#2401: HireLower

The whole process of hiring a car is a brutal business.

Even if you have booked online, you still have to queue for ages while various punitive small print gets ‘explained’ and mysterious extra charges are applied.


I watched the queues at an airport hire centre recently and so today’s invention is an open-call market for hire cars.

Customers in longer queues would listen for realtime announcements from desks with fewer potential customers. These would say ‘hire from us instead and we will give you an x% price cut and deal with all the paperwork’.

As you near a desk, your susceptibility to a rival company’s discount decreases and so I believe that swapping of positions after announcements would be limited, not perpetually chaotic.

The customers would benefit directly from this red-blooded capitalism, as opposed to the current practices of shady cartels which seem only to make an empty show of competitive customer service.


  1. I believe I can show this would work, using a Lyapunov function… Thanks to Scott E Page.
    An L function is based on some measurement you make about a system. If the value only ever moves up or only ever moves down (towards a fixed, maximum or minimum value) then the system will stop changing at some equilibrium value. So if you can find an L function, it will go to equilibrium, eventually.

    I think that willingness to swap to a new renter here is an L function. For each queuer, if they move it will only be towards a better deal. At some point companies can only offer deals at some minimum price or go out of business. So they can lower the price differential only to the level where a queuer’s willingness to move is effectively zero. Thus I think that the above approach would constantly result in an equilibrium state (even as queuers continue to arrive and depart).

    Hope I got this logic correct…it’s clearly my fault if I didn’t pick up on the excellent teaching in Page’s online course.

  2. Here is a US-centric insight into some car rental minutiae …this industry is just waiting for its Richard Branson http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/07/02/how-to-rent-a-car-without-having-an-aneurysm/

Comments are closed