“I can honestly say the cars REEKED of pot 16 of those times (I’m talking properly hotboxed for an entire Pharcyde album type-smell).”

by Prince Of Petworth January 12, 2016 at 1:05 pm 51 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Miki J.

“Dear PoPville,

This came up at a dinner party this weekend, and I was wondering who has had the same experience in/around DC.

For the past year, I have used Zipcar as a way to get around on the weekends. Having used it at least 20 times, I can honestly say the cars REEKED of pot 16 of those times (I’m talking properly hotboxed for an entire Pharcyde album type-smell).

Other guests at the dinner agreed and one couple even mentioned they stopped using the service altogether because they now have kids.

Zipcar needs to address this problem and come up with solution. I’m not against pot, but I am against paying for a relatively ‘premium’ service that lets me down almost every time because of a nauseating smell I am subjected to.

DC, thoughts?”

  • transplanted

    I use Zipcar semi-regularly and have never encountered this. Try choosing a car from a different location? Alternatively, you can report the condition of the car to Zipcar and they can try to narrow down the suspects.

    • sproc

      The cars change hands enough without an employee check-in that any one renter can probably plausibly deny it. If it’s a serious enough problem, a tech fix shouldn’t be that hard: A hard wired smoke detector linked to the GPS that silently logs any events, combined with a “you smoke it, you bought it” clause in the membership agreement.

      • Mindi

        Please report it when this happens! If you report it, they are able to reach out to the person who drove before you. If someone has a trend on their account of multiple problems, their account gets closed.

        • Nicky

          Also, when I reported it, they comped me the use of the car for that time.

  • jdre

    But all this numbskull could say was “oh sh*t!”

  • jdre

    But more seriously, OP – what did Zipcar say when you contacted them about this?

  • CHGal

    I’ve never noticed this. Pet hair, yes, but not weed.

    • spookiness

      Yes. Pet hair has been very noticeable.

  • Curious George

    Rules clearly say no smoking in the cars, so if it smells like smoke you should report it.

    Fwiw, I have not encountered this problem, but I generally rent cars downtown.

  • emvee

    Yes, I’ve encountered this. I used a lot of the cars around Howard for a while and chocked it up to college kids. Definitely call them each time. Nothing will necessarily be done right away, but if you can point to all the times you’ve called and had issues with them, they’ll at least apologize with some drive time.

  • DC Lover

    For god’s sake, its pot – not cigarettes, you are making it sound like you found bunch of illegal drugs or unclean car full of crap… – get a rental car (probably cheaper), Uberx (def cheaper) Car2Go, or just find a diff vehicle

    • Anon X

      Orrrrr how about people could just follow the rules?

      • textdoc

        +1. Pot has a pretty strong smell, and no smoking = no smoking.

        • Anon


          Not trying to harsh anyone’s mellow. Outside of a car, whatever. Inside of a car, it’s hard for me to breathe. It’s something to do with the papers most people use. There’s a reason why no smoking is a rule

          • AnonDcres

            +1 I’m a smoker. Pot and cigarettes. I have to agree, report it. I never smoke in rental cars (i.e. Zip) or even in my own car. I don’t want to smell pot or stale smoke while driving and if it was a rental car from enterprise – i’d be charged a $250 cleaning fee. Zipcar should operate the same way. Also, it sounds to me like reporting it you can score you a refund or some driving time so why not report? As far as fixing the issue – have you tried another service or car2go? I say continue to report it until Zipcar hopefully effectively addresses it.

      • DC Lover

        then complain to the Zip car instead of making it sound like DC has a chronic pot problem (by throwing unnecessary and irrelevant statistics)

        • Anon

          ‘complain to the Zip car’ .. go back to smoking pot in your mom’s basement and come back to us after you’ve shelled out thousands of dollars on car rental service.

        • textdoc

          “making it sound like DC has a chronic pot problem (by throwing unnecessary and irrelevant statistics)” — I don’t see any implication from the OP that D.C. has a chronic (no pun intended?) pot problem. Perhaps this hits a little too close to home for you and you’re reading a message into the OP’s posting that wasn’t there?

