Wayward Shots — Rental Car Remorse

What happens when you get hit by a rental car? It Hertz. For those who aren’t used to traveling, the rental car experience each week can be very unpredictable. Sometimes getting your car is smooth and easy, and other times it’s like pulling teeth without Novocain. These days, with all of the memberships and reward programs, the transition time between getting your bags and getting on the road is much easier and much quicker. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t get a lemon no matter what vehicle you rent, or how easy it is.

A few years ago, Paul Goydos was playing the Web.com Tour Championship in Jacksonville, Fla., as part of a rehab event from his medical extension. I secured a great vehicle that week, and ended up with a real nice, big SUV. A few days into the week, I was driving to the course and noticed the slightest wisp of smoke coming from under the hood. There wasn’t much I could do, so I went to work, and forgot about it.

The next morning, there was a massive oil slick under the car, and I knew I was in trouble. As I was driving to the course, so much smoke was billowing from under the hood, I thought Snoop Dogg was hiding in the engine. I called the rental car company and told them my concerns. They seemed accommodating, and agreed to come out and swap the vehicle while I was on the course. Sweet! Except they never came. So instead of having a relaxing beer after the round, I had to drive the SUV back to the airport from the course, with a smoking hood that I thought was going to explode.

Do not rent from the Dollar Rent A Car company in Hartford, Conn. After arriving in town on Monday for the Greater Hartford Open, I received my mid-sized car from Dollar and headed straight to the course. The car had a slight vibration to it, but it was a high mileage car for a rental, and the roads were a little weathered, so I didn’t think much of it. After spending the day at the course, I was driving to my hotel and a message light came on saying one of the tires was low on air. I found a gas station with an air hose, filled it up and left.

That evening I was heading out to dinner when I noticed the back left tire was completely flat. I called Dollar and they sent a repairman to put the spare on. When the guy took the tire off, he said, “Whoa … that’s not good.”  He showed me the tire and it had steel fibers coming out of the rubber because the tire was so worn. Just for fun, I checked the other tires by running my hand over them, and actually drew blood as I cut my hand over more steel poking out on one of the other tires.

I called Dollar again, explained that a car barreling down the freeway with steel fibers poking out of the tires may not be safest form of travel, and made it clear that they needed to send down a new vehicle. Their response? They wanted to charge me $100 to tow it away and replace it. I just about lost my mind, and they decided to send me a new vehicle, on the house. It was an impressive cargo van and it came with a few amenities like a turn signal, a steering wheel, and even had four tires … with tread!

At a Champions Tour event in Raleigh a few years ago, after landing and getting my bags, I made it to the rental car facility to pick up my car. When checking in, the employees always ask you a few questions. “Do you want to buy an upgrade? Do you want to purchase insurance? And, do you want to purchase the fuel option (pay for a full tank now, then bring it back empty)?”

When the employee asked me about the fuel option, I actually gave it some thought. I was staying a reasonable distance from the course, so there was a chance I might use a full tank. Then he said it was only $20, which is what I would normally pay to fill a rental before returning it. Sounded like a good deal to me, so I agreed, and he handed me the keys.

As soon as I got to my car, I knew I had been duped. Sitting before me, in the assigned location, was my vehicle … a Toyota Prius. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I’m pretty sure the Prius gets 3000 miles to the gallon. In any case, despite all my driving that week, the fuel gauge didn’t move a notch until Saturday, five days after I rented it, with one day left. If I had filled up the gas myself, it wouldn’t have cost more than $3. Fool me once … shame on you.

Despite these stories, I usually have no issues with the cars I rent. Plus, you can often times get good deals with the right Internet navigational skills. But, like I said before, do not rent from Dollar in Hartford. When I returned the cargo van at the end of the week, I spoke with the manager. I showed him the picture of the rubberless tire, and asked him why they provided me with a car that could potentially kill me. He stared at me blankly, didn’t say a word, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a handful of small pieces of paper and handed one to me. A coupon for 10 percent off my next weekly rental at Dollar … in Hartford. Fool me twice … shame on me.


Chris Mazziotti is a veteran Tour caddy of more than 20 years. He currently loops for Paul Goydos. He has worked all four majors on the PGA Tour, and has caddied for players such as Brian Henninger, David Gossett, Brandt Jobe and others.. Mazziotti currently resides in Milwaukee, Wis. E-mail him at cmaz1@msn.com.