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We are currently in Colorado on a short weekend getaway, and while the trip overall has been a good one, it started off in a less-than-perfect way upon landing in Denver. I’ve mentioned before the worst part of family travel is hands down the rental car process, and that held up for sure on this trip. It all started well enough getting our bags, taking the shuttle bus to the Hertz rental facility, and having my husband go and get the car while the kid and I waited by the Hertz Gold check-in area where the shuttle bus dropped us off.
Our four year old was very tired by this point in the day and she was falling asleep in my arms as my husband pulled up in “our” rental car. Like a rock star, he had already installed the car seat before pulling up, and I thought we were in the running for some kind of family travel award because everything was just going fantastically. The kid was tired and ready for a nap. The car seat was ready. We had a two hour drive ahead of us for her to snooze through and my husband had pulled in up a pretty decent SUV when all we had reserved was a full sized car.
I asked him if that was in the Gold aisle for upgrades, and he said yes, so I thought we were set! He said our originally assigned car was a Rav 4, so either way we had indeed scored a SUV upgrade. We placed the unconscious kid in her car seat and she was snoring before we could even finish buckling her up. We headed to the exit gate to hand the Hertz employee our paperwork and start our drive toward the mountains and Beaver Creek. Then trouble started.
The Hertz gal said that we were not in the right car, and we explained we knew we had selected a different car from the Gold aisle as all the signs said we could. She said that car was already assigned to someone else and would be a $100 upgrade per night if we wanted to keep it as it was a full size SUV and we had booked a full sized car and only been upgraded to a mid-size SUV. Um, okay.
We tried explaining our predicament that our kid was already passed out, we clearly had confused the Hertz #1 Gold aisle with the Gold Choice aisle, and was there any way to make a one-time exception for the weekend. We got a heeeeeck no, so we pulled back through to go plead our case to someone else. I’m really not one to ask for many favors in life, but this was a case where we needed help.
The Gold Choice employee we spoke to next gave the same firm answer as the gate attendant, and so the manager came out. I can’t even tell you the last time in my life I asked to “speak to a manager”. I stayed nice and apologetic through the whole thing and tried to assure them we weren’t trying to scam them out of an upgrade from the mid- to full-sized SUV. The issue was simply that my husband had just gotten confused by the rules and location of the free Gold Choice aisle vs the #1 Gold aisle and since we were all loaded up, and more importantly had a passed out kid I did not want to disturb, we really needed a better option than the $300 up-charge when our whole weekend rental was $60 total to start with. I did not want to move my passed out kid, but I could not afford paying $300 to ensure she continued her nap.
Ultimately the manager did offer a “half off” $50 per night upgrade, but $150 total was still more than 2x our entire rental price for the weekend so that was not going to work. We unpacked the full sized SUV and moved our bags and sleeping kid to the mid-sized SUV (that had 60,000 miles on it and was covered in bird poop), and crossed our fingers. Naturally the kid woke right up during the move and never fell back asleep the entire day. You can guess how fun some of the meltdowns were that evening courtesy of the no-nap situation….
We messed up by selecting a different vehicle from the wrong aisle. No doubt. However, Hertz has made the entire “choose another vehicle process” too complicated. My husband is a smart guy and not a travel newbie and he was confused. In fact he has Hertz Five Star Status thanks to renting regularly with Hertz so this was not his first rental car rodeo. Lord help someone who travels extremely infrequently.
I think that either you allow people to pick a different car or you don’t. Don’t make it so confusing that you can load a sleeping four year old and get all the way to the exit gate before being told you messed up and can’t have that car. My understanding thanks to talking to folks who have status with National is that they let you pretty much choose any vehicle on the lot. Maybe it is time to switch…
The whole ordeal was just unnecessary. I could care less about ending up with a mid-sized rather than a full sized SUV. I would have been totally fine in the full sized car we rented in the first place. However, I care about being treated like the enemy and not like a customer. I care about not being able to work out a reasonable compromise to an unfortunate situation. We would have paid more to keep the car we were in, not because it was “better”, but because the price of the nap was worth something to me. Just not $300.