Tuesday, July 03, 2007

She hung up on me.

Never again will I rent a car from Alamo. I've not yet used this blog as a soapbox, as a place to post complaints or complements about companies or products. Today that changes, and I'm not ashamed about it. Okay, deep breath. I don't want to get too worked up (if I can help it).

Scott and the girls and I embarked on yet another summer "vacation" today. Scott's sister, Liz, is getting married on Saturday here in Durham, North Carolina. So, we hopped out of bed at the insane hour of 2am (yes, I said 2am!) to catch a 5:30am flight out of Denver. Our children don't sleep in our car and rarely sleep on planes, so you can imagine how exhausted we were when we arrived in Greensboro, North Carolina after a layover in Memphis, Tennessee.

Upon arrival we wandered (as families with small children do) down to the baggage claim and rental car part of the airport. I optomistically offered to go get the car rental started while Scott waited for the bags, and took both girls with me. Despite a prior negative experience with Alamo (their agents in the Cincinnati office don't seem inclined to return phone calls regarding lost items, even when the first call is placed within minutes of leaving the rental facility), I had pre-paid for our car rental with them. The price was just too good to beat - $137 for a week in a mid-sized car, including tax and everything. Who could say no to that? Unfortunately, I ran into several problems once I got to the counter. Please indulge me, let me list them for you.

1. The Alamo agent said I'd have to pay $9.99/day to be added on to the reservation as the second driver. I later found out from a different car rental agency that according to North Carolina state law, rental car companies are required to allow spouses to drive for free.

2. The Alamo agent would not honor the Entertainment Coupon that (according to my printed confirmation) had already been accepted. Yes, I realize I should have remembered to bring the coupon, but it would have been nice to have a little flexibility. Especially since nothing on the reservation confirmation screamed don't forget your coupon! But, not accepting the coupon, on it's own, would not have been a huge deal if it were the only issue we encountered.

3. Okay, this is the biggie. A few months ago our bank upgraded our Visa to a Visa Signature. Apparently, despite the fact that we have never carried a balance, we are valued customers. The card comes with all sorts of benefits in addition to the one drawback of a new card number. Unfortunately, I had paid for our car rental reservation with the old Visa card. The Alamo agent said he had to see the card that I used to pay for the reservation before he could complete the reservation. I guess a bedraggled mother with two screaming kids (poopy diaper included) is likely to impersonate someone who has pre-paid a car reservation, and take the car from the unsuspecting customer who paid for it. Similar to complaint number 2, nowhere on my printed confirmation could I find anything about needing to present the card with which I paid for my reservation in order to drive away in my paid-for rental car. Not that it would have mattered, of course, because that card no longer exists. Even if I had known I needed the card, I couldn't have presented it.

So, the Alamo agent's solution was to have me call the Alamo Reservations phone number to cancel my reservation (including paying the $10 cancellation fee), have the $137 put back on my card (which no longer exists), and book a new reservation (which would, of course, not include my Entertainment Coupon for one free day). Call, call I did, on the agent's crappy phone. I was, after some hold time, connected to an agent in India (my own voice echo included, of course) who had an accent so thick that when combined with the crappy phone, the fuzzy connection, the airport noise, and the noise of my exhausted, loopy children in the background, it was nearly impossible to understand what he was saying. And, please know that I generally defend the people in India who have to answer our calls. But that's another blog entry for another day.

So, I'm telling the agent in India that I wasn't ready to have the $137 "credited" to my non-existent credit card because I was not confident that the credit would make its way back to me. After a good ten minutes of conversation he abruptly put me on hold and passed me on to someone else. I explained the situation to this agent and was told he couldn't help me, so he put me on hold for a while and passed me onto someone else. She told me to call my bank (which I was NOT in the mood for, nor could I do simultaneously while talking to her) and then she passed me along to the RUDEST customer service person I have ever encountered. And I've encountered my fair share of customer service people, you know?

The rude customer service lady convinced me that my bank would make sure the money found its way back to me. Okay, okay, but what about the $10 cancellation fee? Oh, we might be able to waive that, she told me, but she wasn't sure. How about the Entertainment Coupon? Can you give me credit for it like it says I've been given on my original reservation? No, we can't enter an electronic code for a coupon you don't have. This is when it got heated. I explained to her how much grief her company had put me through in the last 45 minutes, and that the last time I rented with Alamo I had a bad experience but had been willing to give them a second chance. I told her that I hoped she could either give us an upgrade on our car or a discount to make up for how we had been treated. In the midst of telling her this (and in a remarkably calm manner, I have to say - remember, I teach assertive communication skills) she hung up on me. Yes! She hung up on me!

At that point I was ready to walk to the next car rental counter down and start over again. Unfortunately, rude agent lady had not canceled my reservation for me and helpless Alamo counter agent guy couldn't cancel it from the counter. So, I had to start over again on the phone, on hold for a few minutes and then finally talking (again) to an echo-y agent in India who had the nerve to ask me why I was canceling my reservation. Honestly, you need a reason, I asked? Can't you just make something up? You don't want to know the details, I told him. So, he charged me $10 and canceled my reservation.

Suffice it to say, we are now driving a lovely little PT Cruiser from Avis for $142 plus tax, spouse included as the second driver for free. And I will never, never, never again rent from Alamo. And I hope you won't either!

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