My wife is a brilliant complainer. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. She isn’t forever complaining, well, only to me. What I mean is that when she complains she’s so damn jolly and nice about it. By the time she’s finished on the phone talking to the telephone company about being overcharged, she now has a new best pal in the customer service girl who took her call. They’ve already agreed to meet up for coffee, go on a shopping spree together and they’ve friended each other on Facebook within seconds. She always, always, manages to extract an apology and get a reimbursement. It’s bloody annoying actually.
Me? Well, that’s a different matter. First up, being British, I rarely complain. I grit my teeth and quietly seethe thinking of all the things I’d like to do to the clown who put anchovies on my Hawaiian pizza. My wife says things like, “Just tell the waiter. I’m sure they’ll change it if you ask.” At which point I break out into a cold sweat and clench my buttocks so tightly I’m in danger of causing self-inflicted rigor mortis. “No! It’s fine. I’ll eat it. Anchovies are full of omega 3. It will be good for me.”
“But you won’t enjoy it,” she’ll state as she stuffs another slice of anchovy free pizza into her mouth.
‘That’s not the point,’ I declare defiantly, not actually sure what the point is.
I never complain in person and I’ve even stopped complaining by phone. The last time I did, I fully expected a SWAT team to descend from a helicopter and launch stun grenades through my windows. No, I only complain by email now. It’s a far more dignified way to do it.
I can compose my first draft then let it simmer for a couple of hours. When I return, I then remove all the expletives and I’m usually left with, “Dear Sir”, and “Kind Regards.” After draft five it’s ready to go.
A couple of years ago, we had our annual family holiday in the UK. Yes, I know, I can hear thousands of you screaming at the screen, “WHY?” It would have worked out cheaper to have a glamping holiday on top of Mount Kilimanjaro and be spoon-fed caviar by the Queen’s butler. However, I digress.
Actually, there were only two things that slightly marred the holiday. The first happened while I was sat outside a fantastic pub in a place called Beaumaris on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales, (if you haven’t visited, put it on your bucket list). A seagull shat in my pint of Guinness. This sort of thing can deeply affect a man. Having to pour that pint of Guinness down the drain was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. From that moment on, I realised I had the fortitude to achieve anything.
The second incident happened when I had to return the hire car to Leeds and Bradford Airport. I’d almost forgotten about this nightmarish event until the other day. I was cleaning out my inbox on Gmail and came across a folder called “Complaints”. Inside was an email I had sent to the hire car company after they had bombarded me with “Customer Satisfaction Survey” forms for weeks. I have reproduced that email here to show you how to complain via email.
After persistently bombarding me via email, with your “Customer Satisfaction” survey I have decided to take the time to reply to you. Before I begin, I just want to point out the erroneous title of your survey. You should really have two forms, the “Customer Satisfaction” form and the “Customer Dissatisfaction” form. If you had, then I would be filling out the latter now.
Okay, where do I begin? I suppose at the beginning.
The pick-up from Heathrow Airport was fine apart from being repeatedly asked if I wished to pay extra to annul the excess insurance. The shoebox on wheels (the Micro Fiat) was also fine, albeit, a little cramped for a family of four. This is my fault for being a cheapskate. However, if I had realised the car had been designed by children for children then I may have upgraded to something slightly larger, such as a unicycle. I now know how those clowns feel that ride around under the big-top in their Noddy car. However, it was only required for twenty-four hours to get us from A to B before we swapped it for a proper car.
Now to the unpleasant part. I arranged to return the car to your depot at Leeds and Bradford Airport within twenty-four hours. This experience was totally and unforgivingly abysmal. Where do I begin?
Firstly, the signage for returning hire cars is virtually non-existent at Leeds and Bradford Airport. I missed the postage-stamp-sized sign on the way in and ended up in the short stay car park.
If you are unaware, this is the type of car park where you can happily drive in to, unhindered and park up. However, to get out of the car park one has to pay. The two minutes I was there cost me £6, as it did my wife who was following behind in another car. Already, I’m £12 down.
From my expensive vantage point in the short-stay car park, I could see various hire car signs in the distance, their flags waving enticingly in the bitterly cold wind and rain. However, trying to navigate there was like searching for the entrance to Eldorado.
I eventually managed to make it to the long-stay car park and parked up. I then began some reconnaissance. I walked on foot to the Hire Car drop off point (in the pouring rain) to figure out how to actually drive there. In the meantime, my wife, much akin to a Homing Pigeon, had managed to return to the short stay car park. This cost her another £6 to get out of. I’m now £18 down in the space of five minutes.
After my reconnaissance mission, I wrote down extensive notes and drew a map to help me achieve my objective. Eventually, I drove the car into the well-hidden entrance of the Hire Car return depot. I would have thought, for my commendable efforts, there may have been a red carpet rolled out for me and a marching band playing “It’s a long way from Tipperary”. But, alas not. In fact, the place looked deserted.
