Don't Remember the Alamo
by Greg Bulmash
In February I rented a car from Alamo at Burbank Airport in California. I normally go with Avis, but Alamo was offering a much cheaper rate and I was stupid enough to take the bait.
When we've travelled with our infant son in the past, Avis has always had a well-trained, state-certified installer make sure the infant seat was properly seated and secured in the back seat of the vehicle.
As we rolled our baggage cart to our assigned space, an Alamo employee dumped an infant seat on our cart. We asked if the installation person would meet us at the car and were told that we had to install it ourselves.
Upon inspection of the seat, we found it to be filthy.
We asked for a replacement and to talk to the manager. The manager came out and stood by the policy of not installing child seats, claiming that it was to avoid liability. He would not back down and insisted it was our responsibility to install the seat.
Any lawyer could easily argue that putting this crucial safety operation into the hands of tired travellers with little or no child seat installation training (as opposed to having a trained and experienced installer do it) is negligent. And it's agonizing to think that Alamo will wait until a baby dies a terrible death in one of their cars, and a jury punishes them for it, before they'll change this awful policy. But I digress.
The replacement for the dirty infant seat was a somewhat clean toddler booster seat, totally inappropriate for our 11-month-old. When we asked for a proper replacement, we received an infant seat with twisted straps and missing installation instructions.
We had learned less than 48 hours earlier that my wife's father had died and we needed to come to Los Angeles for the funeral. Tired and grieving, having had a travel day where everything that could go wrong did, Alamo put the icing on the cake.
This wasn't just one bad employee screwing up. It took multiple employees and Alamo's lot manager, all doing the bare minimum their jobs called for, to make this experience as truly awful as it was.
I walked across the lot, grabbed an Avis manager, got him started on the paperwork for a rental, and then went to cancel my contract with Alamo. By the time I got back, the Avis manager had pulled their car up near the Alamo one, transferred our luggage, professionally installed the infant safety seat, and had the contract brought out to us so I could just sign it and get on the road.
Avis lived up to their claim that they try harder. Alamo, on the other hand, doesn't merely fail to try harder, they don't try at all.