Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Disney Vacation, Part 1: The Bad News

I'll give you the bad news first.  And isn't there a saying about bad news always coming in threes?


About two weeks out from our trip I got an email from the brand new B Resort in Downtown Disney, that they would not be making their Grand Opening deadline, and my reservation that included sheets that had never been slept in and bunk beds for the kids and environmentally conscious amenities was transferred over to the Buena Vista Palace and Spa.  They even footed the daily resort fee for which I hadn't yet paid.

On a "Bad" scale of 1-10, this was about a 3.  Disappointing, but the Palace was nice.  People were friendly.  Came with its own character breakfast.  Nobody necessarily went out of their way, but I have no complaints.  (Okay, one complaint, but I've noticed it at other places...Why do nice hotels still have analog cable?  Most of the channels barely come in.  If it had been any other type of vacation that would have been a serious point deduction, but we pretty much all fell asleep as soon as we got in bed each night.)


3:30 pm flight on a Wednesday.  Picked Oldest up from school a little early under the premise that we had to drop Dad at the airport before heading to an orthodontist appointment.  Pulled into long-term parking at about 2:00 pm and delivered the surprise before rushing them in with their new carry-ons only to be told the flight was delayed. They needed Maintenance to check the seal on the cargo hold door.  Ended up leaving the airport a little after 5:00 pm.

On the "Bad" scale of 1-10, this was a 6.  Nobody likes flight delays, but I guess delayed is better than losing my luggage over Georgia (or worse).  The main problem was that on the original plan, we would have gotten checked into the hotel just in time for a late dinner and maybe a stroll around Downtown Disney.  The new plan didn't have us even landing until about 7:30 pm.

Absolute Worst

I had pre-ordered our rental car through Priceline.  Had a good rate at Avis for a mid-sized car.

I used to be an Avis Preferred Member, back in my E&Y days that had me commuting to Augusta, GA every week. I would arrive at the Atlanta airport on a Sunday evening and my car would be running in the parking lot.  One time they even gave me a cute little Mitsubishi Spider convertible that they had sitting on the lot.  Just handed me the keys and told me to enjoy.

Now I don't know how Avis at the Orlando airport treats its "preferred customers", but I can tell you that they treat the rest of us peons like shit.

First, I stood in line for roughly thirty minutes.  It seemed as though everyone in front of me must not have already had a reservation and were completing new paperwork and making all the decisions I had already made a month ago.  This was not the case.

What was really going on, was that each customer was getting a hard-sell on an upgrade.  When it was my turn, my associate wondered if I would like to get a Lincoln Navigator instead of my Jetta sedan.  It was normally $300/day, but he could get it for only $50/day more than what I was paying. (Doing the math, that's an extra $200 Avis would like to tack on to my Disney World vacation.)

"No, thank you."

"But you will be in Orlando for only four day.  Don't you want to ride around in luxury instead of squeezed into that tiny little Jetta?"

Um, not long ago, I OWNED a Jetta that I squeezed into with my family of four EVERY DAY, so no, a frickin' NAVIGATOR is not necessary.

"No, thank you.  I will take the car I reserved."

"Oh, well, let me see if I can get you an upgrade somewhere in between."  And before I could say another word, he was gone.  Disappearing to "check with his manager" on what deal he could swing me. After I lost approximately an equal amount of time to Daylight Savings, he returned to give me his offer, which I promptly, but politely refused.

"I would just like the car that I ordered, please."

When I also refused to pay for additional rental insurance (at this point, it was on principle), the rest of the transaction was completed with an attitude that I will generously call "cool".

I should also point out that all of the above conversation had to be repeated several times, because the associate refused to speak up over the general noise of the airport.  I can only assume this was to frustrate me enough that I would finally just agree to whatever he was mumbling.

I was then told to have a seat.  They would need to bring my car up and it would take approximately ten to fifteen minutes.  He would come get me when it was here.

Excuse me?  The car I pre-ordered and pre-paid to be ready for me when my flight was supposed to land at 6:00 pm, is now, at 8:00 pm (because I've already wasted a half hour with these people), not on the premises? What. The. Hell.

I simmered in my chair with my two hungry children and not-on-his-ideal-vacation husband.  For the full fifteen minutes and then some.  My associate had not moved from the desk.  I walked back up and stood to the side not looking forward to the glares I would get from other customers if I appeared to be "cutting" in line.

A couple who's associate had just walked away turned to me and said, "You don't want this guy.  He keeps trying to upgrade us instead of giving us our car.  If I were you, I'd talk to the man with the radio.  He seems to be the only one allowed to make decisions."

So I sauntered down to the All Powerful and asked for my car.  Curiously, he didn't even know I was waiting for my car.  AP wondered who was helping me, and as I pointed the associate out, he magically walked down and handed my contract over.  Oh...I guess my car is ready now and after loosely interpreting the insufficient directions to get to said car we were finally on our way.  We ate dinner at 9:30 pm.  That was BEFORE we checked into the hotel.

On the "Bad" scale of 1-10, this hit the limit.  And because no one even had the decency to APOLOGIZE to me for my wait, I would actually push it up to 11.

Rest assured the rest of our vacation was phenomenal, if a little haphazard.  But all the goodwill that Avis had worked up with me over my many years of business travel, completely evaporated after that excruciating hour in Orlando.  Congratulations, I would prefer to walk barefoot on hot tar while carrying both my children on my back than drive one of your cars again.

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