I like to consider myself a fairly level-headed guy. Sometimes my tone of voice sounds much more agitated than I really feel, and Adrienne hates that, but I picked that up from years of exposure to my dad doing the same thing. That's not a knock on him, he just raises his voice at times when it really isn't necessary, and when asked why he's so mad, he replies, "I'm not mad!" I do that too. Chip off the ol' block, I guess.
But usually when I have an interaction with a rude person, or I don't get top notch customer service from a business I am patronizing, I try to have at least some compassion...I have no idea what kind of day they are having, and Lord knows I've not always provided the best customer service when I've worked in that environment, so I try not to take it at total face value. But, everyone has their boiling point, and mine was reached and exceeded a dozen times Friday night. But, I'll get to that. Let's start from the very beginning. I apologize in advance for the length of this story, but all the details need to be included to really get an idea of what I had to deal with.
Adrienne and I have been planning to move back to Glasgow for some time now, and about 4 weeks ago, I reserved a 17-foot moving truck from U-Haul. I had checked around to all the major moving companies to try to find the best deal, and U-Haul was not only the least expensive, but the most convenient as well. It was the only one of the major companies that had pick-up and drop-off locations near where I needed them, so it really was a no-brainer. Besides, I had used them to move to Mt. Sterling last July, and had no problems at all. I expected much of the same.
But, on Thursday afternoon, one day before I was needing the truck, I got a call from them, which I expected to be nothing more than a confirmation much like you get from the dentist office a day or two before an appointment. When the woman, named Amy, told me my truck was not going to be available, I was rightfully surprised and agitated.
"How is a truck not available when I reserved it A MONTH in advance?" I asked her.
"Well, we have trucks going in and out daily. It's really impossible to determine what will be available at any given time," she said, as if what I was saying was the most ridiculous thing she had ever heard.
"So...Why have reservations in the first place?" I asked, returning the condescending tone. She sort of side-stepped the question, offering some token apology, and said I could take a 14-foot truck instead. I declined, obviously, and she finally said she had secured a 14-foot truck and a 12-foot trailer at no extra charge. Really doing me a favor.
I wasn't at all satisfied, but what could I really do with less than 24 hours to spare? I relented, and thought that would be the end of the ordeal. My, how I was mistaken.
Friday afternoon, my friend Ryan, Adrienne, and I got the truck and trailer loaded down and ready to go. A couple of my neighbors had to help me put the trailer on the hitch because it was so heavy, but we finally got it lifted and secured. Adrienne drove on ahead because I knew I'd have to drive slowly, and didn't see any need for her to have to do the same. I grabbed a bite to eat, and headed on my way. Less than 10 minutes down I-64, the unthinkable happened.
I was going down a slight grade and went over a small bridge. I glanced at my side view mirror and saw the side of the trailer begin drifting into the other lane. I frantically tapped the break as I let out a string of language that would make my mother want to crawl in a hole. The hydraulic brakes on the trailer engaged, and the trailer took a sudden turn straight toward the shoulder. I continued slowing, but the trailer violently shot back across the other lane, and back again. It did this four or five times before I was able to come to a stop on the shoulder. I sat in the cab, shaking like I have never experienced, contemplating what I was going to do next. It had taken three fully grown men to get the trailer on the hitch in the first place. How was I going to do it by myself? Luckily, I glanced back and saw a truck stopping behind me.
"I don't know how you did it, man, but that was one heck of a save," the guy said as he approached me. I don't remember his name, but he was a life-saver as far as I was concerned. "That thing was across both lanes, totally sideways."
