Thrifty Offers Wireless Rentals

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Thrifty Car Rental launched a wireless service this week that enables its customers to book reservations on personal digital assistants.


Consumers can download the program onto their PDAs for free at the Thrifty Car Rental Web site, www.thrifty.com. The application is also available at CNET.com, Ziffdavis.com and Palmgear.com.


The service appears as a Thrifty Car Rental icon on the wireless devices. Users may shop for available rates, book a rental, review rental information and cancel rentals at any time through the service, which currently offers bookings at 82 Thrifty Car Rental locations in North America.


There is no service fee associated with the service, and many of the participating rental centers are offering a reduced rate to consumers who book reservations via wireless or through the Thrifty Web site. Price points for online and wireless bookings are the same.


"The intent is to begin presenting more attractive rates via our own electronic media services, because it generally costs us less to conduct business through those media," said Gerald Buckley, director of Internet marketing at Thrifty Car Rental, Tulsa, OK.


When consumers book through other avenues, such as Travelocity.com or Expedia.com, Thrifty must pay these companies a percentage, he added.


"If we are not charged to obtain customers, we can lower prices appropriately," Buckley added.


The company also decided to make the move to wireless to offer travelers a more convenient and accessible means of booking rentals, Buckley said. "The thing that is going to separate us is service, and this is just one more way to speed up service," he said.


Thrifty sent e-mail messages last week to 100,000 customers to promote the new service. The e-mail list consists of consumers who have opted in for e-mail newsletters through the company's Web site. The e-mails contain text links to the online application form.


"We are trying to reach people who are inclined to use electronic media," Buckley said. The company eventually plans to promote the service through other online and offline campaigns, he added, declining to specify.


Thrifty ultimately expects that about 70,000 customers will download the wireless service. Buckley would not disclose any current results. He said the company's site receives 25,000 unique visitors per day, of which 15 percent are return visitors.
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