Tuesday, March 14, 2006

from the archives: Labor Day 2005

Since my creative juices are being squeezed out by the analytical side of my brain for work I don't have a lot of interest to say. So I pulled the following story out of an email recounting an adventure I had renting a car in Rhode Island.

Prepare yourself, because here is the RI story and I must warn you that there is no need to exaggerate this story because no words can explain the extreme nature of this incident. I spent Labor Day weekend at my aunt and uncle's beach house with their family and my brothers. Beautiful weekend, very relaxing but I was anxious to get back to the city before the late evening traffic so my brother and I could have dinner and enjoy ourselves before I went back to work on Tuesday. I had reserved a car with Hertz in Newport, RI which is about 30-45 minutes from where we were staying for the return drive to NYC. My car reservation was for 11 am but we decided to visit some of the mansions in Newport before leaving and ended up behind schedule. Around 1210 or 1215 I tracked down the number for the local Hertz and called to make sure I could pick the car up a little late. The guy answered "Hertz" but then told me they closed at noon but he would go back if I paid a "service fee" of $30. I asked him what my other options were and he said I could go to the airport in Providence - about a 2 hour round trip drive for my aunt and uncle. My confirmation sheet for the reservation had a detailed listing of hours which indicated this location would be open until 5 so I called the Hertz 800 number to figure out why this place was closed and where the miscommunication occurred and to see what my options were. Meanwhile my uncle drove to another rental agent to see if they were open - both Thrifty and Enterprise were closed and those were the only options. So ultimately I called the Hertz guy back and told him I would pay the $30. I made the mistake early on to tell him that I would just talk to customer service about the mistake in hours on my confirmation and when I said this the guy told me he wasn't "comfortable" renting a car to me. I found this bizarre since I was paying him the service fee and I managed to talk him into returning -- he said it would be 45 minutes. So we had lunch and waited. I felt terrible about the whole thing because it wasn't just me waiting around it was my brother, my aunt, uncle and cousin. The whole "not comfortable" statement made me a little cautious about dealing with this guy. When he finally arrived and opened the Hertz place which was basically a run down old service station with a Hertz sign and a few cars, he seemed really bugged but I wasn't overly friendly toward him. I gave him my license and credit card and when he asked for the $30 fee I told him to put it on the card. He was immediately exasperated with me and said as he explained on the phone this was a cash only fee. He didn't tell me this on the phone and this already extortion sounding "service fee" was making me more and more suspicious. Especially since the 800 number person hadn't heard of such a fee. Very odd. So I asked him for a receipt and he refused. He said he had no way of giving me a receipt. We started arguing because he didn't see why I needed a receipt and I told him to just write it on a piece of paper. He refused. Everything kept escalating and he refused to rent the car to me again. I was pissed. By this time he is yelling and I'm yelling and my uncle tells the guy we aren't leaving until he rents me a car. At which point the guy says he will call the police and we said fine, we weren't leaving. More arguing took place and finally I threatened to sue him for justifiable reliance on an implied contract which got him more mad and he kept saying he didn't sign anything and he wasn't Hertz. Finally he said he would call his manager - which I thought was a good sign. He spoke with the owner for a few minutes and then passed me the phone. I had calmed down and I calmly explained the situation to the owner - that I was willing to pay the $30 service fee but I just wanted a receipt and now he won't rent to me. When I finished talking the man starting YELLING! I was floored! When I tried to ask him something he starting yelling at me to let him talk because he had listened to me and on and on. It was madness. We went back and forth for some time on the phone all the time they were still refusing to rent a car to me simply because I wanted a receipt for what I was now convinced was a $30 under-the-table compulsory bribe. The door to the place didn't have hours posted let alone holiday hours. The guy in the store answered his cell phone twice as "Hertz" and I was beginning to question whether the place had ever been open today. The owner was yelling at me on the phone about how he wanted a "receipt for a receipt" which I still don't know what that meant. I tried being apologetic and said I was sorry for yelling but I really needed to get back to NYC. Then the owner started telling me stories of other women he wouldn't rent to because they were abusive toward him. I was in shock! I couldn't believe these people were really being so belligerent. Finally I gave the phone back to the guy in the store and he spoke to the owner and told him that I had threatened to sue him. They spoke for a while and the phone was passed back to me and the owner said he had instructed this guy to rent the car to me. I thanked him and apologized for how everything had escalated (even though it was his fault) and he warned me he would check my contract first thing in the morning - whatever that means. He kept lecturing me and acting like I was lucky to get the damn car. Very shocking. Ultimately they didn't make me pay the $30 "service fee" (the guy said "it's not worth it") and upgraded my car. Of course the first thing I did when I returned the car was tell them what had happened and the woman couldn't believe it. She called the Newport Hertz office and got the regional manager on the phone who listened to the story and asked what I wanted. I told her to reimburse the cost of the rental which she did and asked that the matter "end" right there. She made some excuses for these people that they had "personal problems" and I realized she had been waiting for my call. As soon as I got to my office Tuesday morning I called Hertz customer service and told them the story because the guy should be disciplined in some way or possibly have his license revoked (he isn't a corporate location but a licensee which he tried to tell me meant he didn't have responsibility for my reservation - wrong). I doubt I will ever know what happens to this guy but it was truly shocking to be berated and yelled at and asked for money just because I was a little late picking up my rental car. I guess this is one of those signs that the care-free days of summer are over.

1 comment:

tiff said...

I really hope you asked your brother to pee on the seats before returning it... What a story!

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