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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Don’t Juneau car problems never reproduce for the mechanic?

Working for a software publisher makes me well aware that bugs never reproduce when you bring a programmer over to watch over your shoulder. A corollary of this rule is that when you experience transient car problems they never re-occur when the mechanic is present.

I bore the brunt of this perverse state of nature this week while on vacation. Immediately after picking up my car from National Car at the Juneau Airport on Wednesday, the transmission in our Toyota Corolla acted up -- it went out of gear at about 30 mph. I brought it back and told the National Car people at their airport counter -- a man and a woman -- about this problem. He vehemently denied the possibility of a problem and literally sprinted out to give it a test drive, telling my wife and two daughters to get out. I jumped in as he peeled out of the lot, all the while complaining that there could be nothing wrong with the transmission. This guy also said that if I was complaining as a way to get a bigger car that I'd best forget it, they would only give me a smaller car, which he knew I could not accept due to us being full up in the one we had. Aarghh!

The National Car guy (their mechanic?) made a three-minute loop around the airport, during which the transmission worked fine, and so he told me it was OK. I said no, he said yes, I said no, he said yes -- and so forth – neither one of us willing to give in. This continued at the counter where the woman working for National Car talked on her cell phone ignoring us both. After a while, she broke off from her chat and asked her colleague if the car was OK. He said "Yes." I said "No, I want another car." She said "Sorry, but that's all we have -- the others all need an oil change." What could I do: I kept the car and said that my complaint ought to be put on record by National Car Rental. This was totally ignored.

The car ran fine for a while, but the transmission went out again the second day. I managed to nurse it back by down-shifting and then going back to automatic. The funny thing is that before the tranny went out again, in my determination not to be bothered by the rudeness of the National Car guy I’d just about convinced myself that the shifter had accidentally bumped into neutral the first time it acted up.

Needless to say, I am lodging a complaint with this National Car Rental. I usually go with Hertz and will do so again in future. They have never treated me badly. I like Hertz’s Gold service very much.

Oh, by the way, Juneau is a great place to visit. Perhaps the most spectacular sight is nearby Mendenhall Glacier – pictured here.


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