FINDING AN AUTO-RENTAL AGENCY
One might think that finding a rent-a-car with offices in both Round Rock and Austin, Texas would be as simple as using Google with this search string.
Silly us! We received over 9,000 hits! The majority were hotels, so we altered the search string to
If you don't understand all the gobbledegook in the search strings you should take a moment to visit our search tips help page.
DRIVING IN AUSTIN
While Marguerite can still drive, at age 81 (Yes, she was really 81 years old at the time we committed this madness!) expecting her to drive a car through a strange city's traffic would be unreasonable. Even thinking about her driving the motorhome would be ludicrous, if not outright insane.
RENT-A-CAR BLUES, PHASE 1
We're certain that you all know this, but we feel compelled to reiterate this so we can at least say "We told you so!"
When signing for a rental automobile, regardless of how hurried you are, how hurried they are, how tired you are or how many distractions there are, do not allow their clerk to perform the check-out inspection as we did. Grab the paperwork from his or her hands and YOU walk around the car to look for any and all scrapes and blemishes. If you can't rub it off with your bare hand, it gets recorded! No exceptions! This could be worth hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars to you or your insurance company.
If you ever get caught in the situation that we did, and you know that you didn't damage their vehicle, do not meekly accept their verdict. Absolutely insist that they go back and check their previous renters' inspection reports. Absolutely refuse to pay them one red cent until they do, no matter how hurried you are, how hurried they are, how tired you are or how many distractions there are!
RENT-A-CAR BLUES, PHASE 2
Mind you, we're not blaming Advantage Rent-a-Car. In fact, with the single exception of that rushed damage report back at Austin Bergstrom by an individual who obviously had other more important things than his job on his mind, we laud them for their integrity, service, and courtesy. In fact, if the manager in Round Rock hadn't gone the extra mile to hunt up previous damage reports, we'd have had to pay for a new, very expensive bumper! A tip of the hat and a gold star to that man!
But we have to wonder if there are any controls in place to prevent some other, unscrupulous rent-a-car agency from recycling the same scraped bumper through consecutive customers, possibly with the line: "Why don't we just settle this quietly. I think that refinishing that bumper by a body shop shouldn't cost more than maybe $500. Better still, I can do you a favour. I've got a friend who I know would do it for half that. Why don't we just put it on your charge card and not bother with the hassle and delay of complicated insurance claims and the mark on your claims history?"
Makes you wonder, no? Learn from our mistakes!
Obviously, we needed transportation once we arrived in Austin. It wasn't quite that simple, however. (Life seldom is, as a matter of fact.)
We've been misleading you a bit. The motorhome really wasn't in Austin. It was in a little community about 20 miles north of Austin called Round Rock. That meant that we'd have to drive the short distance to Round Rick the morning after we arrived so we could finally see the retirement home of our dreams. We definitely needed wheels.
Because we'd be arriving late in the evening, we couldn't be sure that we could just walk into any rent-a-car vendor and grab a car. In all but the largest airports they're prone to closing at 9:00 or 10:00 PM, and there is never any guarantee that they'll have an extra car just setting there waiting for you when you saunter in, even if they are open. We needed to make sure that a car was waiting for us on our arrival. Marguerite would not be impressed at having to sleep in an airport waiting room until they opened at 7:00 the next morning! Neither would Stan. And quite deservedly, Stan wouldn't have heard the end of it either!
But what would happen if we bought the motorhome? (After all, that was our intention, wasn't it?) How could we return the car to Austin-Bergstrom airport? Marguerite felt uncomfortable about driving a car in an unfamiliar city's traffic and couldn't drive the motorhome anyway. We were in a one driver - two vehicles dilemma. The obvious solution was to find an auto rental company that had branches at both the Austin-Bergstrom airport for pick up and in Round Rock for drop off.
We wouldn't even think about taxis, city busses, the Greyhound or whatever. Both Stan and Marguerite would already be stretched to the physical and emotional limit as it was. No, we definitely needed our own wheels and the independence and ability to creatively change plans on the spur of the moment that comes with them.
So, Stan cranked up the old computer yet again and began searching for auto rentals in Round Rock. Surely, any that had an office in Round Rock would also have one at the Austin-Bergstrom airport, no? Well, only maybe. As explained in the sidebar, the search was not that simple. (Life seldom is, as a matter of fact.) We finally managed to reserve a car with Advantage Rent-a-Car for our arrival at Austin-Bergstrom airport for 11:00 PM on Saturday, September 27, 2003. One that we could return to the office in Round Rock. Piece of cake!
