A few summers ago, we decided to do a road trip. Bay Area to LA, see some friends, go to Universal, see some other friends. One of us was in between chemo treatments, the other had broken a foot a few months earlier and was still in one of those moon boots. We were quite a pair, but set to have some fun in the mountains, in the flatlands, at Univeral and everywhere inbetween!
In that we expected to need a lot of stuff and do a LOT of driving, we rented a van. We’d done it before, some places were better than others, but we thought we’d found a decent rental place. Picked up the van, all seemed fine. Packed it up, headed out.
We got about 4 hours south of the Bay Area, pulled into a rest stop, did our thing and then started back out. A mile or so out of the rest stop, we heard a BANG! I thought it was the truck next to us. I soon realized, I wasn’t the truck. It was the tire. Doing 70mph (the speed limit there), it was exciting trying to get pulled over carefully. An offramp came upon up, so we took it. Got out of the car and it sounded like an old western when vultures were circling overhead—nothing in sight but dirt and tumbleweeds and the highway.
I went back, looked at the tire. It looked like someone had taken a knife, in perfect unison, and given us two slashes in the sidewall. No one had slashed the tire—the tire had just failed, badly. I was ticked. The tire HAD to be old—they don’t fail like that and when I looked closer, the tire was pretty worn and oh yeah, didn’t match all the others.
I looked for the spare. Nothing. We called the rental place (a nationally known, usually well thought of company). They finally explained we had to lower it from between the driver and passenger seats (a dodge van).
Did I mention this was summer, in the desert? It was 100F already. We were both sweating.
We then asked the rental company how they were going to repair THEIR tire. They pretty much told us to do it ourselves and they’d get back to us on giving us a refund of that money.
In that I KNEW we didn’t cause the failure—if one of us had driven over something, I’d had driven it into town, gotten a new tire and been on our way. This was a systemic failure, something the company could have prevented by doing proper maintenance.
The only other option they gave us, was to drive to Fresno, LA, Ontario or back to the Bay Area, ON THE DONUT TIRE, not rated for more than 50mph and more than 50 miles of driving (it was 150-200+ miles to get to any of those choices), for them to trade out the vehicle or change the tire for us.
We explained one of us was in between chemo treatments, one of us had a broken foot and we were BOTH women—standing near a sign that says “DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS—FEDERAL PENITENTIARY NEARBY!”. Did they REALLY want us to be stranded out here?
They suggested the 200 miles of driving, or that WE could use OUR AAA card to have the vehicle towed back to the service yard. They weren’t authorized to do anything to help us.
About that time, we saw a highway patrol car. I explained to the rental company that we’d go over and explain to the highway patrol officer that the company was suggesting we VIOLATE STATE LAW and operate the vehicle unsafely, as they directed (on the donut for more than 50miles, and WITHOUT a spare tire). And THEN, I was going to call the local TV station (we happened to know the name) and put it on air what the company was expecting us to do—including playing up the cancer and broken foot and oh yeah, the locals ALL know about the penitentiary, and make the company REALLY sorry they’d stranded us with defective equipment. You can’t BUY bad advertising like that. I explained we had a contract for a fully functional vehicle in GOOD condition, operational condition. AGAIN—had WE done something to make the vehicle malfunction, I’d have taken care of it. They had rented us a dangerous vehicle with dangerous tires–and oh yeah, I had taken pictures of the tires at this point for further proof later, in case they wanted to know how serious we were about exposing their hideous vehicles and treatment of customers who paid good money for a vehicle that didn’t work.
Eventually, they got back on the line. They SUPPOSED they could send a tow truck from the Bay Area, with a replacement vehicle. We just needed to hang out waiting for it to arrive. No charge.
We limped into the nearest town on the donut tire, with the hazard lights flashing all the way and parked the heap. This was more than an hour after the incident.
So we hung out in a big box store, in the AC, for about 5 hours—thankfully. If I NEVER hear that store’s catchy tune on their TV’s again, it will be too soon. We shopped, we ate, we sat reading, we killed time the best we could. We called the friends we were going to have dinner with and explained we wouldn’t get to LA before bedtime, assuming the replacement truck was even close to on time.
We waited. And waited. And WAITED. And WAITED. We have known each other for 20 years, even WE ran out of things to say to one another!
It got to over 108F outside while we waited—we were VERY glad to have been able to get to the store, or the tow truck driver would have found two fried women waiting for him, assuming an escapee hadn’t killed us first!
Eventually, the truck arrived, they had an SUV for us, with Texas plates (not something most people in California care for too much—out of state Texas drivers…oy!). The driver did the transfer paperwork, we unloaded and reloaded from the van to the SUV (I had taken 3 hours to pack the van carefully to start!) and eventually got on our way. Lunch in Santa Barbara turned into dinner at a drive-thru, we pulled into our destination something like 18 hours AFTER we started. Missed dinner and festivities with friends, but did get going.
We vowed to NEVER use that company again. Filed a complaint with the BBB (which, btw, we never heard back from). Never an apology from the company. Zip. We managed to enjoy the trip after all that tsuris, but we haven’t been on a big trip like that again since!