Why do they keep changing the rules?

4 04 2006

My first day in LA has not been a good one. OK, so there's the almost 30 hours now without sleep thing, but that's not what made it bad… that just meant that I wasn't able to deal with life's little challenges as easily as usual.

The day started off well enough. We arrived in LA on time, and it was only 45 mins between touching down, clearing immigration, collecting luggage, clearing customs and being out on the pavement awaiting the rental car shuttle. So far, so good…

But then drama #1 happened.

I'd done my research of rental car prices and found that for the size of car we wanted and the number of days, Thrifty were by far the cheapest of the national/international brands. So I'd booked a full-size car online through their website. We get to the counter and the booking is in the system – this is a good thing. Then the $175 fee for the 10 days magically becomes close to $600!!! For the first time we had to pay insurance (never had to with Hertz etc. as it is covered by our travel insurance, but the Thrifty people said that our travel insurance didn't cover the types of insurance THEY wanted). We were able to get a couple of the insurance categories waived as the travel insurance did cover them, but ended up having to pay for two we weren't expecting, totalling over $300! The guy at the counter 'graciously' upgraded us to a Luxury vehicle – some HUGE tank of a Chrysler that probably guzzles fuel like it was water! And the price of gas here is unbelievable – $2.85 a gallon around LAX – and Thrifty charge you $6.69 a gallon to refill the car if you don't bring it back full. Most car rental companies charge a bit more than the going rate, but not $4 a gallon more! We've got another booking with Thrifty for the Michigan part of the trip. I'm seriously considering cancelling it and going with another company. Not happy, and being tired and grumpy meant that I wasn't feeling very kindly toward the man at the Thrifty counter.

Drama #2.

US cell phones and me are not meant to be together. Period. Let's backtrack a few years…

Back in about 2001 or 02, I decided to purchase a pre-paid US cell phone for my annual trips. Upgrading my Austalian phone to tri-band wasn't a viable option, and the call charges from Telstra were horrendous (gee, nothing's changes). So I ambled down to a Verizon store, bought a cheap phone, and paid to have it activated, then paid a bit more for talk time. About $90 all up. On returning to the US the next year, I reactivated the phone for a $30 charge and paid for some more talk time. I then lent the phone to a friend travelling to the US who reported that Verizon wouldn't reactivate it – something about radio frequencies of this type of phone and terrorists… So the Verizon phone became a small brick, suitable only for anchoring tiny objects to the sea floor.

The following year, I purchased an AT&T GoPhone. Well, AT&T is a BIG company, so I figured I'd be pretty safe with them. No reactivation fee for subsequent years too, so I paid $40 for the GoPhone and some more for some talk time minutes (probably about $30 which included 400 free weekend minutes).

In 2005 I return to the US to find that AT&T have been taken over by Cingular. After finding a Cingular store, I get the AT&T phone reactivated and pay for some more minutes. Life is rosy.

Then today, I take the AT&T GoPhone into the Cingular store (like I did last year), but now they can't reactivate the phone as they no longer deal with the AT&T SIM cards or AT&T network or AT&T phones (take you pick – I got ALL those responses… some even from the same person!). My alternative, says the nice Cingular salesperson, is to purchase a Cingular GoPhone + talk time minutes. Well, their GoPhones starts at $130 and talk time minutes are charged at either 25c a minute (or 10c a minute if you take the option where the first call of the day costs $1 flat + 10c minute thereafter). My head hurts, my brain's foggy, and I'm NOT HAPPY!

So I thank the nice gentleman at the Cingular store and walk out with a two year old obsolete phone that is only suitable for anchoring seaweed to the bottom of the ocean – and no working phone!!!

I'm really peeved that the rules can be changed so easily. What you believe one day (as per the website, as per what you were told, etc.) turns out to be a crock and a scam to lure you into paying many more dollars than you expected – or that you should.


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9 03 2008
Phone saga… again… « At Random

[…] I thought I’d solved the phone issue two years ago. Not so. (See these posts from 2006: 1, […]

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