          • OP

            *paranoia* haha

        • jdre

          lol there’s also not been one mention of statistics. This is cracking me up.

          • jdre

            (in the thread, I mean)

          • DC Lover

            16/20 – is it substantiated? was a complaint submitted with the Zip Car customer service team for each incident?

            I do NOT disagree that people should play by rules, but making it sound like every other car this person picks has a pot problem, but nothing else – its kinda insane

            This is not the forum to resolve these issues. If you want people to play by rules – then you should play the same rules and call the business (Zip Car) that you purchasing these services (instead of whining about it here)

          • derp derp

            +1. Someone is a little paranoid…. cough cough

          • OP

            I like your innocence, DC Lover, I do. Over the past year, I’ve spent hours on the phone with Zipcar to tell my tales. Nothing gets done, plain and simple. I sent in a quick post to Popville to get a general feel for other Zipcar users’ experiences. What everyone has noticed – including myself – is the fact that you’ve mentioned ‘pot problem’ several times… and never once did I accuse anyone of having a so-called ‘pot problem’. Maybe that alone speaks for itself.

    • DCDuchess

      Do you think pot smoking is fine but cigarettes aren’t? In this case, “no smoking” means no smoking weed, tobacco, crystal meth etc. etc.

      I could care less about cigarettes, but smelling skunk emanating from my neighbors basement makes me want to kill someone. It smells like you set a pile of sewage on fire. I would be super pissed to have to drive a car that smelled like that.

      • DCReggae

        Unpleasant smell = murder? Sounds like you’re not cut out for city life. I can think of a thousand other city related odors that are worse than smoking herb.

    • ET

      Defensive much?

      Clearly the OP has had a number of problems with regards. It is also equally clear – because they asked – that they were not certain if this was more widespread or just something they were unlucky enough to run across. So there weren’t really stats – and what they did use were just anecdotal numbers and not stats.

  • anon

    So glad someone else has mentioned this, I only use Zipcar a few times a year but for the past several times the car has absolutely reeked of pot smoke to the point of making me nauseous. I wonder if it’s location, I live on the Hill and reserve from the cars at the Colonial lot near Eastern Market. The last time (a few months ago) I called in to report it and received a canned reply saying they were looking into it.

  • General Grant Circle

    16/20 seems way higher than random chance would allow for – my guess is that there is one person/one group that is routinely using the Zipcar service near you for this, probably on a similar schedule as you. Report it each time and the data will eventually pan out (like in a classic logic grouping game)

    • Anon


  • yigal elohev

    “gentrifiers’ guilt.” ::eye roll::

  • anon

    switch to car 2 go? I’ve never had this problem with their vehicles.

    • CHGal

      Both are for car sharing, yes, but pretty much two different products.

      • emvee

        Yep, they serve different needs.

  • anon

    i haven’t personally noticed this (i don’t use zip car a ton), but i do know someone who found a bag of weed that was left in a car!

    • sproc

      Or that’s what they told the Virginia trooper…

  • John

    OR……if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

  • OP

    OP here – aside from receiving the odd *gratis* driving hour, Zipcar simply apologizes and asks if I’d be willing to switch cars (ie: wasted time). I pick up cars in the Safeway parking lot on 5th Street NW, Chinatown, and K Street near Washington Circle. All locations have offered THC-infused cars.

    • jdre

      Is that the local Zipcar branch, or like a central corporate office, giving you that response?

    • The OP Anon

      Keep asking for credits everytime you smell pot. Seems like a small annoyance if it results in free rides.
      I’ve smelled pot once with ZipCar and twice in Car2Go (over the period of 6 years and 100+ rentals between the two companies).
      I’d also report it so you can ensure it does not get blamed on you. Unfortunately, it’s hard to have nice things in the Big City. If it’s an issue here, it’s an issue everywhere.

