Well I'm a highway junkie
And I need that old white line
Flying can suck it. I’m not afraid; I actually enjoy the experience of flight – the power of lift off, the aerial views, and managing to finish it all without a mangled, fiery mess. However, airports, the TSA, and the airlines themselves have sucked any joy from the experience. Between ridiculous fees for actually wanting to bring baggage on my trips to fees for having to scratch my balls while flying over Tulsa; from having to disassemble my carry-ons so that the TSA can see what kind of douche I use to having to watch Grandma Moses get strip searched for a suicide bra bomb at security; and to be treated by everyone involved as more of an annoyance rather than a customer, I’d rather just hop behind the wheel of a large automobile and ask myself, where does that highway go?
So when I have to make my routine trip to Cedar Rapids or any other location within 250 miles, I book a car with Hertz, load the iPod up with some road trip music and hit the highway. Hertz is a little more expensive than some of the other companies, but I learned my lesson after an ugly experience with Thrifty that it is usually worth it. My experience with Thrifty in New Orleans many years ago involved an unnecessarily long shuttle ride, marveling at the inefficiencies of the check-in process, and a prolonged “discussion” with the branch manager over a scratch which I thought was going to end up in a cage match to the death. I prevailed but since then I’ve been pretty loyal to Hertz, who have consistently provided good locations, decent customer service, clean cars, efficient pick up and returns, and even a slight inkling that they seem to appreciate my business.
When I’m not flying and renting from an airport location I use their “Local Edition” locations, most often a branch about two blocks from my office. As a somewhat regular customer it was easy to get #1 Club Gold status, which streamlines the process even more. It essentially allows you to pick up your car by using a secret handshake and a wink. However, as I picked up my car this most recent Sunday it didn’t go as smoothly as it usually does.
First off, apparently weekends like Father’s Day are big business for local rental companies. I’m guessing all those small town kids who leave for big city life rent cars to go visit their neglected parents back on the farm. Hijinx certainly ensue when Pauly Shore comes along. This leads to a little more pressure to turn over the fleet more quickly, and to do it with the skeleton staffing during the limited weekend hours.
Further, I showed up shortly after opening before the local agent had time to prep the pick ups for the day. And the agent was filling in at this location, and like that substitute teacher you had in 5th grade it didn’t exactly go without hiccups. This is where your business lesson begins. This lesson follows three simple assumptions:
1) Sexism is alive and well.
2) Men are dumb.
3) #1 and #2 do have their limits.
I guess now is a good time to mention that the agent was a young lady in her early 20’s, cute, with disproportionately large breasts, and wearing a shirt that certainly did not hide them, even less so when she bent forward to pick up keys, answer the phone, reach the printer or give the secret handshake. Did this influence how annoyed I got while waiting for my rental? See #1 and #2. Yes, it did. I was far less annoyed than if the agent had been a sloppy, unshaven, 20-something hipster doofus named Lance.
But now to Rule #3… my annoyance grace period would have expired rather quickly had she thought that a peep show excused her from actually fulfilling her duties of getting my ass in the driver’s seat of a large automobile. But I’m happy to report that she couldn’t have handled the situation any better.
There were three of us there, and customer #1 did not have a previous reservation, was not a Gold customer, and was being a little difficult. She got him somewhat placated, then jumped over to me and #3, then excused herself to make sure she had three clean cars up in the garage. When she returned, she asked #1 if she could get me and #3 going since we had existing reservations. He deferred and I stepped to the plate. There were some additional problems, either getting into the computer system or getting the contracts printed so she had to call for some support, but she kept me engaged by letting me know what was going on the whole time, making some small talk, and by bending forward to accomplish menial tasks. She thanked me for my patience and used my first name. I thought this was somewhat casual for a business transaction, but you know what, I felt pretty good being called Sid instead of Old Man F’er or Sir. And to top it all off (no pun intended) I got a nice new fully loaded 2010 model, and she gave me a free tank of gas to further thank me for my patience.
So there you go, Hertz. She’s a keeper. And to all you other businesses out there, I've said it before – if you have a largely male clientele and can find a good-looking girl who can use her brain as well as her looks, make her an offer she can’t refuse.