Thursday, September 9, 2010

Musings: "We Try Harder"

I awoke to a pink glow that had turned into a world suffused with yellow light when Koko and I went out walking this morning. Rain had fallen through the night, though dry patches remained beneath the trees, and it adorned the ironwood hedge with drops that were instantly transformed into a zillion sparkling gems once they caught sight of the sun. Makaleha, meanwhile, became a blushing green hulk under the influence of the dawn, which softened all its edges as the birds burst forth in song.

“How’s sistah?” asked my neighbor Andy when we encountered him on the road, and I answered, in all honesty, “really good.”

She’s been visiting me from St. Louis this past week, and although she isn’t too thrilled about the early wake-up crowing — “Is anyone looking into ways to eradicate the chickens?” she asked on her first morning — she’s enjoying her stay.

What’s not to like when you’re swimming in azure waters, walking on cornmeal-coarse sand, sniffing a white ginger lei, sampling a Sunrise papaya and longan raised by a friend, enjoying the view of Waimea Canyon on a perfectly clear, sunny day?

The stars of Kokee prompted her to flop down on the dew-damp grass with a delighted exclamation: “OMG, they’re so fat! And the Milky Way! I haven’t seen it for years!”

It was, indeed, impressive, that new moon-black sky all chock-a-block with stars that formed into the thick swirls and swaths of a distant galaxy that seems even more so to the folks who, living in cities, have nearly forgotten its existence, much less its magnificence. To cap it all off, Venus was sinking in the west and Jupiter was rising in the east. We stayed out, ogling the splendor, until the chill and the damp forced us into the warmth of a cabin that a friend had so generously loaned.

Of course, it hasn’t been all idyllic. I did drag her along to K-mart, Cost-U-Less and Big Save, and she experienced the kind of rip off that is most likely perpetrated far too often when we went to rent a 4-wheel-drive to get up to the cabin. We discovered there’s been a lot of consolidation in the RAC industry, so you have essentially two companies to choose from, and they use their stranglehold on the market to impose the kind of exorbitant rates and fees that have typically been the purview of banks and airlines.

After calling to secure a Jeep at Avis, and packing up everything we needed to stay up the mountain, we arrived to find that they wanted to charge $50 more than the already ridiculous price of $130 we’d been quoted to rent a vehicle that was actually capable of 4-wheel-drive. We balked, and so they gave it to us for just $10 more. Such a deal.

Then they tacked on another $13 for me as an additional authorized driver, even as we heard them offer two married couples the opportunity for the wife to be added on at no cost.

“Isn’t that discrimination?” asked a friend when I recounted the story.

Sure sounds like it to me. Now can you see why gays want to get married? And as my sister noted, we have a closer connection than any married couple.

But the biggest screw was yet to come. We returned the car exactly 20 minutes late, for which they charged us $82.49, and then they tacked on another $13 for the additional driver fee.

“That’s when I knew I had been royally screwed,” my sister said. “It was simply beyond the pale.”

It wasn’t so much the money — a shocking $258.62 for one day and 20 minutes — that left a bad feeling in her mouth, but the distinct feeling that she’d been totally and fully ripped off.

We both were left wondering how many people end their vacations feeling burned — not that Avis probably gives a shit, but KVB might want to consider what kind of send-off the RACs are giving our visitors — and we also got to thinking of how demoralizing it must be to work at one of those places, when its policies require you to repeatedly ream the customer.

And then there was the question of how does this, exactly, reflect the Avis corporate slogan of "we try harder?"

That night, we went to the gala reception for royal visitors from Polynesia over at Children of the Land in Kapaa. Delegates from Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Aotearoa, Australia, Rapa Nui — site of land conflicts with the Chilean government that recently involved use of the military to stymie protests — and other Pacific nations are here all week, at the invitation of the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi. They’ve been holding talks to discuss ways of strengthening their ties and supporting one another. Events, which are open to the public, will continue through Sunday at Lucy Wright Park in Waimea.

After meeting a number of my friends who are involved in the independence movement, listening to some great music, seeing Tahitian and Hawaiian hula and watching fire dancers perform, she was pleased to have had the opportunity to experience cultural activities that weren’t done solely for the benefit of tourists.

“I would have much preferred to give that extra $93 to the Polynesian Kingdom,” my sister said, reflecting on the earlier extortion at Avis.

But we didn’t have that option. Because as a friend noted, “What can you do? They already have your credit card.”


Anonymous said...

Have missed your blogging but now I know why...sis is in town. Your trip to Kokee sounded so good. It's those kinds of moments that make living here so special. I agree about the RAC...all kinds of hidden fees. I returned my vehicle late too and got charged an outrageous amount plus being hit for not notifying them about change in return time. Ridiculous is right.

Anonymous said...

AVIS= Another Visitor Is Screwed


Anonymous said...

And they say private industry needs no regulaion.

to the anomollyies>--->

Please spare us the free enterprise lecture!

Anonymous said...

I am not an employee of Avis, and never have used them on Kauai, but, I do regularly use them when I go and work in Honolulu every other week, and also to visit our place on the Big Island.

With all the "add ons" state and local taxes and fees, the quote does not include, one should try shopping online for deals. Get a quote (especially from another company) that seems reasonable and bring it with you to try to make a deal.

I had and SUV saved by one company for 350 per week at the Denver airport. Because my line was so long, my wife checked on company where the line of people was very short. She told them about my "deal"....they gave her the same SUV for $250 per week.

They (RAC) "prey" on first timer's who do not know about renting cars, and supply and demand. When you rent during so called "black out" times when the season is busy, it's hard to get a deal on site....unless they "need the business".

But, I must say...that most of the complaints I have heard about Kauai, have started at the RAC