Tuesday, July 24, 2007

San Diego Comic-Con Day Minus 1: Hertz Donut

Arriving in San Diego, you get on a little bus and go to pick up your rental car. And that's where the fun begins:

Trip One to the Hertz Rental Desk:

I have Express reservations, which means you step up to the Express desk, give them your license and credit card, and then print and pass you your papers. In Seattle (admittedly, at Budget, a different rental company at a different airport), I do this sort of system 5-6 times a year. It usually takes twenty to thirty seconds.

There is no one at the Express desk and the roped off aisle to the Express desk is actually closed at the end. It is adjacent to the Customer Service desk. I ask "Can I get someone at the Express desk?" There are four clerks sitting at the customer service desk talking among themselves. One of them looks up and jerks her thumb at the regular reservation line. "You have to go over there," she says. I get in line. There's about ten people in front of me and three clerks behind the desk, one of which is going through training. Two of the people being served are deciding what car they want to rent by flipping through the book and asking questions instead of having it picked out ahead of time.

It takes about half an hour to get to the front of the line. The man behind me starts yelling and complaining to the staff about it. They promise they will add extra staff. One more person is added about five minutes later. When I finally step up to the desk, however, I'm in the home stretch. I have a reservation and it's all down on paper. I've also reserved Hertz's pretty-excellent "Never-Lost" GPS navigational system, with the friendly chirpy voice of "Linda Neverlost" telling you when to turn and where. Good value for money.

ME: This car has Never-Lost, right? (pointing to my reservation papers where it says "Never-Lost GPS Navigational System Reservation confirmed")
CLERK: Oh yes, yes it does. It's a burgundy Taurus, and it's in space 613.

She has a bag of Skittles which she keeps munching on. My mouth waters. Mmmmm, Skittles. We laugh and joke about keeping your afternoon blood sugar up. She is very pleasant and polite.

Walking out across the hot parking lot, dragging my suitcase, I find a burgundy Taurus, throw my suitcase in the trunk, my other bag in the back seat, get in the car...

No Never-Lost navigational system.

Trip Two to the Hertz Rental Desk:

I'm lucky enough to catch my clerk hanging out at the customer service desk rather than at her post (even though there's a line of twenty people waiting to pick up their cars).

ME: I'm sorry, but that car doesn't have Never-Lost in it.
CLERK: Oh no! Hold on, let me fix that for you.

She goes back to her post and I follow. She eats some more Skittles while she punches up another car for me to take and gives me the paperwork. It's supposed to be another Taurus, this time in space 625.

I drag all my stuff back across the hot parking lot to space 625. It's a lime green Mercury something. It isn't a Taurus. I open up the front door and look in. There's no Never-Lost in this car.

Trip Three to the Hertz Rental Desk:

ME: You gave me another car without Never-Lost.

She is very apologetic. She's waiting on a guy and I tell her, "No, finish waiting on this guy, he was here." It takes about four minutes, which is fine. I notice that while the line for the rental cars has grown to about thirty people, there's yet again only three clerks waiting on people, including mine. I also notice there are six Hertz reps standing at the customer service desk talking to each other.

Clerk pops some more Skittles while she looks up my paperwork again. This time she calls to one of the customer service reps and reports my problems. Customer service rep takes my papers and goes out to the parking lot; returns five minutes later to confirm there are no Never-Lost systems in those cars. "Yes, I know that," I say. "That's what I was telling you. What I need is a car with one in."

She goes out and returns again five minutes later, telling my clerk to give me the car in space 779. It's another Taurus and it has Never-Lost, she says, and hands back the papers to my clerk and walks away into the back room. The clerk starts going through my papers and realizes she didn't give her back mine but someone else's. Wait while she hunts down the rep and finds the papers. Books me on the third car. She is continually apologetic. I tell her I completely understand it's not her own fault and I am very polite and patient with her, but that whoever's parking the cars in the spaces is putting them in the wrong slots. She hands me my papers.

ME: Thank you very much. But if I have to come back I'm taking your Skittles away and eating them all.

It is now one hour and change since I stepped into the rental building. The third car is in space 779 and it is the silver Taurus the paperwork shows. It has a Never-Lost system in it. I put my bags in the car and get in. It's very, very hot inside. I turn the key and turn on the air conditioning.

The AC doesn't work.

I fiddle with the knobs a little. On fan settings 1-4, there is zero air conditioning. On fan setting 5, the AC blasts nice and cold but very loud and very hard.

I sit and think for a moment. Do I want to go back or can I live with a car that has AC only at the top setting?

I put it into drive and pull out of the parking space for the exit.

At the exit barrier a clerk in a hut looks at my license and paperwork. I report the AC problem and ask him to put it in his report, which he types in. He peers in the car and asks me "And your gas tank is full, correct?"

