I’ve written posts about my pet peeves before, but here’s a new one: young renter’s fees. Is 5-8 years not enough driving experience to gauge whether someone is a decent driver? There’s a lot I could say about that issue…but more importantly, I’d like to tell you a wonderful story called, “Renting From a Sketch Rent-A-Car Company in Cali for Spring Break Because We’re Cheap Like That”.
Let’s just start with the basics. We were flying into LAX and needed to get to Goleta (Santa Barbara) which is about a 2 hour drive. Option A: Have Sarah pick us up and drop us off…but then not really have transportation during the week; Option B: Take a train/bus to Santa Barbara and not really have transportation during the week; Option C: Rent a car (an affordable option between 4 people) and have our own transportation for the week. We went with the most logical option, Option C. And that’s when things got hairy.
We looked into car options a few weeks before our trip and were getting prices in the $450-$700 range. All because as a 21 year old (with a clean driving record) we were going to be charged somewhere around $250 as a “young renter’s fee”. So we started hunting. After checking out a few local companies…we found AA’A Rent-A-Car. We prefer to call it A A apostrophe A.
The story begins with me calling the company to get a quote. A man answered, but I mistook his greeting for an answering machine and therefore responded really delayed-like and awkward. After that greeting, we began to discuss prices and confirmed that it was $5/day for being 21 and $285 total for the week. Great deal if it was legit. But everything was a tad sketch. He had an incredibly thick German accent (which created a bit of a language barrier) and later I realized I didn’t know his name until the day we were picking up the vehicle (from reviews we assumed it was Hans, but that was wrong). Everything was also very rushed and the only communication we had was verbal. Anyway, after receiving the quote I said I would discuss it with the group and he said well you’ll have to call me back tonight because I don’t know if I’ll still have it on Saturday.
Time lapse. Call back. Confirm that I would in fact like the vehicle. “Okay…give me your credit card number.” Got a little scary, but the risk is worth it for a couple hundred dollars right? 😉 I also received no electronic confirmation of any sort. Was told over the phone my 6-digit confirmation number, and the plan was to pick up the car from AA’A at 8:00 pm on Saturday in Cali. He also mentioned that the name would be changing by the time we got there (3 days later) to “Cloud”. I said, “To what?” “To cloud, like a cloud in the sky.” Okay. Good to know.
So a few days later, we’re getting dropped off at the airport. And as we are about to tumble out of the car, my phone starts ringing. Call from Inglewood, CA. It’s “Hans”.
Hans: Hi. Is this Riley? There’s an emergency. And we’re not going to be able to be here tonight at 8. Something has come up.
Me: So no one is going to be at your building tonight?
Hans: No. We have a meeting. And we don’t know when we’ll be back. We can leave the car somewhere and I can text you information. I have your number and I can text it. Do you want to pay now, or after? We can charge it now.
Me: Umm, okay. I will pay for it at the end of the week when we return it. (Thinking there is absolutely no way I am paying for this car before I see it ….for all I know it may not even exist at this point and I already had a $100 deposit down).
Hans: Okay. I will text you the information.
Me: Okay. Our plane leaves in 2.5 hours, so if you can send me everything before we board, that would be great.
Time lapse. 30 minutes before we board. I have not received any information. We did have a brief exchange via text for me to send him a picture of my driver’s license. So I call him.
Me: Hi, would you be able to send me the information soon? We’re about to board. [And then I asked him his name in case of disaster.]
Hans: Yes. I will send it. Do not worry. Everything will be alright. It will work out. I am driving the car right now. I am taking it to get the oil changed. I will text you when I return to the office. Okay?
And that’s that. We land in LAX. I turn off airplane mode on my phone and receive two texts.
So obviously I’m like….what, what, what are we doing?
And then a longer message comes in.
And I’m like, okay legit. No idea what to expect of the video. And then I watch it. (I put it on YouTube just to share it with you all…it’s not like a video they normally use. Just for us!)
After I watch it obviously I’m like, we actually might be kidnapped. Maybe this car is stolen. Where the heck is this? Is this in an LAX parking garage? Is this by AA’A? Is AA’A real? What is life? Okay, not entirely. But in all seriousness, I was like we’re legit going on a real life scavenger hunt right now. And then I text Hans to ask him for some context to the video.
He text back and said that it was by AA’A. In the Crowne Plaza’s parking garage in spots next to the valet. Finally I was feeling pretty good about it. He said that the parking garage name was airport central. We hop on out of the airport to catch a shuttle to the Crowne and all of a sudden, there’s a shuttle that says, “Airport Central”. And I’m like that’s what we need! Luckily we were able to chase it down. I hopped on to confirm that it was in fact going to the Crowne Plaza and that it was free.
Me: Is this a free shuttle?
Him: No. It’s $20.
Me: Makes face.
Him: Jusssst kidding.
Me: Okay awesome! That’s perfect. 🙂 (but I’m actually thinking…we’re seriously on a real live scavvie hunt right now and your humor is incredibly relieving, but unwelcome all at the same time).
And then we make it to the Crowne. He drops us off and we’re crossing our fingers that some how this whole situation (that adds up to be disastrous) somehow actually isn’t by some miracle. So we open up the video. Which turns out to be incredibly helpful. Leads us right to our car. I was assuming that the RA# was a code to unlock the vehicle. Nope. Unlocked. Keys in the glove compartment along with my one-page contract. My insurance wasn’t through them, but I was covered up to $50,000 because I had done the transaction with my Discover card. Thanks Discover. And anyway, everything was perfect. The car was super nice. 1/4 tank of gas like he said. Smelled brand new. We documented the scratches for our own personal records…and we were off. Easy as pie.
Then this kid, me, drove in LA. So that was fun. 🙂 And the entire week everything worked perfectly with our car. It was fabulous.
One week later. Saturday morning. I receive a call from Hans/Sam. “Hi is this Riley?” “Yes…” Needless to say, they weren’t going to be there again. Which makes me feel like this is once again a trap somehow. Everything running through my mind. Kidnapped. The car is stolen and we’re going to drive into an ambush of the LAPD. Casual things like that. But to make a long story short, we change our plans a bit and return the car at 6:30 pm (when Hans is still going to be there) so we can increase our chances of survival and receiving our $100 deposit back.
We pull up into the Crowne Plaza’s driveway and are hoping we’re able to find this place because we never actually went to it when we picked up the vehicle. After scooting into the driveway, we look to our right and on the first-floor corner office of a super tall/large building there’s a man in a window. He’s looking at us and smiling and waving ferociously. Which elicited a unanimous exclamation from the four of us resembling something like, “He’s real! It’s Hans/Sam!!”
We had survived.
He came strutting out in his suit (because he had a concert that night) and was just beyond happy to see us. Pretty sure he had more stress about us having his car for a week than we had anxiety about not knowing if he was real or not. And that’s that. He sent us in to pay. They reimbursed my $100 deposit. Paid for the $285. And all was well. And is still well. And we really like Hans now.
So if you’re looking for a cheap rental car in LA, accompanied by an adventure…go to Cloud Rental (formerly known as AA apostrophe A). They will not disappoint.
Above Photo: Hans filled with pure joy that we returned the car in one piece. All ready for his concert.