The Monday Rant: (Rental) Car and (Angry) Driver
I got lost, I swear. Well, first I couldn't find a gas station, then I got lost. I mean, c'mon, Salt Lake City doesn't use street names, only compass points. (My hotel, for example, was on 423 West 300 South -- that's not an address; that's a coordinate, and another day's rant.)
I knew that getting lost would cost me -- $8 an hour, according to the Avis car rental agent. When I picked up the vehicle 48 hours prior, I was informed that the penalty clock would start ticking at 12:01 p.m., the minute after my car rental return time.
I'd left the hotel with enough time to fill 'er up and hop on the highway to the airport. But since I have no internal GPS, I ended up taking a very stressful impromptu tour of Utah's capital (a lovely city, by the way). When I realized that I was going to be late, I called to say I was running a tad behind and that I was on my way.
I figured the agent would note in my file that Car #24, carrying a thoughtful driver from D.C., was en route, last spotted somewhere between West-South and East-North streets. She said to not worry, that Avis had a 29-minute grace period for non-navigators like me. Relieved, I gave my rental car a little extra squeeze of petrol.
I drove up to Avis's check-out lane exactly at 12:29. I remember the time because I was so proud that I had arrived right on the dot. That takes skill. When I received my bill, however, $8 was already tacked on.
How did that happen? I thought I still was within the grace period. The employee explained that the late charge goes on as soon as you surpass your original return time and that the company no longer offers those bonus minutes.
I was floored, and annoyed.
I rushed into the Avis office and expressed my displeasure, explaining the mixed messages and unfairness of being penalized for following a rule they told me they had. Get your story straight, people -- and give me my eight bucks back.
The woman apologized and said the rule was fluid. The company tries not to trumpet the extra allowance, she said, because people were misusing it, thinking they had an additional half-hour on their contracts. These people were not getting lost in the city streets like me; they were probably having an extra slice of pie. So I had to suffer for those inconsiderate pie eaters? She said no, then removed the charge.
I left with my money back but still confused. So, should I give myself an extra hour now to return the rental car? Or should I pick an agency that doesn't apply the grace period rule willy-nilly? Alamo evidently offers a 30-minute grace period in domestic markets and 59 minutes in the European Union. From now on, I will try to get lost only in an Alamo car in Paris, Rome, Amsterdam . . .
Anyone out there with a similar story?
By Andrea Sachs |
February 11, 2008; 7:46 AM ET
Tales from the Road
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