Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rental Car Saga

I love driving rental cars. I like testing out new vehicles, finding ones that are fun to drive, ones that I would love to own and then the ones that I have no desire to drive at all. I was convinced to buy my current car because I rented one almost exactly like it first and took it on a road trip. Fun, fun, fun.

Rental cars in Louisiana, though, have given me nothing but headaches. Seriously. Our first trip I reserved cars through one agency that had the best price. My aunt who was getting there earlier rented from a different company, which turned out to be a good thing. We arrived late in the night and went out to the rental companies shuttle location and waited and waited and waited. No shuttle. Aunt C came and picked us up and shuttled us herself...to a very closed rental company. Seriously closed, closed, closed. So we wound up at the one that Aunt C had rented from and they were friendly, kind and considerate and open.

Trip number two came and we went with the friendly, kind and considerate company. This time they had 2 of the 5 vehicles we needed ready. Great. An hour and a half later we left with all 5 vehicles to pick up the 20 other people waiting at the airport baggage for us. I was not a happy camper but I dealt with it.

Trip number three came. We decided to rent the vehicles at the airport counter in the baggage claim area. All was successful until we went to pick up the 4 vehicles...there weren't any there. We had rented vehicles that weren't there. We finally wound up with all 4 vehicles but not without a little headache.

Trip number 4 we tried same rental agency again. This time we had 5 vehicles again. Shuttle bus picked us up and we rode happily to the rental agency. Again, no cars. I was really not a happy camper and stood my ground very firmly. 5 mini-vans, no 15 passenger vans. It took a while and some convincing of those who were going to be drivers but I stood my ground and we wound up with 5 mini-vans, a couple of which had 3 miles on them. Frustrated, we arrived at our motel, unloaded and then loaded up to head to dinner. At which point the mini-van that I was driving and that had a total of 49 miles on it decided it wasn't going to start. 45 minutes later, after many frustrating phone calls with the company they were sending someone out (with the intention of charging me for the service call if the battery was truly dead...um, no!). I must have needed the 45 minute challenge because for some reason the car started just fine when I tried it one last time. But the nail had been put in the coffin...the company was going to hear from me.

Returning home from trip number 4 I wrote an email to the company complaining about the service, the lack of vehicles, the frustration with the reservation system and wound up with a nominal credit back on my card. Enough to give me a reason to try them again.

Trip number 5 we were a little stuck when it came to car companies because we were getting in so late and many closed. So we went with same rental car agency again. This time there were multiple cars to choose from and we picked out the one we liked the best.

Which brings us to trip number 6. I was fooled into thinking that possibly the rental car agency had changed it's ways, gone down a new path and was actually going to have cars for us when we arrived. I reserved 4 cars (3 in October, 1 December 1st) and was optimistic. HA! All 4 drivers piled into the shuttle bus and made our way over to the rental car agency. As we turned the corner into the lot I looked out over the parking lot and said "Oh, this isn't good". There was nary a car in the parking lot. Nothing being returned and cleaned, nothing in line to be put back in it's proper home. Only a lonely 15 passenger van and a couple of teeny tiny cars. The shuttle bus driver said "I know this looks bad." You think???? The lobby had people spilling out of it waiting in vain for a vehicle. The lady behind the desk said "I can put you on a waiting list. It could be 20 minutes but..." Um-hum. Reservations mean nothing to this company is what I found out. Nothing. "You can try other car rental agencies, but if you leave here you lose your place on the waiting list." We left.

We got back on the shuttle bus and the bus driver let us have an earful of his opinion. He wasn't happy with the company either. Not good when an employee isn't happy folks. We returned to shuttle bus central and immediately split up, chatting up all the drivers and trying to find vans for our group of 20. In the meantime three lovely ladies in our group were inside the airport calling all the rental car agencies looking for help. Finally one driver let out the yell "There's one 12 passenger van at A---." A couple of minutes of deliberation, a check to see if there were two (they said no, just one) and we had a plan. C got on the A--- shuttle bus and headed over to get the van. I sent 2 drivers back to the original rental car agency to stage a sit in. I called the group in baggage claim and had 6 people come out to meet me with all their luggage so that we could join them in the sit in. The rest of the group was to wait at baggage claim until C came back with the 12 passenger van and then they would all come join us. 20 people and their luggage was sure to make an impression on that rental car agency. Especially some of the hot-under-the-collar momma's I had with me. Whew.

Just as the shuttle bus pulled up to the curb my phone rang. It was C, A--- had two 12 passenger vans, did we want both. YES! We jumped shuttle bus lines and raced to retrieve our two white 12 passenger vans. Mine had 3.5 miles on it when I jumped in. I put over 600 miles on that van by the time we were done...and had another adventure as well, but that's for another post. "Vanna White" pictured below
So, the moral of the story is, when reserving cars at the New Orleans International Airport, steer clear of the rental car agency that sounds like a place in Texas...they may be open late but that doesn't mean they have the car you reserved...or any cars for that matter.

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