Dee is the absolute best at holiday arrangements – she looks after everything and every year we have the best time when we go away.
I can’t stand picking through brochures and websites but she loves it and locks down every detail including great places to visit, excellent accommodation and this time she even managed discounted advance parking at Dublin airport!
Months in advance she managed to get a great deal on a cabriolet car rental and she double checked this with the car hire company, Atlas Choice a few days before we were about to fly out. Car hire can be a little hit and miss in particular when you can get the car you booked “or similar”, which is a term that is quite open to interpretation.
Dee had booked a Renault Megane cabriolet and the plan was we were to collect it at Catania airport after our evening flight and then drive to our hotel, which was an hour away. All going well we would be sipping on a cocktail before 10pm looking out at the Mediterranean and up the next day spinning around the coast with the top down and the wind in our hair!!
“I am sorry, there is a problem with your car and we will have to give you something else” our lady from OS Car Rental said (these were the local agent for Atlas Choice car rental).
“But we confirmed this with you just two days ago?” we said…what was the point?
“There is nothing I can do except give you a bigger car, a Kia Sportage” was her solution and hopefully they would deliver the replacement car to our hotel in a few days.
Hmm..You just couldn’t trust this crew judging by the girls attitude – at this stage she was really annoyed that we would not just accept what she was giving us and move on and out of her way.
She asked us to sign a contract for the Kia Sportage for the duration of the hire. We weren’t very happy being presented with a ‘contract’ that would technically lock us to this car. “We will sign it if you note on it that you will change the car as promised in a few days“.
At this stage she totally lost it “I sign nothing” complete with hands waving and extravagant gesturing ….”If you want a car tonight you sign the contract and take the Kia“. At one point she tore the contract out of Dee’s hand as she saw that we were going to write a note on it.
I was so amused at this point that I managed to get her to repeat her “I sign nothing” performance but this time I recorded her – if anyone from her company gives a toss about customer survive they will enjoy this!
Hotels booked and paid for and getting nowhere fast with our Sicilian friend and determined that she wasn’t going to muck up the start of our holiday we relented ….20 minutes later we rolled out of the car park in something we wouldn’t have booked in a 1,000 years with 114,000 miles on the clock.
Our first thoughts were that Sicily was a big con job and we were on high alert – what were we to expect next?
Thankfully we got the friendliest welcome from the hotel, which was much better than we could have expected and we had our cocktails a little later than planned! We were too late for dinner but the kitchen managed a club sandwich for us.
My daughter Ellen and her boyfriend arrived to Sicily the following evening and got stung paying a €96 euros charge for ‘outside normal hours‘ collection of their car and were thinking ‘what next‘. They had a frustrating hour trying to argue that people coming off a regular evening flight to collect a pre-booked car was quite normal and should not incur a penalty. Con job?
My son Brendan and his girlfriend arrived to Sicily a few days later and got caught with a €25 taxi bill for a 2 minute ride to their hotel. When they questioned the amount he grabbed their suitcase and threw it in the boot of his car until they coughed up. Rachel’s first thought was ‘I just want to go back home‘.
All three of us had a lousy first impression of Sicily, which thankfully was replaced quickly by some fantastic ones.
Should every country, every place and every business have a ‘Manager of first impressions‘ to make sure that your first impression is great because that first impression lasts?
Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork