In order to place this experience in its proper context, I would be remiss if I did not explain what precipitated my eventual arrival at Hertz, and the disastrous financial consequences of that fateful encounter, upon my return to the States, following an 18+ month period of living abroad –
It began with Enterprise.
Once I had booked my flight to the States, I knew I would have to rent a car to get to my hotel from Dulles International Airport. And I would have to do that, using my debit card, the only card I had. Airport locations further had specific rules that only applied there, and not elsewhere. In order to rent, you needed to show that along with your arrival, there was a scheduled departure date, listed on your ticket. These were the conditions for securing a rental.
The first call I made to Enterprise, I was not told this. Instead I was told I could not rent a car with a debit card. I had to have a bonafide Credit Card.
When I mentioned this to someone I knew in the States, he questioned that, and encouraged me to call Enterprise again. “Under what conditions can I rent a vehicle from an airport location using my debit card?” And sure enough, the agent said that as long as my itinerary showed I had an outbound flight, I could then rent a car, so I booked one.
Still uneasy, however, an intuitive red flag shook my confidence, so I was determined to verify once again what the Enterprise agent had told me, so one week before I left Europe, I called Enterprise to confirm the terms, and again I was given a green light.
But when I arrived at the facility, the Enterprise Representative was determined not to allow this to happen. He immediately began nitpicking.
“I see your departure date here is not until September, and yet you only want a rental for 2 weeks,” he said.
“That’s correct,” I said. “I don’t need a car for the entire period. I just need transportation to do what I have to do.”
This, apparently, was problematic for him.
“And you want to return the car to BWI (Baltimore International) instead of here, at Dulles,” he said.
“That’s correct,” I said. “Look I’ve made these arrangements ahead of time and asked the questions I had to ask and was assured there would be no problem. And besides, the sign here clearly states that Enterprise will accept a debit card as long as you show you have a departure date. It doesn’t state that there are additional conditions.”
But he would not budge.
“The BWI location is more convenient for me,” I explained, “and I was assured this would not be a problem.”
“But how do we know we’ll get our money?”
Now this was a prescient question. I never imagined there would be a situation where the funds would not be available. In retrospect, I now know this guy lacked the shark instincts I would later experience at Hertz. They knew better. “Because I honor my agreements.” I said.
That, too, did not satisfy Tamer, the Senior Customer Assistance
Rep, at Enterprise. “But you could go and withdraw your money tomorrow!” He added.
“I suppose I could. But I have no plan to do so.”
The final nail in the coffin was the address on my Driver’s license. That listed my last known address in the States and did not correspond to the address on file with my bank. THAT had been my European address. But now that that address had changed, days before I left Europe, I updated my banking information to reflect my new address in the States. Logistically, there was not enough time to do that with the MVA, and it was the first thing on my list of things to do, even before securing mobile service, the day following my arrival in the States.
This further distressed Tamer.
“Ah, how can I rent you a car if the address on your license doesn’t correspond to your debit card address? I just can’t do that,” he said.
“But I was living ABROAD. I JUST arrived. I STILL have to go to the MVA and update my information.”
But this sequence, though logical and sensible, did not register with the Tamer who faced other challenges, and he declined my reservation, further telling me that even though I had secured a reservation, those people who made the reservation didn’t actually work for Enterprise, but other car rental agencies, brokers, you might say, and therefore didn’t really know the Enterprise rules about renting a car using a debit card.
How could I possibly respond to that?
Though severely jet lagged and sleep deprived, I mustered whatever strength I had and pointed to the sign. “The sign clearly says I can rent a car using my debit card, as long as I have departure flight. It clearly states that. It lists no additional conditions.”
But Tamer would not budge.
And that’s how I landed in the front seat (Remember OJ Simpson? He was the celebrity face for Hertz Corporation’s rent-a-car advertising campaign, which, incidentally focused on airport rentals, before sinking into infamy) of a Hertz contract, one of the darkest periods of my financial misfortunes.