I immediately called the emergency help line at U-Haul to explain what happened. Marsha was the first U-Haul representative I spoke with. As I explained to her the situation, it was immediately clear she had absolutely no clue what I was talking about. She kept trying to confirm what kind of equipment I had, focusing on the appliance dolly for some reason, as if it had anything to do with the situation. She implied that I hadn't connected the trailer correctly, and that U-Haul personnel should have done it for me. "They did when I picked it up, but they're not going to come to my house and connect it for me. Besides, Marsha, I know how to operate a trailer. It was connected properly." She didn't even tell me where the nearest U-Haul dealer was...She just gave me a reference number and said she'd be in touch with me later. Didn't call any roadside assistance. Didn't do ANYTHING to help the scenario. My only saving grace was the gentleman that happened to be on his way home from work, that saw the whole thing happen.
He luckily had a hydraulic jack we could use to get the trailer back on the hitch, and he followed me into Winchester to the nearest U-Haul dealer. The 5 miles took about 30 minutes, because I was driving no more than 20 MPH the entire way, still shaking and scared to death at what had happened. I was just lucky that no other cars were around me, and that I, and no one else, was hurt during the ordeal.
When I arrived there, I found the U-Haul dealer to be located in the back room of an IGA...A desk and computer right next to a meat locker. Literally on the other side of the tracks. Ken, who was the manager there, didn't have any trailers available, he said, but was able to secure Ray's Rapid Repair to come fix the trailer. My definition of rapid, and Ray's definition must be two very different things. I sat in the parking lot of the IGA waiting for Ray to rapidly arrive for over two hours. The store closed. Ken went home. So it was just me. And the hood rats that periodically walked through the parking lot to go to their apartments. And my pocket knife, always at the ready. Just in case.
Ray finally arrived at around 9:45, at which point I had already walked to a gas station to buy a car charger for my quickly dying cell phone. He took one look at the coupler on the trailer and said, "Damn, what did they give you? This thing should have never left the lot." I concurred.
He went to work with a hammer and wrench, attempting to tighten the coupler down on a severely stripped bolt. After about 30 minutes, he finally got it secured enough that I felt somewhat comfortable driving it. However, the trailer lights had been malfunctioning all afternoon, so I asked him to take a look at the wire, just since he was there. He and I both expected it to be a quick fix, but oh no...He spent almost 4 hours working on the wires, only to determine that they needed to be completely replaced. I couldn't legally drive the trailer, even if I had wanted to.
By this time, it was about 1 AM. I had heard from Marsha again. About 3 hours after the initial call. She said, "Has the roadside assistance arrived yet?" At this time, Ray wasn't there yet, so I said no. She replied, "Hmm, I was afraid of that."
You were afraid of that? You didn't even call them in the first place, Marsha. You only knew roadside assistance was coming because I told you they were. You were as useless as a butter knife with a bowl of cereal. I had called U-Haul twice already to ask where Ray was, and so I told her he was close and hung up. When she called again about an hour later, I said it was getting taken care of and hung up on her mid-sentence. I was done with Marsha. Thank God.
So, by this point, I realized that I couldn't continue the drive. For one, the trailer lights didn't work, and the last thing I needed was a ticket and/or someone rear-ending the trailer on the interstate. Plus, I was totally exhausted and wouldn't have made it 10 miles without falling asleep. So, I went to a nearby Wal-Mart to get padlocks for the trailer and truck, McDonald's to get some Chicken McNuggets that I would enjoy in my room as I wound down watching Sportscenter, and then pulled into the nearest hotel, a Best Western, to sleep for the night and figure things out in the morning. The parking lot wasn't visible from the road, and when I pulled in, I realized I wouldn't be able to get back out. Cars were placed perfectly to prevent me from turning around, and so I was stuck. I HAD to stay at the Best Western, despite how sketchy it looked (really, the only good thing about the night turned out to be the hotel. It was surprisingly clean and comfortable).
As I was getting out of the truck, a man happened to be walking by and told me to just leave the truck where it was, because it wasn't blocking anyone, and the lot would clear out in the morning allowing me room to maneuver the truck. Coupled with the level of stress and fatigue I had been battling all evening, the distraction was enough to make me forget the keys were in the ignition as I closed the locked door. I realized what I had done and almost broke down crying right then and there. I plopped down on the curb, contemplating my next move, and chowed on my now cold McNuggets. I was so distraught, I didn't even take the time to open the ketchup packets.