I look at the gas tank. It is 7/8 full.

He marks that down so I don't (hopefully) get dinged for it at the end of my trip. And I zoom out onto the highway and head for San Diego.

When I check into the Radisson Harbor View they can't find my packages I had shipped to myself in their package room. The cheerful and friendly desk clerks goes off to look for them but returns to say she did not see them anywhere. I have already gotten an email UPS confirmation that they have been signed for so I tell them when they arrived and who signed for them. One is a big box that's a foot long on every side and has W. W. Norton on the side of the box. The other is a four foot tall, two foot wide, six inch deep massive box containing foam-core mounted posters for my SDCC booth. Hard to miss. She goes away and come back ten minutes later saying she can't find them. I ask if I can go look in their room because I'm sure I can spot them immediately. They say they can't allow guests in the package room but she will recheck and she rushes off again. I immediately follow her. Despite her protests I step into the package room with her, which has about a dozen boxes in it, the vast majority of them FedEx pizza-size boxes. Mine are leaning right along the wall. There are no other big brown boxes except my two.

There are no bellhops in the (under-construction) lobby or out on the front landing. She promises to get a bellhop to get a cart to bring my stuff up. I wait five minutes. No one appears. The desk clerk returns behind the desk and asks me if a bellhop came. I am remarkably patient when I say "No, if they did, I would be in my room."

She apologizes and goes to get a bellhop. She hasn't returned in two minutes so I manage to hoist the square box in my arm while pulling the big poster one behind me, tugging my suitcase with the other. I get up to my room by myself and toss my stuff on the bed and floor. I turn up the AC and veg out for a while.

Half an hour later I realize I'm still warm and sweaty. I put my hand up by the AC grill and there is air coming out but it's room temperature. The AC is turned up to maximum coldness. I step out into the hall. It is cooler in the hall than in my room.

I go back down to the lobby and tell them my AC is not working. A (different) desk clerk tells me she will call to have someone come fix it. This is where I put my hoof down. "No," I say, politely but firmly. "I would like a different room now, please. I'm going to be here six nights and I would like a different room now. On the same floor, please, so I don't have to lug my stuff too far." I do not want to wait until it is too late to do this: the hotel will be full up tomorrow and there is no chance to change.

She is very polite and apologetic and instantly gives me a new room a few doors down from where I was. I go back upstairs and check it out. It is cooler in this room with the AC off than the other one with it on. I flick on the AC. It immediately starts to get cooler in the room. I move my stuff and take the old key down to the desk clerk and thank her.

Then I go out and buy a bag of Skittles.

The moral to the story is: I'm too polite and patient a little stuffed bull for my own good. And, that if you book into the Radisson Harbor View when you arrive for San Diego Comic Con, don't let them give you room 613.

And yes, I have already written a complaint letter to Hertz, explaining my frustration, but that it was not the clerk's fault, who was apologetic and helpful throughout but that their system is severely broken and that I am unlikely to rent from Hertz again. I am patient, yes, but I do like to get form letters of apology plus discount coupons.

May your San Diego adventures be smoother and less frustrating! See you tomorrow evening on the floor for Preview Night!


Matthew E said...

The moral to the story is: I'm too polite and patient a little stuffed bull for my own good.

Oh, I don't know. You ended up getting (almost) everything you intended to get, and someone less polite might not have.

On the other hand, one or two gored clerks might have helped pour encourager les autres.

Bully said...

You ended up getting (almost) everything you intended to get, and someone less polite might not have.

That's the way I like to deal with and get through life, so thank you for backing up my usual world view, Matthew!

As Mama Bull used to say, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. But who wants flies? I want Skittles.

Dorian said...

It's a good thing you won't be driving too much. No AC in SoCal this time of year is murder.
(I'm currently melting in my office...the only room in the building WITHOUT AC...)

Isaac said...

Someone recently reminded me that you will catch even more flies with a dead squirrel.

But, you know, reading Matthew E's post, I realized that there really haven't been enough goring incidents in this blog's history. I know that you're a nice little bull, Bully, but I think it's your right -- nay, even your bovine prerogative -- to gore somebody some time.

The next time Dr. Doom (or some random rodeo clown) is giving you the what-for, and you're seeing red, tilt your muzzle downward and remind him that those are horns up there. And, presumably, you know how to use 'em.

Tom Bondurant said...

Sounds like you should stay away from the number 613!

Hope to see you at the show!

Sleestak said...


Novice said...

I think you were just the right mix of polite and bad ass. It is a rare skill that few can master.

SallyP said...

See, it's stuff like this that makes me remember why I hate to travel. Thank goodness you stuck to your guns.