I parked up and then spent ten minutes (in the pouring rain) wandering around like a comatose vagrant looking for the LameCar representative. When I stumbled across his or her little cubicle, to my dismay it was all locked up.
After a few more minutes stumbling around in the increasing wind and rain, I spotted a Hertz car representative. He informed me that LameCar doesn’t employ a “returns” rep on the weekends. Of course, they don’t—why would they? I mean, what person in their right mind would ever need to drop a car off on a weekend? Apart, from muggins, here.
The Hertz man (who does work weekends, oddly enough) told me that I would have to make my way to the terminal where LameCar had a kiosk inside. It was with a certain amount of resigned fatalism that I glanced at the terminal in the distance—the very far distance. I was hoping my wife could drive me there. However, I noticed that she’d already exited the short stay car park and immediately turned into the one-way loop that leads directly back to the short stay car park, for reasons, that to this day, have never been fully explained. She was now caught in a cross between Ground Hog Day and some Kafkaesque nightmare. Despite the roar of the jet engines overhead, I could still quite clearly make out her expletives, some of which I’d never heard before. I doubt the person who designed the short-stay car park, ever envisaged the day when someone would visit it three times in ten minutes. Ka-ching! That’s the sound of another £6.
I walked the 1 km to the terminal (in the pouring rain, and blizzard conditions) in a mood that could best be described as “apoplectic”. Once inside the terminal, I made my way to the LameCar kiosk. I do apologise for bothering your rep on that morning. He was busy on the phone talking to what appeared to be his “Bookie”. I never did check to see if “Foreboding” won the 3:30 at Aintree. Your rep briefly broke off to tell me, “Just leave the keys, buddy.” This was probably a blessing in disguise, as if dialogue had broken out between us then I may now be holidaying at one of Her Majesties retirement villages.
There were no forms to sign, no check of the vehicle for damage, no thank you or even a “kiss my blue arse”. This whole dreadful experience took over forty-five minutes, exactly how one likes to spend their time when on holiday.
My wife was now waiting for me in the long-stay car park. Soaked to the skin, suffering from frost-bite and hypothermia I entered the warm comfort of the car with a certain amount of relief. As we left the long stay car park, my wife, once again, turned into the one‑way loop that led to the short stay car park. I’m not exactly sure that this was a mistake. I think she had grown quite fond of the short stay car park and wanted to bid it farewell one last time. Another £6.
The nightmare was not yet over. I had made the fatal, schoolboy error of forgetting to fill the fuel tank up with petrol before returning the car.
You took the liberty of rectifying this error by filling it up yourselves and debiting my credit card. I’m not exactly sure which petrol station you used to replenish the car. Maybe, it was in a parallel universe where the cost of fuel is 36% more expensive than in our universe.
Apparently, it took 23 litres to fill the car up. (I’m not sure the shoebox could even hold 23 litres – and it was half full when I dropped it off.) The average price of petrol I had purchased during my journey from London to Leeds was £1.80. Apparently, your mystery service station charges £2.30 a litre. I suggest you shop around in future. Your mark-up of 50 pence per litre, multiplied by 23 litres cost me £11.50. Oh, and just to put one last cherry atop of the cake, you then charged me VAT at 20% on top of it, a cost of £2.30.
As petrol already has VAT built into the price, I think your little scam may be illegal. You cannot charge a tax on something that has already been taxed. This is a matter I will be raising with the Inland Revenue Tax Office. Although, I foresee my dealings with them to be about as enjoyable and fruitful as my dealings with you.
With the cost of petrol, the illegal tax and the car park fees I am out of pocket to the tune of £43.80 – which is more than the damn car cost me to hire in the first place!
You may call this vertical integration or some other such “management” wank‑word, but I call it price gouging the customer.
Our main car for the holiday was thankfully hired through Hertz, who do manage to employ people on weekends. They were helpful, courteous and fair.
I will not be using your company again and I would appreciate reimbursement of £43.80. There is no charge for the Laundromat used to dry my clothes or for the 45 minutes of my time, my wife’s time or my long-suffering children’s time (even though we were on HOLIDAY!) I look forward to never using you again.
p.s. I left my Sound Of Music CD in the CD player. Is there any chance you could forward this on to me? I do so miss the Von Trapps unbridled joy and enthusiasm, despite the fact their country has just been annexed and the hills are now alive to the roar of Panzer Tanks and the click of Jack Boots. It just goes to show—in times of adversity, it pays to keep one’s chin up.”
Needless to say, I never received a reply nor did I get my Sound Of Music CD back. It irks me to think that an employee of LameCar is happily singing along to, “So Long, Farewell,” which is what I am about to do now.
I hope you enjoyed this Discombobulated Extra. If you would like the regular Discombobulated Newsletter delivered to your inbox once a month then all you need to do is to subscribe to my mailing list – here.
Until next time, Keep On Keeping On!