I experienced this phenomenom this past Friday while attempting to rent a car to go visit my daughter and her boyfriend in Maryland. I’d promised my younger daughter, who has an unusual burning desire to rent minivans and other large vehicles every time we venture anywhere outside of the Fairfield County area, that we would this time rent a jeep or some other SUV to make the looooong 6.5-8 hr trip, depending on traffic, to southern Maryland. (Off point: did you know that you could still be in the state of Maryland 2 hours south of Baltimore? It’s true — my daughter lives there.) With over 170,000 miles on my not so trusty old Saab, it’s a no brainer.
I thought I’d prepared well. Determined not to cash out my 401k this time, I’d gone onto Hotwire and searched out the lowest price full-size SUV I could find and stumbled upon the “greatest deal ever”: $38.99 per day, unlimited miles from Budget. Well. You know what they say: if it looks too good to be true… we’ll get to that, but really I should have been tipped off that this was going to be a doomed venture from the get-go when we took off first thing in the morning, having spent the night at my mom’s in Westport in order to have a good head start, to pick up the car in Stamford, which is where our great deal was to take place.
Cooler filled with holiday brisket, computer bag slung over my shoulder, daughter and mother parading behind carrying our bags, my boots suddenly slipped out from under me on her wet and slimy front deck, and I landed, bashing my head against the fence, cooler askew on my stomach, computer bag flying into a bush… all before coffee. Sign 1.
Sign 2 arrived after 45 minutes of circling Stamford trying to find the Budget location my GPS driven google map app was trying to lead me to. I know Stamford pretty well and let me tell you, the corner under the i95 bridge where the day laborers hang out waiting for work is not Budget Rent-A-Car. Enterprise was real close, so on a whim I did pull in there asking the kid in the lot where Budget was. Tacky, I know, but at this point I didn’t care.
It was probably his first day on the job, because he immediately and eagerly offered to match Budgets offer. Sounded good, right? Bags and brisket laden cooler were practically thrown out the window so fast I think the kid got scared. He definitely cowered. Not so fast. As the manager appeared in the lot to confirm, giving my paperwork a once over, he nixed that offer immediately. I thought the kid was going to get fired on the spot. I was told apologetically that that was a great offer and no way could they match it. They had no idea where the Budget office was. Bags and cooler returned to car. Two Advil ensued.
Finally, following a man I maniacally flagged down at a stoplight, I pointed a toy gun at his head and forced him to lead us to the train station where he swore Budget was located (OK, I’m kidding about the gun), only to find Hertz and Avis, no Budget. At this point the 13-year-old had sunk way down in her seat and I’m sure was astral projecting herself out of the car so as not to be associated with her fever-pitched mother. My next victim, a very nice Jamaican cab driver informed us that Budget was located in the Marriott Hotel, just around the corner. I think he had his hands crossed in front of his genitalia as he spoke due to my twitchy right eye. With his fairly heavy accent, he could not really pronounce ‘Marriott,’ but by following his hand gestures and pointing in the general direction of the Marriott tower I got it, and we, now 1.5 hours later, found the Budget, nestled deep inside the hotel’s parking garage… for anyone who needs to know for future.
Also for anyone who needs to know, Budget does not take debit cards, even with your credit card logo, even if there’s enough money in your account to pay for your kids’ next tuition payment, and even if they told you online that debit cards were in fact, accepted. Say, what?? I didn’t think the poor Budget man, who did not have the best customer service attitude to begin with according to this raving lunatic of a customer, really deserved all of my wrath at that point, being only the messenger of a large corporate conglomerate, as his only response was to please bring him my parking garage ticket so that he could “validate” it and I wouldn’t haveto pay the $2.25. Whatever.
Sign 3 and plan B and this is where the insanity, in retrospect, did in fact kick in. We’d go back to Enterprise, pick up a not-as-snazzy but who really cared at this point, full-sized car or whatever was on special that day and call it a day. After all, we knew where they were located and at this point that was half the battle, and we knew they accepted debit cards, and I’d rented from them multiple times in the past. So back we trudged, tail between legs, where the nice manager, who thankfully had not fired his employee over his little faux pas offer, was waiting — I’d called this time, we were all set up, all we needed to do was to prove that we weren’t going to steal the car by printing out a recent utility bill (?). Apparently, they experience a fairly high rate of stolen cars… and we’d be on our way! Finally!
Yeah, not so fast.
Sign 4: Apparently, one can only rent a car with a debit card if you have an additional X amount of money in your account. New rules since last we rented, 3 months prior. Denied we were, once more, and once more, tail between our legs, we retreated out to old Rosie the Saab, defeated, and questioning why we’d bothered to get out of bed at all that morning.
Well I’m happy to report that old Rosy did A-OK the whole trip down, and as proof, here’s a photo I took last night from the dining room table at sunset from my daughters lovely little cottage looking out on the Potomac where I sit happily, if not wearily, writing this blog. The brisket, having survived the harrowing journey, was delicious the first night and last night we caught blue crabs right off their dock and ate them. See photo. Very cool.
So now all we have to do is get home. I’m sure we’ll make it just fine, and if not, yes I do have roadside assistance on my auto insurance; I just checked.
Here’s my marketing tie in: know when to stop and change tactics. If you’re spending money on the same old Yellow Page ad that is costing you mucho dinero and not getting the results that you are looking for, know when to pull the plug and try another tactic. Use Google Analytics, and if you don’t have it, get it; it’s an excellent tracking tool for seeing where your business is coming from and where it is not. Whoever coined the quote for the definition of insanity was right on. I need to pay more attention to my own advice.