up on time, getting me to my destination on time – and most of the minor ones as well.
Let me first give credit where credit is due. The Prius itself was new, nimble, and clean. Even though it’s not designed as a fleet car-service vehicle, meaning that it lacks such niceties as the rear-seat button that slides the front passenger-side seat forward, it was certainly comfortable enough for the ~40 minute trudge to Kennedy. I could see that a firm competent in the ways of getting people between points A and B – an Addison Lee, like – could build an appealing service on this platform.
Unfortunately, OZOCar is not that firm. For one thing, while they present themselves to the customer as indie and startup-like, on calling to make a reservation you’re confronted for the first time with the fact that they’re merely a unit of something called the Executive Transportation Group, whereupon you’re invited to “…dial 4 for OZOCar.” At this point, a trouble indicator began gonging softly but insistently, somewhere in the back of my head, but I pressed ahead regardless. (Prii!)
The next flag went up when, a full ten minutes after my scheduled pickup time, I got a dispatcher on the line who told me that the driver “couldn’t find my building.” This despite the fact that our building is both physically prominent and so familiar among NYC drivers, car service and taxi both, that they very often know exactly where I’m headed the moment I mention the intersection at which it lies. Then I actually see a silvery Prius circling the block, with its driver looking panicky, and since I’m already on the phone with his dispatcher I’m able to vector him in. More or less, anyway; he still comes down the driveway the wrong way.
Once on the road it’s no better. (We’re already twenty minutes late by this point, by the way.) The driver doesn’t seem to have heard of any in-car wireless network, but by now I’m so irritated that it doesn’t even signify. He makes a couple of…curious choices in routing us to JFK, choices I probably wouldn’t have made behind the wheel, but frankly it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before in the wild & woolly framework of NYC driving. We’ll count that as a wash.
The real capper is what happens when we get to the airport: the driver tries to insist that the airline I want is at a different terminal than the one I’ve specified, even though an appropriately-liveried plane is sitting on the tarmac outside, clearly visible from the roadway. (Yeah: now he knows where he’s going.) I watch helplessly as he swings past the Terminal 1 offramp and heads straight for Terminal 4. Where of course we’re told, after cruising the length of the curb asking all and sundry where the airline is, that it’s back at Terminal 1. We get back on the airport ring road, and what with jockeying and stoplights it’s another six or seven minutes until I’m finally where I need to be. I pay the guy, silently, and hustle to the check-in counter.
Did I miss my flight? No. Did I get to the airport with enough time to do what I needed to do, unrushed? Also no. Was the entire experience among the more stressful I’ve ever had in a car in NYC? You bet – and that’s saying quite a lot.
I returned to my standby car service, Dial 7, for my subsequent trip and those since. They’re unexciting, their Lincolns embarrass me, and there’s no zing to the experience whatsoever. Nevertheless, in four years of using them they’ve never once dropkicked a pickup, failed to find me or to get me where I was going, and that generally in less time than I had allotted. And they charge an average five bucks per ride less than OZO. I can’t tell you what to do with your time or your money, but if either of them particularly matter to you, I’d sure steer well clear of OZOCar, I’ll tell you that much.
What I’d really like is if I didn’t have to take a car service at all. Give me a Limousine Bus, give me an Airport Express, even give me an A train that actually connects directly to the airport (and does so after a single stop each in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens). Any of those options would be perfectly fine with me. I guess this is how we roll in the Greatest City on Earth.