I just want to rent a car

I need to fly down to California for work next week, so I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and called the Hertz Gold number to see about getting a car. I don’t know why arranging the rental should be so difficult, but it always is. I put up with it because while Hertz is the most hassle to rent from, it’s the least hassle to pick up and drop off from.

With other rental car places, I have to wait in line forever and my car is located on the far end of the moon and I have to haul all of my luggage through an obstacle course of cars and fences just to get to it. And the car I get is something I’ve never heard of because the car company couldn’t get even one person to buy it and so the rental agency picked them all up for cheap, and it barely starts and I spend the entire time I’m driving in fear that the wheels will fall off or the car will just stop working completely right on the freeway.

But with Hertz, I see my name in lights, I walk about two feet, get into my shiny, new, and working car and drive away. Last month when I dropped off the car, the Hertz guys told me to leave my luggage in the trunk and hop in the back seat and they gave us a ride to the terminal. (My coworker was a little freaked out, actually, but he did in fact drive us to the terminal and not to, say his swank bachelor pad aparment for lite beer.)

I called the number. A suspicious older man answered the phone. He seemed sure that I was not a gold member and was surely trying to scam him. Here’s the thing with my gold number. When you call, they will look up your number for you, but they won’t tell you your number. It’s sort of infuriating because then you have to go through the whole thing every time you call.

I gave him my name, my address, my driver’s license number, my date of birth. He finally found me. Maybe.

“You’re an AARP member?” His voice made it clear that he had not seen me at AARP meetings.

“Um, no.”

He started grumbling about how the screen said I was an AARP member.

And then, before I could tell him where I was going and when, he said in a very definitive voice, “Fresno on the 21st.”

“No. I’m going to San Jose. On the 25th.”

He was not pleased with me.

“But you want a compact car!”


He sighed. I could hear him typing frantically, angrily.

“Your flight out is on United at 9am…”

“Er, actually, I’m flying Alaska. At noon.”

I had reached the end of his patience.

“Maybe you should start over. Where are you going?” He was very disappointed in me.

I went through it all, now a little worried that either I was actually going to somehow end up in Fresno, and really, what did I do to deserve that? Or that he was completely destroying someone else’s reservation who actually did have to go to Fresno. How much would that suck? You already have to go to Fresno and then you’re stuck there without a car.

I went through the whole thing again, cursing Hertz for not giving up my gold number so I could just do this online, frantically looking everywhere for it.

Finally, he had my actual travel information and not that of the poor traveler who would get off that United plane and be stranded. My plane arrived at noon.

He happily informed me that I could have my car possibly at 1. That would be the earliest they might have a car. Yeah, my idea of a good time is hanging out in the San Jose airport, hoping that someone returns their car on time. About that time, I found my gold number. I told him thanks but no thanks.

And then I made the mistake of asking for something else. I had made another reservation for this weekend, but I never got an email confirmation. I had gotten a confirmation for the reservation last month, but not this latest one. I asked about that. He looked.

“Well, of course you didn’t get an email confirmation. The email flag isn’t turned on!” I got the distinct impression he considered this to be my fault.

“And it wouldn’t matter anyway, because you have an illegal email address. An email has to have an @ sign!”

“Um, OK. I got email confirmation before, but maybe somehow it got messed up. Could you–?”

“Well, you can’t get an email now! The flag is off and the address is wrong!”

Clearly, I was the cause of this whole tragic mess.

I finally got him to turn the flag on and put in my actual email address. He didn’t sound happy about it.

When I was finally off the phone, I thought I’d try making an online reservation, just in case he was batshit insane.

I put in my number. I put in what I thought might be my password. The screen informed me that my account had been locked due to an incorrect password. And that I should log in soon so I could regain access. Which made no sense, but there was a number to call. So, back to the phone I went.

This time, it was Hertz online technical support. I told her my account was locked. She asked for my gold number. She then asked me what email address I wanted my password sent. Then (I am seriously NOT making this up), she told me what my password challenge question was, and the answer to it. She said that I should now click “forgot password”, answer the challenge question with the answer she just gave me, and my password would be sent to the email address I had just given her. How’s that for a secure system?

I did all those things and was able to log in and sure enough, found that no cars were available.

I suppose the one good thing in all of this is that if anyone else decides to call up and have my password sent to them, no cars will available to rent to them either.

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