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On the road with a car rental manager

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Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff Photo

Diana LaPointe is a branch manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

If you want to see Gen Y toiling in the workforce, check out Enterprise Rent-A-Car, frequently ranked as one of the best companies to launch a career. Its management training program recruits ambitious college grads who are willing to work long hours – and wash windshields if needed – to climb their way up the proverbial corporate ladder.

Enterprise plans to hire approximately 8,500 new grads this year similar to Diana LaPointe, 26, who heads up the Arlington and Cambridge locations, and who has already put in her time as management assistant, then assistant manager, and finally branch manager. Since she shares in the profits of her location, LaPointe has been riding the coattails of this booming service sector, which is thriving nationwide post-recession, earning $20.55 billion on 1.63 million cars in service.

“I never really thought about all that goes into renting a car,” said LaPointe, who in her four years at Enterprise, has done everything from drive cars from one location to another, to dealing with body shops and overseeing office work force, rental fleet, and finances.

Q: How many cars do you rent out on a typical day?

A: I can’t disclose our exact fleet size, but this winter, with the stormy weather, we were often juggling 30 to 40 cars a day, many of which were insurance or replacement rentals, with customers needing transportation after accidents or during car repairs. You may not see all the cars sitting in our lot at one time, because if the business is run profitably, most of the cars are out on the road, and they only return to us when we need them.

dianalapointe6092.jpgQ: Customers can ask all sorts of questions -- what are some of the common questions you've received?

A: One frequent question is, “I don't have license on me, can I rent a car anyway?” or “I have an old expired license, can I rent a car?” Of course the answer is no, but customers still ask anyway.

Q: Is it true that rental cars can be hotbeds of vile bacteria?

A: I’ve seen my share of filthy cars, as I’m sure you can image, with crumbs everywhere, napkins, and take-out containers thrown behind the seats. But when a car is returned, it doesn’t go out again until it’s thoroughly cleaned, fluids are topped up, and the vehicle is inspected inside and out. My motto is, don’t put a customer into a car unless you’d put your own grandmother into it.

Q: What sort of customers do you see?

A: I’ve had everyone from the soccer dad who needs three mini-vans to take a team to a tournament, to a groom who wants a white SUV because his family is in town for his wedding. It’s a lot of fun finding out what is going on in people’s lives and why they’re at the rental counter.

Q: Is it true you can take home a different rental car every day, as a perk of your job?

A: One of my favorite parts of the job is seeing all the different cars out there and testing them out. And yes, I have the benefit of having a company car. Tonight, for example, I’ll drive a Honda Civic home. It can be confusing in a parking lot. I stand there, scratch my head, and think, “Where’s my car – what car did I take home today anyway?”

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