When I went to my oldest grandson’s graduation a couple of weeks ago, I had no idea that I’d be writing a blog post about car rentals. But this is a warning to anyone who may need to rent a car for any use. Here it is nearly two weeks after I filled out the “How Did You Like Us” email, and I haven’t gotten any response from them at all. Nada. And yes, this is (somewhat) wine related. You’ll see.
My topic for the day is Thrifty Car Rental at McCarran Airport here in Las Vegas. (Cue theme to “Gilligan’s Island.” It’s the “three-hour tour” part I’m focused on). I should have checked Yelp before I rented. I was foolish and didn’t.
First, the wait. What. This is Las Vegas. While it’s true that their line and the wait were probably longer than they had to be, it’s still the Las Vegas airport and there’s going to be a wait. I’m not dinging them for that although they could have had an additional staff member or two once someone realized that a small group was taking more time than normal. But that’s just a small example of how their customer service corporate mentality works.
The checkout process was pretty straightforward although the cost of their “insurance” was 2/3 more expensive than the cost of the rental! Silly me. I should have checked with my auto insurance first before getting theirs. I quickly realized that the overall cost was easily twice of what I thought I was going to pay, but I didn’t say anything. My bad.
When I got the car, I went around it and took pictures of every ding “just in case.” It wasn’t needed, but you never can be too careful.
My complaint comes after the checkin process. I will readily admit that it was my boo-boo that started the ordeal, but Thrifty could have handled it much better.
I’m a local and didn’t want to drive my aging Hyundai to Southern California and decided to rent a car instead. Thrifty had what seemed like the best deal, so I reserved a car online. Because I haven’t rented a car in years, I didn’t realize the aggravation I’d have to go through at McCarran Airport, but that’s another rant.
When I returned the car, I first stopped at long-term economy parking to drop off some of my belongings into the SUV. I didn’t drop off my duffle that held several bottles of wine because the temps were over 100, and I knew that would be bad for the wine. I had to take two shuttles to get back to the car and who knew how long that trip would be!
I got back to the rental area and turned in the rental with no issues. Understand that my duffle has no wheels, and I had several bottles of wine in it. When I got off of the first shuttle from the car rental center to the airport and started across the airport to the other shuttle to economy parking, I started to get pretty tired! So I stopped, sat down, and pretended to look for my car keys so that I could catch a second wind.
Oh oh. No keys.
I called the 800 number on the back of the rental agreement and after several menus, I finally got a live person (pressing 0 can cure just about any menu issue) and asked if there was a way that I could get in contact with the desk here at McCarran to hold the car I had just dropped off because I think I’d left my keys inside. She cheerfully gave me the number for Lost and Found. It was full of pre-recorded menus and no live people; it was not helpful at all.
I called the customer service number (another 800 number), but they were closed. Closed. On a weekday at about 5:30 pm. I expected a customer service line that’s associated with a 24-hour company to have availability for at least 12 hours rather than the standard eight.
But I digress.
I called the original number again, and talked to a different young woman who, when hearing my story, asked, “Did you check our website?” Maybe she didn’t hear the part about my sitting in the middle of an airport. I stared at my phone for a brief, stunned moment.
“I’M IN MCCARRAN AIRPORT IN LAS VEGAS,” I said tersely. “I just dropped off the car 20 minutes ago. I only want someone to hold the keys because it’s going to take a long time to get back.”
“Yes, but if you check the website…”
“Did you not hear what I said? I’m in AN AIRPORT! I called the Lost and Found line and there’s nothing there but computer menus! I just need a number to the desk!”
“All lost and found information is on our website.”
I realized that stupidity has no brain cells.
I started the long and tiring trek back to the car rental building (airport to car rental shuttle then to car rental center), and stopped at the Thrifty counter which – miraculously – had no line. The young lady wrote down all of the information I’d need to find the car with my keys, and I headed to the rental area. “Show this to one of the guys in the orange vest,” she’d told me.
An Orange Vest (OV) guy took the info from the slip and away he went. About 45 minutes later, I asked him if they’d found anything.
“Well, if it’s more than 20 minutes after turn in,” he said huffily, “it may take a while.” I bit my tongue rather than yell that it would have been about 20 minutes if someone with an IQ had answered the so-called customer service phone line in the first place.
Understand that the outside temperature is at least 100F and although I’m in the underground (for Vegas) parking area, it’s still pretty warm. Plus, there’s the additional factor of steamy and stinky from all of the car fumes because all of the car rental companies keep their cars there. I could actually hear my wine turning to grape jelly as I waited in that hot, smelly mess.
After a while a guy in a Hertz shirt stopped by and asked me if I’d been helped. He’d seen me standing in one place for what seemed like an extraordinary length of time. I showed him my note from the upstairs clerk and he said that he’d take care of it. He waved down a security guy who was driving around, and away he went. I felt much better.
After a while, one of the OV guys came by to tell me that the car had been rented out already. By this time it was nearly 7:00 pm and I was numb.
“Your keys are probably in the lockbox,” he said. “The manager who has the key to the lockbox had to leave early, but is supposed to return. But we’ll go check to see if someone else has a key.”
I just closed my eyes and nodded my head.
After a while I asked if there was a place I could charge my now-exhausted iPhone. Fortunately, there was an area in the car rental building where I could plug it in. I called my aunt who has a copy of my house key. I told her what was going on and after she finished cackling at my story (apparently there was humor there that I failed to detect at the time) she said that she’d stay up to wait for me while I rented another car. I just couldn’t continue to wait any longer. After my phone charged up enough to use, I gathered up my belongings to head upstairs to the car rental area.
To make an already long story short, after about four hours downstairs in the garage waiting, questioning, fuming, and Facebooking, I had finally given up and decided to rent a car from ANYBODY ELSE.
While I was trying to decide which company to rent from for just one day, the guy from Hertz who’d been helping me found me standing close to the slot machines. He asked me to describe my keys, and I did. He grinned and dropped them into my hand. As it turned out, the ONE guy with the ONE key who’d left early had apparently left before my keys were found. So they, along with other people’s belongings, were left on top of the lockbox. That’s right. They were in full view and not locked up at all the whole time I was there.
The upshot of this tale of woe is that because no one from Thrifty even bothered to look, I spent more time waiting for someone to give me information about my keys than it took me to DRIVE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! I arrived at the car rental place at about 4:30 and didn’t leave the airport until nearly 9:00 pm.
If Thrifty had a decent Customer Service line or if someone had taken the time to expend effort, I could have spent time writing about something else other than their crappy service and my ruined wine. And yes, I realize that if I hadn’t left my keys in the first place, this would not have happened. But that’s really immaterial. A company’s quality is really on display when its customer service chops are put to the test. Thrifty failed. Big time.
I’ve decided to rent a car when I go to the Wine Bloggers Conference next month. While I haven’t completely decided which company I’ll rent from, I can tell you that it won’t be from Thrifty. Period.