Have you ever experienced rental car tilt? It’s not even poker related…
During the final days of 2019, I went on a short trip with one of my daughters. After a fairly short and uneventful flight, we went to the Alamo Rent-A-Car counter, in the basement of the terminal at Jacksonville (FL) International Airport.
I had reserved an economy car using Hotwire.com, which has delivered good results for me on many prior occasions. With reservation details and a confirmation number in hand, we were next in line with two customers at the counter occupying the attention of the two Alamo agents on duty.
As we waited, I saw a manager-looking type join the agent helping the customer on the left. Overhearing bits and pieces of their conversation, I heard phrases like “I’m sorry” and “as an alternative, I can offer…” and “I know that’s disappointing.” Something was amiss. The customer was unhappy, but a good faith effort appeared to be underway to salvage the situation.
While that was going on, the other customer finished up and we advanced to the counter. The agent quickly located my reservation, his fingers flying across a keyboard for enough keystrokes to draft the opening chapter of the next great novel. Then he looked up and said, “One moment while I check on that availability” and disappeared behind a wall where such things must be done.
It was a sufficiently curiously worded statement that I faced my daughter and said, matter of factly, “there’s going to be a problem.”
“Huh? How do you know?”
Before I could answer, the agent returned to the counter with the same manager-looking type in tow to explain that, this being right after Christmas and all, they most unfortunately did not have a car available for us to rent.
But don’t worry, we were assured. Alamo’s partner company, the great and might Hertz #1 folks at the next counter over, is taking care of Alamo customers. He printed out a piece of paper detailing our reservation and pointed us towards the Hertz counter. I asked if the price would be the same, and if it would matter to Hertz that our reservation included returning the car to a different location. And he explained that everything should be the same, but if it turned out otherwise, just come back to Alamo and they would give me a voucher for the difference. [A voucher…???]
At Hertz there was a line, and we patiently waited. Finally, we presented ourselves at the counter and were summarily told that Hertz did not have a car for us. Instead, we would have to go to National. Their counter is back in the other direction, past Alamo and Enterprise. National is another partner company, and Alamo should have sent us there first. It was just a misunderstanding.
With no line at National, we sauntered right up to the counter to find one middle-aged man playing Candy Crush on his phone. He was leaning way back in his chair, looking like a guy who’s tired of pissing off holiday travelers. I thought a cheerful approach might elicit a helpful response, but before I could finish a single delightful sentence, he cut me off. “We don’t have any cars here, of any size. You’ll have to go back to Alamo!”
It was after 9:30 pm, and our overnight stop was approximately 100 miles away.
At Alamo again, I explained the figure 8 we had traced here in the airport basement. This time, however, the manager-looking type offered an alternative. They did have a small pickup truck that we could rent, instead of the economy car. After confirming that it had four wheels, a transmission, got decent gas mileage, there would be no cost differential, and I couldn’t sweet talk my way into a convertible on the same terms, I said OK. We’ll take it. And with that, the agent directed us to where they keep the vehicles, saying an attendant there would verify our paperwork and give us the keys to our small pickup truck.
On the first try, we found that attendant, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Jose.” He was very nice.
After looking at the paperwork for just a couple of seconds, Jose pointed us to the nearest aisle, saying “right there on the end of that aisle is a Hyundai Accent, a very fine economy car. The keys are inside. Have a great trip!” After three rounds of “are you sure / yes I’m sure” we hopped in and took off.
Totally effing weird!
That’s how I’ll forever remember (the) Alamo!
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