Elite Status

Didn’t Know These Cars Could Survive In Alaska!

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I thought PT Cruisers were the worst rental cars you could get…

Jeanne & I flew into Anchorage at midnight this weekend and hustled to the National rental car counter, eager to get to the hotel and to sleep as soon as possible. After a 5 min wait for the person in front of us, it was our turn. At this point we were so tired we were slightly delirious (I think I had even joined Jeanne in singing show tunes under our breath), but not so delirious that we didn’t notice the return time on our rental was wrong.

He had it as 1PM, our flight was leaving at midnight, so it should have been 11PM. He changed it to “1AM sharp!” Huh? That didn’t really seem to matter until I noticed the estimated price was higher than I’d remembered — $40 instead of $26. He said it was because of the extra hour it was over the 24 hour period. Since he’d already processed the reservation he didn’t want to try to undo it (though the reservation was showing a higher flat rate and no overage charge), just told us to return the car at 11PM and the rate would go back down.

This worried me a little, but I was so tired I figured I could deal with it when we returned the car (never a good choice! Don’t do it!!). He’d also said we had reserved an economy car, though I could have sworn I would have rented a mid-size. As a National Executive Platinum, renting a mid-size lets you pick any car in the executive aisle. But I hadn’t set up my National Mobile App yet and hadn’t printed out my reservation, and heck, it had been a stressful month, I might have reserved an economy car. It was only for 24 hours, it didn’t really matter.

So we walked out to the garage and got a nasty shock.

Chevy Spark Alaska Rental

They had put us in a tiny Chevy Spark. But not just any Chevy Spark, a BRIGHT YELLOW ONE.

It barely fit our carry-on, or us! Definitely not ideal for giving Jeanne her first glimpse of Alaska. But we were tired so we decided to just head to the hotel.

It was only enroute when I pulled up my reservation and discovered I HAD booked a mid-size for $26, returning at 11PM. And then I started to get worried as I pictured driving the Seward Highway in the tiny car.

What if we encountered a moose? I mean, we were deliberately going out so Jeanne could see a moose in the wild. I’d heard the horror stories of small cars hitting moose, and we’d probably be injured if a moose even leaned on this one. Heck, a salmon could take us out.

Chevy spark rental

The next morning I called the location and got an awesome representative. I tried to explain the situation (though I was still tired and probably not super coherent). Fortunately I had my reservation number. She was able to confirm that all our info was correct and that if we could come by the airport she’d get it fixed quickly. Apparently the person last night had just taken any reservation with the last name Anderson?

On our way out of town we swung by the airport. I was a little worried how exchanging the cars was going to work. Would they charge me when I returned the Spark and then take it off my credit card? It just seemed likely I’d be dealing with this issue for the next couple of weeks.

We pulled up, I told the attendant there had been a mix up and Holly said she’d get the cars exchanged. And that was it. No receipt, no problem at all. We approached the desk, she briefly said she could try to figure out what the guy the night before had done, but it wasn’t worth it. She was cancelling that reservation and had our original reservation ready to go. She was super nice and apologetic about it. We trotted back out to the garage, where a lovely Malibu awaited us. Much better. And only a 5 minute detour.

SAM_0880 (640x480)

It even had a fitting license plate!

How companies handle problems like this makes such a big difference. It was a huge pain but I was so impressed by how the morning staff handled the issue that I’m an even bigger fan of National than before.

Disclaimer: No moose were hurt once we exchanged the rental car, but Jeanne & I did get a little bruised from cramming into the Spark. I have nothing against Chevy Sparks or the people who like to rent them but for an Alaska road trip they’re not the best option. National did not compensate us for writing this article, but I am one rental closer to a free day through their One Two Free promotion.


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Heels First’s Travel Advice–Sophisticated Travel, Uncomplicated Advice. The travels and tribulations of two frequent flyers jumping into the world of travel, sharing their travel advice. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.


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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world. www.twitter.com/klatravel


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