Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Travel (Mis)adventures Pt. 1: The Great Rental Car Debacle

Right, so that was fun.

Yesterday we rented a car in Bath in order to drive around to various more remote locations: Stonehenge, Avebury, etc., ending in Salisbury, where we planned to drop off the car and then take a train back to London.

We successfully (more or less) navigated insanely narrow country village streets and an unholy number of roundabouts in this Nissan SUV which we were surprised to get considering I thought we were getting a compact car. We didn't get lost, thanks to Google Maps. We managed to visit most of the sites we wanted to see (with a few exceptions due to time constraints) and congratulated ourselves on getting to the car rental office in Salisbury 15 minutes before our scheduled dropoff time.

Of all the various things that could go awry with this plan, we never guessed it would be the part where we DROP OFF THE CAR.

But then, it all started just a little off. The night before picking up the car, we noticed that the reservation paperwork we'd printed said that we were picking it up at 5 pm in Bath and dropping it off at 6 pm in Salisbury. (It's entirely due to their crap website which likes to reset the time of your reservation any time you make any minor change while trying to set it up.) This was NOT what we had intended for our all-day trip, but I managed to change it online to an 8:30 am pickup. Okay. Not too bad. They had a car for us when we showed up the next morning, though it wasn't the one we expected. Fine.

BUT THEN!!! Upon arriving at the Salisbury rental office at 5:45, we found the facility gates locked with a giant padlock, the whole place apparently shut (despite their posted closing time of 6:00), and no key dropbox anywhere. We searched in vain for a way in, to no avail. We spent about 10 minutes wandering around in utter confusion, going WHAT IS HAPPENING THIS IS CRAZY AARRGGGHHH.

Then came the phone calls. I called their office number and nobody answered. I called the office where we rented the car in Bath and nobody answered. I called the Customer Service main number and got a recording that said their customer service line closed at 5:30.

We all know how much I love making phone calls, so of course I made yet another call in a last-ditch attempt to speak to a human, and called the next closest car rental office, 20 miles away at the Southampton airport. The very nice lovely woman I spoke to was calm with my flustered self, waited on the phone while we searched one more time for a dropbox or a way in, and finally suggested that we leave the car parked in front and HIDE THE KEYS SOMEWHERE. Oh god. There seemed to be nowhere good to hide the keys that we could actually reach from OUTSIDE.

Here's the really fun part: Rob finally decided to jump the fence. There was a high iron fence all the way around the place except on one short side where the car rental facility abutted the neighboring auto shop business. (BTW we did ask them what the heck was up with the Hertz people and they were like, uh, we don't know them.) On that side was a rickety wooden fence about 6 feet high. Braving CCTV cameras and who knew what other possible alarms and things, Rob climbed over, hid the keys underneath their rental office portable structure, and climbed back to our side. The kind Southampton office lady agreed to send them an email on our behalf so there was external evidence we attempted to make the dropoff. Rob took pictures to document where we left the car and keys, and later on, when we'd actually made it back to our lodgings in London at around 10:30 pm, I followed up by filling in the web contact form (since Hertz apparently doesn't have a direct way to email anyone), explaining what happened, and sending them a picture showing where we left the keys.

As positive as our experiences with Hertz have been the last few times we used them, including in Australia, this time was TOTALLY INSANE.

GOLD MEMBERSHIP MY ASS.