Thursday, May 20, 2010

Little things mean a lot

I haven't taken the time to chronicle my trip to Vegas for old people: Laughlin, Nevada. That trip was in April. I will do that one of these days, but for now here's a copy of the letter I sent to our car rental agency. As you would expect, I over tell the story.

Hi, I wanted to let you know what a lousy morning I had when I rented a car from the Avis in Laughlin, NV. (Location ID: R1M)

Actually I was having a good morning on April 12. It was my first trip to Laughlin, we were staying at Harrah's and we took the water taxi up to Aquarius for brunch. It was raining that morning, much to our surprise, but that didn't dampen our spirits. We were renting a car and driving up to Las Vegas for a night.

As we headed out of Aquarius, my girlfriend suggested calling our car rental agency to see if there was a free shuttle available. I didn't expect it, but I called. Sure enough, they'd send a car to pick us up. What a nice surprise.

Our rental agency was Budget. I had used an online search to determine car rental agencies available in the Laughlin area. The website I used didn't include Avis. I assumed it was returning results from the entire area, but maybe it was just the Arizona side of the border. Since the airport is across the border, it made sense that the car rental agencies would be, too.

Budget had the best rate, so I made a reservation days before our trip.

I had expected to pay for a taxi to Budget, so I was pleased to hear they had a driver on the road at the time I called. I was told they'd send him a message to turn around and pick us up. I assumed we were minutes away from our rental car.

More than 30 minutes later we were still waiting. I called again, and was told the driver was still on his way. Confused at what could take so long on a Monday morning in Laughlin, I hung up. I went inside to use the restroom and stopped at the bell desk on my way out. I asked the bellhop if there was a nearby car rental agency and he provided me with the phone number for Avis, not far down the street, and visible from the Aquarius parking lot.

Shortly thereafter I received a call from the shuttle driver, asking me if there was one or two in my party. There were two. That was a problem, he didn't have room for two people at the moment, inexplicably, so it would be another 25 minutes. By now we had been waiting at least 45 minutes.

I called Avis and inquired about rental rates and availability. With my AAA discount I could get a car for about $10 more than Budget. I no longer cared about saving $10. The helpful woman on the phone said it would be no problem to rent a car if I showed up at her office in 10 minutes, there were plenty of vehicles available. My girlfriend and I quickly decided we were taking our business to Avis.

I was offered shuttle service for the short ride over to the Tropicana Hotel, where the Avis office is located, but there was a 10-15 minute wait. I was anxious to get my car and continue on with my vacation, so we took a taxi across the street. It wasn't directly across the street, but it was the shortest cab ride I had ever taken.

As we were getting into the cab, I called Budget and let the woman know we were extremely displeased with waiting nearly an hour for her shuttle on a quiet Monday morning. I indicated we were about to take off in a cab, and if there wasn't a reason for me to direct it to Budget, we were headed to Avis. Basically I was looking for some sort of discount off our one-day rate, or at minimum compensation for cab ride to Budget. She said she wasn't authorized to do anything for me along the lines of a discount, so I said thank you, we're heading to Avis. She apologized for the inconvenience. If her apology had included compensation for the cab ride, she would have rented a vehicle that day. Since it didn't, I told the cab driver we were going to Avis.

The best part about the conversation was when I suggested we were about to go to Avis, the Budget representative said that Avis might not have any cars available. It sounded like she was trying to sell us fear, fear that we'd be wasting our time at Avis. I was quite pleased to report I had already called Avis and was told there would be no problem renting a car that morning.

The front desk employee at Avis was quite helpful and friendly. She seemed rather sympathetic to our frustration and was curious how we had wound up with a reservation at Budget when we were so much closer to Avis. All I could tell her was that our knowledge of the area was limited and the thoroughness of my search was inadequate.

When I was looking to rent a car prior to our trip, I wanted to rent a convertible as a surprise for my girlfriend. Before the trip I told her it wasn't going to happen. I had learned the Budget had no convertibles. So, to our surprise, among the cars we were offered that day at Avis was a blue Mustang convertible. I asked how much extra it would cost and was told it was available at the same price as the other cars.

So for our extra $10 we ended up with great service and a convertible. That's a great deal in my book.

I don't remember the woman's name, but I am sure somebody can determine who worked on Monday morning, April 12, and let her know how much we appreciated her help.

Avis provided great service, certainly worth the extra $10 we paid. There's a chance we're returning to Laughlin in July, a very good chance, it appears. That trip will likely include another visit to Las Vegas. There is no doubt that the only car rental agency we will call is Avis.

Thanks again.

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