Saturday, July 27, 2013

We're home, had a great time, and R&R is a lie.

You know you've had a good trip when just enough things went wrong (or, to put a positive spin on it, differently than you'd expect) to make some great stories, and just enough things went right that everyone was happy.

Take, for example, our car rental.  Started bad, ended bad, traveled bad, but in between was a fine little car that got us everywhere we wanted to be.  Do not, I repeat DO NOT, rent a car from Green Motion in the UK, and especially not from the Holiday Inn off the M4 at Heathrow.  Just don't do it.  From the moment you stop you're considered an inconvenience and the hostility that rolls out of their shop is palpable.

Wait let me go back a bit.

I made the reservation through some generic site like, or maybe it was  Doesn't matter.  Anyway, rented it through a no-name place and reserved a car off-airport at ACE car rental because it saved a couple hundred pounds.  There's the Hoppa bus service from the airport to a number of hotels and it all worked out, only to find that ACE car rental was no longer at that hotel and hadn't been for at least a year.  Now, I'd made the booking in May, a mere two months before the trip, so that was, well... odd.  Had the desk folks call the number on my reservation sheet and then Ian talked to them and had to convince them to come pick us up. Oh, and ACE car rental was no more and we were actually dealing with yet another party, the aforementioned Green Motion. They figured it wasn't their problem that the reservation had been sold to them with no updates sent to us about where they were actually located.

Fast forward, they picked us up and brought us to their counter.  Our car for "7 people + 4 bags" was a joke.  If we'd had 7 people we could have fit 2 carry-ons.  With 6 people we were lucky we only brought one real suitcase and the rest were carry-ons.  Even with that Jonathon alone in the third row had no room to move.  Apparently it's a law with Green Motion that the trunk cover (you know, those things that you pull over to cover up what's in the trunk) is a must for every car, so even though we couldn't use it because suitcases were stacked on each other and on people, we had to cart the cover around with us too.  Careful not to close the trunk and shatter the glass with the bar that went from Jonathon's feet to the back of the vehicle, we managed to cram everyone in.  I get that cars in the UK are small, but there's a little deception going on with the claims of how much they can carry.

We were going to Ireland.  There was no where on the reservation request to put anything about our travel plans and we learned going to Ireland was a no-no without hundreds of pounds of added fees.  We changed our plans and decided right there in the office we weren't going to Ireland.

It's OK though, they nickel and dimed us so much on the rental fees that weren't listed in the flat rate that I'm surprised we could even afford to take it off the lot at all.

We needed a GPS.  What an annoyance to customer service.  I didn't reserve one beforehand, it wasn't an option on the website.  They gave us a TomTom and we quickly discovered as we pulled out of the lot it didn't work.  After finding our way back to the rental office they exchanged it for a Garmin which saved us the rest of the trip. The Garmin was our very best friend, and while it took us on cow paths and past fertilizer plants and around hairpin turns, it eventually always brought us to our destination.  We loved little Garmin to the fullest extent one can love a canned British voice that literally guided us through the days.

I kid you not, from the time we got to the wrong hotel to the time we finally drove off with the car 90 minutes passed.  From here on out... Enterprise at the airport.  Or Avis.  Or Hertz.  One of those awesome places where you show them a credit card and they hand you a key and off you go.

Ian managed the right-side manual drive like a pro.  We stalled, we got stuck along tiny roads after pulling off to let tour buses fly by on roads not big enough for two cars, but through it all he kept his cool.  Even after he sprained his ankle he kept it together and got us safely to each destination.  He's a rock star.

Two and a half weeks later we returned the car to Green Motion.  Just as frustrating, just as unpleasant.

The guy checking in cars was essentially annoyed that we were there.  Hey, you know those marks that get left on a wall when you bump into it, say, with a shoe, or a suitcase, or the vacuum?  Yeah, those.  This guy found 2 of those on the rear bumper and one slightly larger rub (not a scrape, not a scratch, like from a tire or something else), and the office took the full 1000 Pound liability off our card in anticipation of what the body shop will require to "fix" it all up.

Hand me a buffer, I'll do it.

This was one on my big screw-ups on our trip.  Renting through a no-name to save a couple bucks and spending far far more time and money than any other place would have required.  Waste of time, waste of money, I cried over this.  It wasn't a good start to our time in the UK, that's for sure.

And my own wish.  I wish I knew how to drive a stick shift.  I need to know how to drive a stick shift.  My husband should not have had to drive 8 hours with a busted ankle because I didn't know how the car worked.  What if his leg had broken instead? What if something worse? What if what if what if?

Anyone in Amman want to teach me how to drive?

1 comment:

  1. Just makes you "American" to not know how to drive a manual. Its our fav thing to mock on Amazing Race. Not that I'm much better at it, mind you, but I have done it. A few times.