Category Archives: rants

In Search of Consistency at the TSA Checkpoint

My unfashionable defense of the Transportation Security Administration has been, while not exactly ardent, at least steadfast and long-standing, grounded in the simple fact that passing through security at my home airport was worse before the TSA showed up.

It was impossible back then to know what the hostile minimum-wage rent-a-cops at Bradley International (sic) Airport expected passengers to do as they approached the conveyor belt. All we could be sure of is that they would shout their seemingly arbitrary commands with derision and sarcasm. I didn’t hate them, even then. Their underpaid misery seemed greater than any misery they could inflict on the traveling public in those random and brief displays of despotic authority. But I don’t miss them, either.

At least with the TSA, I know what to expect. Or at least I thought I did. Lately I’m becoming confused.
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Attack of the Big Screens

My husband and I ate breakfast in a Tampa hotel restaurant recently surrounded by six big-screen TVs.

They were affixed high on the walls, tuned to various stations, the sound turned off, some with captions, some without. And while the sheer number of screens was unusual, the experience of visual cacophony was not. It seems that everywhere we go these days there is at least one big-screen TV, usually more, flickering and dancing away.

This is especially true when we travel out of state. At home we can find places where there are no TVs – our favorite restaurant has none – or where they are at least confined to the bar.

But the invasion of big screens in airports, casual restaurants, hotel lobbies and even cruise ships has made it difficult to get away from them when traveling. And getting away from them has become increasingly important to both of us even as it has become more challenging.

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Beware of Orlando’s Rip-Off Gas Stations

The Orlando Sentinel reports that two gas stations near Orlando International Airport have refused to comply with a local ordinance requiring them to post gas prices that are visible to passing drivers. The story says:

Even though it’s been a year since Orlando passed a law to force the two notoriously high gas stations closest to the airport to post their prices, there’s still no way for potential customers to know the cost of a gallon of gas without pulling up to the pump.

The price the stations were charging on Friday: $5.79 a gallon, in an area where the lowest prices are now around $3.50. Of course, travelers returning to the airport with rental cars need are the ones getting ripped off.

The stations face fines of $250 a day for non-compliance with the sign ordinance. But since they’re charging more than $2 a gallon above the going rate, it’s probably a whole lot more lucrative to continue violating the ordinance. The city says it could shut down the stations by putting liens on them and foreclosing, but it’s not clear how likely or how speedy a resolution that might be.

Here’s hoping there’s punishment in Hell or the next life for the people who abuse travelers like this, but meanwhile let’s keep calling them out and warning each other on the Internet.

Hertz Investigation Determines Hertz Is Right

The central irony of my dispute with Hertz over its bogus claim of damage to a car I rented in Spain is that I chose Hertz because I considered it more reputable than its competition.

Sadly, not so much.

Yesterday, I received an email at 9:39 a.m. informing me that “Hertz Claims Risk Management in Spain is being asked to make an investigation” of my allegation that the $500 damage claim is false. Today, at 10:34 a.m. I got another email informing me that “We regret, the office in Spain has advised the damage charges are valid and the correct vehicle was rented and shows damages to the vehicle.” (Perhaps it’s more grammatical in Spanish.)

Anyway, that was a quick investigation. But then it saved a lot of time that the investigators would not talk to me or correspond with me directly. And when I called Hertz customer service about this most rapid investigation, I was told that I have no further recourse with Hertz and I will get no further explanation. The customer service representative told me (a tad impatiently because I keep asking all these pesky questions) that I can dispute the charge with my credit card company, which of course I have already done.

So, just to summarize:

Hertz won’t tell me how the photos it provided of the “damage” were time-stamped six hours before I returned the car — as confirmed by the time of return noted on Hertz’s own invoice.

Hertz won’t tell me why it has no photo of the car’s hood, although the company claims there was 196 euros worth of damage to the hood.

Hertz won’t tell me why its photo of a side mirror that it claims I damaged shows a mirror that is shaped differently than the mirror on the car I rented, as I can prove with my own photographs of the car.

Hertz won’t tell me why someone added a description of the alleged damage to a document I had already signed, as I can prove with my own carbon of the original document.

Hertz won’t tell me why its investigators don’t want to see the 16-page refutation of the damage claim that I sent to American Express.

Hertz won’t tell me why its investigators won’t talk to me, confirm that they’ve even seen the evidence I gave customer service or answer my questions.

Oh, Hertz. Can’t you just pretend you made a mistake and that you really weren’t trying to steal from me? Nobody would believe it, but we’d all feel a little better.

A European Lesson In Patience

My father and I were driving from Galicia to Madrid on Monday when traffic on the A-6 (care-ay-TAY-rah day la nor-oh-AY-stay, according to the GPS) came to a complete stop — and stayed that way for nearly an hour.

The Spanish drivers got out of their cars, stretched and, in the case of almost every male driver, urinated on the side of the road. I ate most of the food I’d brought along for lunch and read a few chapters of my book (“The Known World” by Edward P. Jones: Must. Read.) Finally, I asked a nearby driver what had happened. He let out a stream of Gallego-inflected Spanish from which I extracted the word “mineros” and little else.
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