Monday, March 1, 2010

The Black and Gold

Exactly how does one end up choosing a preferred car rental company? It's not as straightforward, say, as choosing a favorite airline for most of us. The airlines concentrate at large cities and hubs but get spotty in smaller markets which contribute to the selection process. Cars, however, are represented in equal measure at just about any airport with a runway longer than 5,000 feet so how, again, does one decide which will be the chosen instrument of road transportation. In my case Hertz was the chosen provider of a former employer of mine and I've largely been with them ever since.

Corporate travel budgets have shrunk and I never traveled that much for work even during the glory days but that has done little to alter my preference of Hertz for personal use. While traveling recently in the South Pacific Hertz came through for me in a way the other car provider I employed did not. Price is still the final determinant when arranging travel and Hertz was not able to match Europcar on the Australian leg of my journey but I'll get to that in a moment.

Hertz was the vendor of choice for the heavy driving I planned through the North Island of New Zealand. At the downtown Wellington Hertz office I was presented with an orange Toyota "Yaris." Orange? I razzed the counter girl good-naturedly for giving me a large pumpkin of a car and only 1600CC to run around in but the car was otherwise faultless. Neither was it Europcar's fault that I hardly used the little silver "Getz" by Hyundai that awaited me outside of immigrations at Sydney's airport. Damp and rainy weather curtailed most of my driving plans which was fine because Central Sydney is perfectly suited for walking and public transport. No, the trouble I had with Europcar, affiliated with Alamo was upon returning the car.

Most rental companies only validate or take out a small hold against your credit card at the time of pick-up but Europcar charged the entire rental right from the beginning! I wasn't aware of this when I landed which is my fault for not fully understanding how the charges were to be handled but it is a complete lack of sophistication on their part not to be able to alter the form of payment on the last day of the return. I appealed to Alamo when I got back to the U.S. who deferred to Europcar, basically sending me back to the scene of the crime.

Why all the fuss? Not knowing how much of a hold I expected them to take I used my credit card to preserve my liquid cash, planning to pay in full with my debit card when it was all over. They didn't whereas Hertz did. The last straw for me with Europcar was that they did not even honor my AAdvantage frequent flyer program for mileage credit on the rental.

Hertz did, and helped me over the hump to the next elite status level in the process. The Black and Gold!

Gotta go.

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