We were exhausted! After dropping the dogs off at the boarding kennel, running out of gas on the way to the airport, getting through Customs without having our life savings confiscated or being thrown in jail, the trip through DFW and finally arriving at Austin-Bergstrom airport at about 11:00 PM we were absolutely beat. American Airlines had a wheelchair for Marguerite waiting as we stepped off the plane. Even better, they had a porter there to help push her around. Even better still, he knew exactly where we had to go to get to Advantage Rent-a-Car.
We materialized at the Advantage's counter. At first there was some confusion because they didn't have the model that we'd requested. (We'd wanted a low end, four door model.) No problemo. They'd upgrade us at no additional cost to a 2003 Dodge Intrepid. (Across the border in Canada they're marketed as Chrysler Intrepids!) No problemo, or so we thought. The Advantage clerk handed us a fist full of papers and our trusty porter led us outdoors through a circuitous route into a parkade (parking ramp for some of you). A few moments later a fellow drove up with the car, gray with a black interior but it was hard to tell for sure under rather poor mercury vapour lighting.
This guy got out, grabbed the paperwork from Stan, made a quick circle of the car to mark down any scrapes and blemishes, had Stan sign on the dotted line, then promptly disappeared back into the building. Stan helped Marguerite into the car, loaded the luggage into the trunk and back seat, tipped and thanked the porter, then drove away, to look for the motel.
The Intrepid was a nice car, really. But this one had three faults that would definitely preclude our buying it for ourselves.
For all of it, the Intrepid really wasn't a bad car, it just could have been better, that's all.
As you already knew (Or you wouldn't have lasted this long!) we purchased the Dolphin LX. So by October 3 we were ready to turn the Intrepid back to Advantage Rent-a-Car. Mrs. Smith, being a VERY nice, Texas lady, followed us to their office in Round Rock so we'd have return transportation to the motorhome. We pulled into their parking lot and Stan went into the office to turn in the car. That's when things began to fall apart.
Stan went into the office with all the papers in his hand and spirits high. After several minutes of waiting for the staff to take care of another customer, Stan was waited on. One of the very first things that they did was grab the papers from Stan and run out to check over the car.
"I'm sorry Mr. Schultz, but it appears that you've managed to scrape the front bumper of that car. There's some body damage."
"What? No way! Can't be! Show me!"
So we both trudged out to the Intrepid, whereupon the clerk pointed to a significant scrape to the right front bumper. The paint had been scraped down to the yellow plastic.
Stan: "No. That was there when we picked the car up last Saturday evening. Look at the damage report that the fellow filled out."
We looked at the damage report. There was no mention of a scrape on the front bumper. Stan was absolutely certain that he hadn't scraped it. So much so that he began to make a serious fuss about the matter. The clerks got a manager and this fellow listened to both our stories, including my recounting the circumstances when we picked the car up the previous Saturday evening, then asked me to wait a moment.
About a half hour and three customers later he re-emerged from his office with a phone in his hand to explain that he was trying to contact the people at the Advantage office at Austin-Bergstrom airport but was having trouble because a flight had apparently just arrived and they were busy dispensing or receiving cars. Since it was nominally their car, they would probably have rental agreements from previous customers on file, including the associated damage reports. He would have them check those older reports for mention of the bumper's damage.
It turns out that the previous renter's inspection report didn't mention the scrape. (Was he or his insurance company forced to pay for a repair?) However, the receipt of the renter before him DID mention the scrape. We were off the hook!
After finally solving the problem with returning the Intrepid, Stan jumped back into Mrs. Smith's car and we headed back to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to finalize the purchase of the motorhome. It wasn't till after we arrived there that Stan realized he couldn't find his wallet!
Even though it was fairly large, it was a dark, almost navy blue. Stan had slipped it into the pocket in the Intrepid's driver's door that morning. In the commotion surrounding the return of the car, and with the wallet being dark coloured and blending in with the vehicle's dark interior, Stan didn't notice it and had forgotten to retrieve it when he returned the vehicle. So, nothing would do but that Mrs. Smith had to turn around and chauffeur Stan back to Advantage Rent-a-Car to retrieve the wallet. Their staff had found it in the course of prepping the car for the next customer. All the credit cards and cash were still in place too!
ONE GOLD STAR TO ADVANTAGE'S STAFF! (Except for the one rotten apple in Austin.)
ANOTHER GOLD STAR FOR MRS. SMITH!
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Copyright © 2004, Stanley A. Schultz and Marguerite J. Schultz.
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This page was initially created on 2004-March-07.
The last revision occurred on 2005-December-19.