I’m a big fan of today’s travel-friendly world. I fly a bit more than I’d like, but I’m very happy that I can regularly leave my house an hour before a flight, drive 25 minutes to the airport, and walk onto the plane 25 minutes before takeoff (don’t try that in a big city). Normally, on the other end, I can get from my arrival gate to the inside of my rental car in anywhere from 10 minutes (e.g., EWR, JFK) to 20 minutes (e.g., SJC, OAK, ATL). For someone who has adjusted his life in many ways to avoid waiting in lines or otherwise wasting time, this is great stuff.

All of this, of course, is completely moot when traveling with the (four very young) kids. The biggest pain point is the rental car at the other end. So painful, in fact, that we usually drive to many of our vacation destinations rather than fly. But sometimes, we have to fly.

Avis generally is a no-hassle rental car experience (except for that time I left my driver’s license at the other airport). But when you need a car seat? Horrors. Four car seats? (Shudder.)

So for variety, this time I switched to Hertz. And man, was I ever punished for it. From the first moment when I walked up to the express lane line and was greeted with a lovely “Hey there’s only one line sir!” shout from behind the counter, I knew I was in for a treat.

As the line piled up behind me, the clock rounded 2 am, and the amount of time it took for two employees to service a customer continued its steady rise past 20 minutes, the tension in the air was palpable. A few Wall Street types finally broke down, shouting something about how important they were as they left the line to shout loudly into their PDA-phones in their vain attempts at other ways out of the Hertzatz quagmire.

My favorite part of the experience was how the agents sent the customers out to check and see if their car was in fact there, and both times it wasn’t.

I have no idea what happened to the rest of the poor saps in line, as I was #3, and though it took them a full 20 minutes to service me (including for some reason inexplicably blanking out all of my personal information character-by-character in their green-screen application and re-entering it all over again, character-by-character), I was so ecstatic to have actually gotten the car I reserved by the end of it all and miss the inevitable riot that was to ensue in the coming hours. I have not scoured local news but I would not be surprised to learn that the Hertz location at Newark International Airport was burned to the ground at some point that evening, with the two stock-brokers I sailed past on my way out charged with any associated crimes.

4 thoughts on “Watching the Car Rental Train Wreck in Slow-Motion

  1. Classic Seinfield…

    “I know you can TAKE the reservation but aren’t you suppose to KEEP the reservation?”

    The mini-van we got in Orlando had car-seats built into the seat cushion. Maybe those aren’t safe anymore? Not sure. It was a while back and it was a Plymouth. After I got into a Honda Odyssey I pretty much became a van snob. 🙂

  2. A trick I’ve realized about renting vehicles through the ages is to always book the smallest auto you can online. Rental agencies realize Americans like to drive bigger autos so they begin to maintain much more of these and quite few of the small autos. Any time these companies do not have the auto you might have booked they’re allowed in most cases to free upgrades! We’ve accomplished this a number of circumstances and it’s worked for the majority of of them.

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