  • owner

    The lack of respect that some people have for other peoples’ (or companies) stuff is frustrating and disappointing – though not surprising. I rent my car on Getaround and had a renter hotbox it. Luckily, since I check on the car between each rental I knew who did it and Getaround paid for a full detail (and presumably charged that renter for the cost). It very clearly says no-smoking on my car description. I feel like it’s bad to do this in a zipcar, but somehow feels even worse when you know you’re using a neighbor’s car.

    • anon

      this is what is preventing me from putting my car on getaround!

  • andy2

    OP did you call and complain? What was Zipcar’s response?
    I would bet they’d comp you some credit for your inconvenience or allow you to swap to another car.
    I h ave this happen far more often on metro.
    Smoking is fine, as is drinking – just please don’t do it in a way that impedes others enjoyment of our common good.
    No public intoxication or littering of cans/bottles.
    Don’t vomit all over public places after drinking too much
    Don’t smoke weed in public parks – or at least not during daytime use
    Don’t stink up metro with your weed funk
    Don’t litter your cigarette butts or blunts
    If you live in an apartment – take some minimal effort to properly vent your smoke so you don’t stink up a neighbors apartment.
    Other than that – enjoy!

  • Anon

    Hmm… I’ve never had this issue and I’ve rented pretty frequently in Bloomingdale, H St, U St and Eastern Market. Once I had a car that smelled like cigarette smoke and Zipcar was happy to switch it out for me, but never weed. I agree with others, maybe it’s the location?

  • Anomalous

    Of all of the many problems I’ve had with Zipcar, this has never happened to me. Cars full of crumbs and food remains, check. Half-full coffee cup and a used piece of chewing gum on the lid sitting on the floor, check. Car full of shaggy dog hair everywhere on the front and back seats and in the hatch, check (caused allergic reaction). Dirt crusted on the floor and hatch, check. So much coconut deodorizer sprayed in the car that my coat reeked of it for days, check. That last one was probably due to weed, LOL. But no actual weed smell, in almost two years of using the service. Not that I doubt you, but it can’t be common. As you can probably tell, I use these things all the time.

  • JoDa

    This seemed to happen a lot with the cars at the Brookland Metro. Since they moved those cars over to the parking garage across the street, the problem seems to have stopped. I’m going to wager that is because Enterprise took over the Metro station spots, and they’re cheaper than Zipcar. Definitely call and report every time. Eventually, they’ll be able to track someone down.
    Now if I could just get the dude who thinks our street corner is an awesome place to toke to find somewhere else to stink up, everything would be wonderful.

  • Renee

    I’ve complained to Zipcar, and Enterprise Car Share, several times about cigarette smells, sticky food spills, no gas, and other conditions some inconsiderate pigs have left for the next rider. It only takes a few to ruin the car share concept for the rest. I used to use both services regularly but can’t remember the last time I booked a car and when my annual memberships comes due, I’m out.

    I’ve also witnessed a Zipcar, car cleaner smoking a cigarette while sitting inside the vehicle. I did contact Zipcar about it. Can’t say if any action was taken.

    Uber, in many respects, works better as I don’t have to rush to get the car back in time and is good for grocery and other shopping.

  • markus

    Ha, we now feel we need a disclaimer before we express anything that may be seen as pointing out anything wrong with pot.

    I support pot use, but no one, no one so far has had an issue with them doing pot while driving? I’m more worried about a bunch of zip cars driven under the influence darting across the city than I am worried about their smell.

    • DC Lover

      THANK YOU!
      Deal with the smell or make Zip pay for it – if someone was inspecting the car after they are returned, then I will wholeheartedly agree with OP’s issue… but in this case I have no sympathy!

  • ExWalbridgeGuy

    Had this happen once and didn’t really think about it but next time I’ll call it in… hadn’t occurred to me that the person after me might call it in and I could get blamed….

  • Shaw

    Maybe the Kush Gods had to use Zipcar after the police impounded their rides?


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