We made these plans three months ago. I bought the airline tickets on Southwest, taking advantage of the lowest fares I'd seen since we've been traveling from Arizona to Illinois. I've promised that visiting our grandchild will be effortless, carefree, easy-peasy. Checking two bags, having no carry-ons, not worrying about overhead space, B12 and B13 on our boarding passes... I did everything I could to remove the stressors from my reluctant traveler's path.
I want him to travel with me. I don't want him to worry. I want him to know that visiting the kids can be stress free. So, I planned ahead.
We discussed the advantages of a car service versus renting our own vehicle. Living in the suburbs, the kids depend on Bessie, their Hyundai. We couldn't be stranded. Relying on a taxi would quickly tax the budget. I watched the online offers, crawled through websites of car rental agencies, clicked on the banners scrolling across the screen, responded to the emails offering all kinds of deals, and settled on renting a full size vehicle from Hertz via the AAA website.
What a mistake. What a colossal mistake.
The roads were clear in Tucson; we got to the airport in no time. The park-and-drive lot was nearly empty and the bus to the terminal was driving up as we locked the car. The driver took the luggage from our hands and returned it to us on the sidewalk at the airport. There was no one in line before us at the baggage check in area, we were not over the maximum weight limit, and five minutes after we arrived we were in the security line.
I received a TSA Pre-Check pass, and was able to wear my shoes through the metal detector. Though the coffee shop had no muffins, sufficient provisions were available to get us through the three hour journey to Chicago. We had seats next to one another, the third passenger in the row was neither large nor smelly, and we landed twenty minutes early.
The trip went downhill from there. It's all the fault of Hertz.
The car rental facility is not in the terminal, as the reservation stated. We shlepped our suitcases outside and across the road and mounted a bus and stepped over rude patrons who wouldn't reel in their feet and collapsed onto the bench. Disgorged with other disgruntled travelers, we wrangled our own suitcases off the bus and into the curiously deserted car rental center.
When I made the reservation, the AAA website informed me that the reservation included a membership in Hertz's Gold Club. This would ensure that I had to do nothing but arrive at the airport and walk to my car. Would that that had been the case.
The two young women behind the Hertz counter seemed to be allergic to eye contact. Without a Hello or a How may I help you, I was greeted with a blank stare ... and nothing else. I presented my printed email confirmation. I spelled my name, twice. She told me to go to the .... I have no idea.... being heard by the customer was obviously not part of her training. I asked again and she pointed to a door around the corner.
We dragged ourselves out to the garage, finally attracted the attention of one of the women behind the counter, presented our paperwork, and tried to smile. She fumbled and mumbled and typed and waited, giving me no information. Finally, she looked at me, smiled, and told me that my Gold membership had expired. I needed to go back out to the lobby and sign up. Then I could return.
"How can that be? AAA told me that the reservation included Gold Membership."
"All I know is that it is expired. You have to go back to the counter."
"You do have a car for me, though, right?"
"Yes, ma'am, I have a car for you." I wish I could type in her attitude. It was snarky, snide, just this side of nasty. It was definitely not helpful. But, she had a car for us, and all I needed to do was paperwork. Annoying, but not that big a deal.
Or so I thought.
Back we went to the first counter. I approached the representative who had sent us out to the garage, told her that we'd been rejected, and asked for advice. She pointed to the (by now 5 person long) line..... and, as I walked away, as an after thought, mentioned that there would be a wait of an hour or an hour and a half since they had no cars.
"But, they told me outside that they have a car for me."
"There are no cars. It WILL be a wait."
"But, I have a prepaid reservation. It says the time I will arrive. How can you have no cars? You have my money."
"You have to wait on the line."
We left. Got back on the shuttle to take a cab downtown. There are no cabs at the car rental center. We called Little Cuter to tell her that we'd be delayed. We called the friends we were to meet for lunch and reorganized our plans. We stewed. We tried not to yell at one another. We tried not to pout. It was hard.
I called AAA. I explained my problem. I paid. Hertz did not deliver as promised. AAA was the travel agency involved. HELP!
She was lovely. She apologized. She said she would call. Would I hold. I did. I put the Muzak on speaker phone as the husband spoke to the daughter. She, who does things like this for a living, managed to find us a rental through National. I was still on hold. AAA came back, told me she was still on hold,waiting to speak with a supervisor, and would I continue to hang on so that she could go back and not lose her spot in the queue. I held on.
We got ourselves and our luggage down the long corridor and out to the curb. I hung up on AAA; twenty minutes with nothing but bad music was enough. We rode the bus - again - and got our now beyond bedraggled selves back into the rental car center, and ten minutes later we were in a brand new Nissan Maxima, courtesy of our daughter and National.
Let me also mention that the workers in the National area of the garage greeted us with a joy filled Welcome, offered to help us with our luggage, escorted us to the very first car in the row, and wished us well.
I've put a hold on the charge on my credit card. In the morning, I'll call AAA and Hertz and see what they can offer. The National rental is much more expensive than that which I'd booked in January, paying in advance to secure the lower rate, through Hertz. I'm seeking an apology, a refund, and compensation for the extra expenses we incur. I'd also like an explanation; they had my email address and could have informed me of the problem before I left home, or landed, or rode that damn shuttle bus.
I'll keep you posted. Right now, I'm going to schedule this post for tomorrow morning, turn off the computer, and hug my little girl.
Hertz tried, but they cannot wreck my vacation.
I refuse to allow them to win.