The (Two) Keys to a Car Rental

by John Prince

When you buy a car you get at least two sets of keys. Why? Well, in case you lose one set you’ve got a backup. You lock one set in the car, you’ve got a backup. There are two drivers and each can have their own set of keys. You can mail one set to a friend and ask them to pick your car up at the airport. You name it. There are probably a thousand more possibilities.

Same when you rent.

So when I got my rental car at Enterprise the other day I got two sets of key. Key fobs, truth be told. Presumably for some or all of the reasons above.

Minor problem. The two fobs were wired together with an industrial plastic-covered wire fastened together with an industrial metal fastener. Great! Now I could lose both sets of keys at once.

I’ve had this happen before. A car in Orlando came the same way. And this wire is not the kind you can cut with kitchen scissors or bend back and forth until it breaks. You need a pair of heavy duty wire cutters.Now don’t get me wrong. I like Enterprise. They pick you up, as they say in their commercials. I have an Enterprise loyalty number. I’ve rented cars and trucks from them.

I asked the Enterprise agent in Orlando about the keys wired together and got a mumbled answer that they needed to keep the keys together and mubrle hubrrib and turilper. So much for that explanation.

Until I hear a more understandable mumble from Enterprise I have to assume that the real reason is that because keys and fobs look distressingly similar. And they must (by law perhaps?) give two keys to each customer. But they don’t want to spend/waste their time trying to match up keys/fobs when the vehicle is returned. So they use heavy duty cable to keep the set together, hoping that no one will cut them apart. Thereby soundly defeating the reason for two keys.

In my case: Wrong!

I went to my handy dandy tool box, got out the biggest pair or wire cutters I had and cut the cable. Now I had two fobs and an identification tag. And the piece of cable. Satisfying but still not really satisfactory. There has to be a better way.

A simple solution. For $1.79 retail you can get a stainless steel wire keychain cable ring that screws apart so you can separate the keys and put them back together again without cutting the wire. Or, for a few cents less, a screw-apart version with plastic coated wire available in six different colors.

As a technologically sophisticated society we create spacecraft that can, upon our signal, dive through a hundred-mile-wide gap in the rings of Saturn 800 million of miles from here. Or technologies that can slice out individual genes in a DNA strand, insert new ones and sew the whole thing back together again to create a cute, little kitten that glows in the dark.

Given all that, there must be a way to invent a gizmo that can quickly take a basket full of mismatched keys and pair them up again. The Acme Key & Fob Sorter. An AK-FIS, for short. MSRP $45 plus S&H. Quick and reliable. Affordable for every rental car office, garage, collision shop and fleet manger. Small footprint. Big savings.

If the two inseparable keys is an “operational mandate” as I suspect, it was probably created by a nerdy bureaucratic who has (a) never lost his/her keys or (b) has never locked his/her keys inside the car and/or (c) doesn’t have a spouse/significant other with whom to share the keys. If (a) and (b) are correct, I can understand why (c) would be probably.

When I return my rental to Enterprise in a few days the keys will be separated. Do with them what you will.

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