DISCLAIMER: This is a totally boring post, but I'm just getting out a little aggravation about budget travel...read at your own risk...
Hello from the Windy City. I'm looking out of my hotel room right now at the grand majesty of Lake Michigan. I can see a portion of it between other buildings and construction sites, and past a major highway.
I grew up on a Great Lake (Ontario) so I'm used to lake being too big to be able to see the other side. When I moved downstate to Rockland County, their lakes were pretty, but they were what we called ponds. Seriously, Long Pond was bigger than the lakes in my new hometown.
Anyway - now that you have the context that I'm traveling, let me tell you about rental car agencies here. When you find a rate on expedia that is HALF all other going rates, be suspicious. And if you've never heard of the agency before, be even more suspicious. But in today's economy, we're all trying to save a little dough, right? So when I saw most agencies wanted $200 for a weekend car rental and one wanted only $73.75...I jumped on it.
To be fair, the car was fine - clean, well maintained, low mileage, hyundai. Finding the car was another matter. We stood on the sidewalk outside the airport for 20 minutes and watched the rental car shuttles go by, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz, Enterprise, National, then Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz, Enterprise, National again...then Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz..."Excuse Me...," I finally asked, "is this where Advantage picks up as well?"
"Well...yes...eventually...but you may have to flag him down."
Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz.....
I get on the phone and get Advantage Rentals on the line..."oh yeah, look for the Fast Trak blue and yellow shuttle, that's ours." (how the hell was I supposed to know that??)
Finally we spot the blue and yellow shuttle barrelling by and not even dreaming of looking for a stranded rental client on the sidewalk. We wave madly and the cop feels sorry enough for us to stop traffic and allow us to get on the shuttle in an illegal loading zone.
Once on, we meet other customers who had been waiting for over an hour...so I guess 25-30 minutes wasn't so bad.
Filled to the brim, the shuttle lumbers into a dark parking lot with "Avi-Star" signs. I spot a tiny blue placard for Advantage rentals in the corner. We head into the building passing a bunch of lounging strange looking young men, under a blinking (think Joe Vs. Volcano) fluorescent lights, and up to the line at to the counter where two very nice but fairly slow people are handing out keys to cars...fast forward 45 minutes and we finally have our vehicle.
Returning the car wasn't much better - and once again the shuttle bus was the big sticking point. After taking about 35 minutes to return the car (which consists of handing in keys and having them check gas guage and mileage - should take about 3 minutes flat) we then walked out of the dingy little shack to see the shuttle pulling away...
We had to wait another 15 minutes for the next shuttle bus to arrive and although we had been left in the dust, this next driver seemed determined to wait for every possible person who was just pulling in to get checked out and get on the bus. Hubby and I were plenty early for our connection, so we weren't too bad off, but I thought the woman in the Chanel knockoff sunglasses was going to have a full out hissy fit at one point while her husband made snide remarks about this aggravation not being worth th $100 they saved not going with Avis. (He took the words out of my mouth.) While we waited, we dug out $2 for a tip for the driver for hauling our suitcases...but by the time we left a new driver had taken his place.
After the driver missed the United stop off (until screaming bus passengers made him pull over) we diligently reminded him of our Continental stop. Hubby, who is always quieter in his complaints, mumbled as we disembarked, "I'm keeping my 2 dollars."
I left Hubby at airport for him to fly on home, while I stayed on in Chicago for my conference. My taxi to the hotel cost $40 but the door to door service was totally worth it. Of course, the company is paying for this part, so it is easier to let the dollars flow.
I'm now ensconced in my room with a view, chomping on pretzel and diet pepsi from the Mini-bar - yeah - that should run me another $20...but you get what you pay for, right?