So, I called U-Haul for about the 7th time to tell them I needed a locksmith to come unlock the truck. This time it was Sue. She said, "Well, since there isn't anything mechanically wrong with the truck, you will be responsible for any fees a locksmith would charge. But, I can get in contact with the nearest service and have them come out to your location."
Poor Sue. Wrong place, wrong time. Wrong thing to say to a man at the end of his rope. It was like lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite. I honestly don't even remember what I said to that poor woman...It was like an out-of-body experience. But I absolutely unloaded on her, and let her know just what I thought of U-Haul and the whole crappy experience I had been put through that evening. I'm fairly certain I made up new curse words at one point. When I finished my tirade, Sue was stunned and stammered out, "Well, I, uh...Um...Let me see what I can do." She called back a few minutes later to tell me that her manager would not okay the locksmith services, but she had called the Winchester Police to come unlock the truck for me, free of charge. She was the only U-Haul representative that had been remotely helpful throughout the night. I apologized to her for blowing up, but I was only sorry for taking it out on her. She didn't have anything to do with the problems I had all night, she just happened to be the one that answered the phone. But I wasn't sorry for what I said...Whatever it was, I'm sure I meant every single word.
So, I finally settled into my hotel room, which I should have never had to get in the first place, and had to call U-Haul, yet again, to secure a new trailer in the morning. There was no way in hell I was going to drive that piece of junk anywhere further than the nearest dealer.
This time, I got a guy named Ramon. I explained the whole situation, again, and said I needed a new trailer. He replied, "Let me get you over to roadside assistance." I screamed into the phone, as I lay face down on the bed, completely mentally and physically exhausted, "I don't need roadside! I already had roadside!" But it was too late. Ramon had already transferred the call. I explained the situation to roadside. They transferred me to customer service. I explained the situation to customer service. They transferred me to roadside. I hung up. I let out a bellowing scream of frustration. I called again. This time, when they tried to transfer me to roadside for the 4th time, I said, "If you transfer me to roadside one more time, my brain is going to explode. I have been bounced around for 20 minutes. I just need a new damn trailer, and I need it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!" Brandy, whom I was speaking to this time, finally relented and began calling me darling and honey every 5 seconds, which only made me angrier. She couldn't secure a trailer for me, herself, but she could give me a phone number to call in the morning. Yay. Thanks for the help. By this point, I was simply delirious and I finally made it to bed by about 3:00. I think I was asleep by 3:01.
About 4 hours later, I called the number to reserve a new trailer as soon as the place opened. The voice on the other line? Amy. The same Amy that started this whole ordeal by telling me my truck was not going to be available. We had finally come full circle.
I explained the whole situation for what felt like the 20th time, and told Amy very directly and very sternly (I had cooled off SOMEWHAT after some much needed, albeit short-lived, rest) that I had to have the trailer now. Verbatim, I said, "I don't need the trailer tomorrow. I don't need it this afternoon. I need it now. Within the hour. Your company has wasted me a ton of time and money, and I'm tired of getting jerked around." She didn't respond immediately, and I could tell she was shocked a bit by not only what I said, but also my tone. She knew I meant business. After she gathered her thoughts, she replied, "So, you are in Mount Sterling, correct?"
I almost threw my phone across the room. "No...Like I already explained to you, and said more than once, I am in Winchester. I WAS in Mount Sterling yesterday. I need the trailer at the Lexington Road location in WIN-CHES-TER." I had thrown all tact and human decency out the window at this point. I just immediately assumed every U-Haul employee was a complete idiot, and with little exception, I was right.
