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Monday Rave: Rental Car Save

Christina Talcott

There was some kind of computer glitch, I suppose, that cancelled my last-minute car rental at Logan Airport in Boston. I certainly didn't call to cancel the car I would need to get to Cape Cod for my friends' wedding. If you were reading last week, you'd know that rental got mysteriously keyed at the end of the weekend, but that's not what I'm writing about today. I'm writing about Hertz's customer service.

It was a dark and stormy night in East Boston, and the line at the rental car counter was long. When I finally got to the front of the line, I gave the agent my name, hoping the reservation would pop up and she'd hand me my contract so I could hit the road.

When she started making faces, I started worrying.

Somehow, my reservation, which I'd made that morning on Hotwire.com, got cancelled between booking (and paying for) the car and landing at the airport. I'd forgotten to print out or even write down my confirmation number and info, so the Hotwire agent who answered my call couldn't help.

"I should have brought my laptop!" I said to my travel companion, who offered his iPod Touch before realizing there was no free WiFi at the rental office. As we were debating the purchase of a day's worth of WiFi, the Hertz agent named Esther had taken out her phone and seemed to be texting....

But she wasn't. Esther reached across the counter with her phone and said, "I have Internet on this," offering it to us.

We were too dense to figure out her phone in our rattled state, so I asked her about making a new reservation. The initial cost? $55/day, more than twice Hotwire's offer. My heart sank.

"Wait, maybe I can find a better deal," Esther said, and she started typing furiously. Glancing at my credit card, she said that card would get us a discount. "I have an AAA card, too," I offered, and she factored that in.

"Do you want a Mustang?" she asked us. Thinking of the people we'd likely be driving around all weekend, we said no, but did she have a Prius? She could get the price down to $7 extra per day. We took it.

Extra driver? Free with AAA. Anything else we'd need? Nope, all set. Through it all, she kept us laughing, relieving the tension of what could have been a terrible start to the trip. And we only paid $10 more than what Hotwire charged us - and that's with the hybrid upgrade.

We flew out to "our" Prius and headed off into the Boston traffic, thanking our lucky stars for Esther, who saved the day.

(BTW after several phone calls and lots of transfers, I finally got the address where I can send a letter giving props to Esther: www.hertzsurvey.com. Good to know.)

Do you have stories of customer service that saved a trip?

By Christina Talcott |  October 6, 2008; 9:53 AM ET  | Category:  Christina Talcott , Monday Raves
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I hope the missing reservation and the keying incident don't represent bad karma for you friend's wedding. Will you being telling a story next year that begins, I knew this marriage wouldn't work out when I got to the Hertz counter and ...

Posted by: Tom | October 6, 2008 11:20 AM

Giving up on a Priceline or Hotwire pre-paid reservation is hazardous. Often the credit card company won't even let you charge it back if you can't prove in writing that it was Hotwire's error. I would have kept calling Hotwire till I got someone who could help me.

Posted by: Walt N | October 6, 2008 3:53 PM

ALWAY PRINT ONLINE RESERVATIONS FOR CAR, PLANE, OR HOTEL.

...AND BRING THEM WITH YOU ON YOUR TRIP !!!!


I once had to cancel a hotel because of changing plans. I called the hotel directly and I was withing the cancelation policy that is on my recipt. The clerk said I couldnt but I told I could and my recipt says I could. He eventually recanted and cancelled it without charging me.

Posted by: PRINT | October 7, 2008 2:45 AM

ever think the "missing" reservation was just a way to get an upgrade?

nice as she was, she did get you to pay more

Posted by: toby | October 7, 2008 10:51 AM

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