I want to backtrack just a tad, because this part of the story is critical to the picture I am attempting to paint. The night before, after I had left the ghetto IGA to drive to Wal-Mart, I had passed a second U-Haul location about two miles down the road. While the IGA location had no trailers to replace mine, the second location I passed, the one on Lexington Road, had 3 or 4 sitting in the parking lot. I was banking on at least one being available to me. Had I known that location existed, or if Marsha's dumbass had told me about it, I would have gone there in the first place. But I'll come back to that.
Amy put me on hold, and when she finally came back she said the Lexington Road had a trailer available for me. "But, they don't open for business until 10:00," she said. This fact only made me angrier, but by this point, what was another couple of hours? I could shower and eat breakfast and be there waiting when the doors opened.
"Fine. Reserve it for me. Will you send someone to help me unload and reload my stuff on the new trailer? This is U-Haul's fault, after all," I said.
"Well, I can't speak for that specific location. Maybe one of the employees can help."
If I had been sitting across from Amy, I would have punched the woman in the face. And felt no remorse.
I agreed to take the trailer, because I had no other choice at this point. She told me the trailer would be reserved and ready for me when I arrived. "Is there anything else I can hel..." I hung up.
I went down to the lobby of the motel, made myself a waffle at the continental breakfast, drank a couple cups of coffee, and drove the half mile to the U-Haul dealer. This time, instead of an IGA, it was located at Butternut Bread Inc. I was about a half hour early, so I spent the time to call my friend Matt to come from Mount Sterling to help me unpack. I knew there wouldn't be anyone else to help. Luckily, he wasn't busy and was there in a few minutes.
As the clock approached 10:00, a car pulled up and a familiar face got out and headed toward the door with a set of keys. It was Ken. From IGA. The same Ken that had told me he had no trailers available to replace mine the night before. While he had been pretty nice and helpful the night before, I instantly wanted to punch him in the face too. Why hadn't you mentioned you had another store a mile down the road with trailers up to your eyeballs, Ken? How did that little bit of information slip your mind? I could have been in Burkesville last night. But, by this point, I was so over it and just wanted to get my stuff moved and on the road.
I followed Ken inside, to the back of the store, just like at IGA, and he pulled up his reservation list on the computer. Shockingly enough, there was no reservation in my name.
"Call Amy at this number," I said immediately. "Her name is Amy. AMY." I hate to say this, but I hope Amy is unemployed today. On second thought...No. I don't hate to say it.
Ken spent a good 30 minutes on the phone trying to get everything sorted out. Matt arrived and I relayed the whole ordeal to him. He responded just like any other normal human being would...With complete disgust and anger. Finally, Ken came out and said we were good to go. Then, just to put the cherry on top of the whole situation, he said, "You can take that trailer over there, but just make sure you park the old one in the same spot."
I pictured what I assumed Amy's face might look like on Ken's body for a second or two, but decided against it and went ahead and did as he requested. Matt and I unloaded the old trailer, reloaded the new one, and finally I was on the road to Burkesville. After leaving Mount Sterling at 6:00 on Friday night, I arrived in Waterview at about 3:00 Saturday afternoon. I then took the best nap I have ever had in my life.
I've had some bad experiences with companies and services in the past, but I've never had one be so consistently negligent, incompetent, rude, inconsiderate, and insulting as U-Haul was throughout the entire ordeal. Only one person genuinely seemed to care about the straights I found myself in. One person, out of the 10 or 12 I spoke to, really went out of their way to help. One person really tried to make my situation easier.
I've already filed an action claim with U-Haul's corporate management requesting a full refund for the rental, fuel cost, and needless hotel, but have yet to hear back from them at this point. I have never been one to get involved in a frivolous lawsuit, and usually find them to be ridiculous, but if U-Haul fails to come through, a lawsuit just might be headed their way. And if that ends up being the case, I'll look for much more than just a simple refund. I didn't know a company could care so little about the service they provide, or the happiness of their customers, as U-Haul proved to over the course of Friday and Saturday. They can either attempt to make it right, or continue to demonstrate total failure in customer service. Either way, they've lost one customer and I'll make sure everyone I know takes their business elsewhere as well.