October 4, 1998
It was getting close to move-in day. Dave's got all but the bathrooms painted and the place looks fantastic. The carpet is down and I'm really happy with the way it looks against the paint. Next week the hardwood floors get done - I hope. Thursday the termite police take over my old place to tent it. I was hoping to be into the new place with most of my stuff, but then I found out that rental trucks are hard to get on the first weekend of the month. It was a bit of luck that I found this out because it also alerted me to the total disregard for customers that U-Haul corporation exhibits.
The basic fact is that U-Haul lies about truck availability. No other way to say it, they lie like dogs. In fact, I had a "good" reservation for this Sunday according to the Phoenix U-Haul reservation center, "someone will call you 24 hours ahead to give you a final pickup place and time. If you don't hear from us by noon the day before your pickup, call this number . . ." Hmmm. "What do you mean 'final pickup place and time'? I thought you just rented me a truck in Campbell for 9am Sunday?" "Oh, don't worry sir, this is how it always works. The truck will be near by when you need it. You can count on U-Haul." Being a bit uncomfortable with this set up I waited one hour and then called the number they gave me to call 24 hours ahead of the pickup.
This number rings the regional coordination center - I think they schedule all the trucks in Northern California. Well, the regional coordinator out here told me there is no chance I'd get a truck on Sunday: she was still getting trucks for people who had reservations for one last Wednesday! She was aghast that I was rented a truck. "Those people in Phoenix just don't listen. We don't have any trucks. We keep telling them and they still keep taking reservations." She was clearly upset about the position she was in. She was very nice and found a smaller size than I wanted in Hayward, but that's 30 miles away and would add $50 in mileage charges to my rental.
Just for grins, I called back the 1-800 reservation line and tried to rent again. Believe it or not, they were willing to give me yet another "good" reservation for Sunday!!! What schmucks. I guess they were planning to drop the bomb on me when they felt it was too late for me to do anything about it.
After I got a reservation for the second non-existent truck I told the guy on the phone, "Why are you renting me a truck when you don't have any trucks available?" He said, "Oh, we have trucks in your area, I have a note from the local area telling me what's available." I told him the story from the local area scheduler and he politely asked to transfer me to customer service. Sure. I tell the next guy who picks up the phone that I'm looking for customer service to complain. He passes me on again. The next guy hears a bit of my story and says, "If you have a reservation I'll transfer you to the rescheduling desk." "No, I want customer service." "Certainly sir, I'll transfer you. You should know that the current wait is 15 minutes." I hung up.
I now have a reservation with Budget for the 11th (408) 971-0808. They were much nicer, more in control. I told him a little bit of my story and he sighed, "Well sir, we do not overbook. You will have a truck from us at this location next Sunday."
I've told this story to a friend of mine and she just laughed. "U-Haul did the same thing to us last year when we moved," she said. "At the last minute they made us go to another location to get the truck. What choice did we have? We were all set to move the next day."
Jesus! Don't ever use U-Haul. You've been warned. [Since this was written I came across a web site called U-Hell that documents a disturbing number of similar stories. Search for it with Alta Vista.]
Ten days since the last update. So much has gone right - and wrong. I'm in and there's no denying it. All my stuff is out of the old place and into the new. I hired Lamont and Charles, two local guys from SJ and they did an excellent job of hustling most of my miscellany into the Oak Street digs. It took us (them) 8 hours and two trips in the 15 footer from Budget. Budget, wow, that was a trip. After all my hassles with U-Haul, Budget seemed like a dream. Then I show up Sunday at 8am to find: headquarters power outage has the West coast computers entirely down for the day. "Not sure how to rent you a truck..." Oh my. A little sweet talkin' from yours truly and he's writing up the rental agreement by hand. I tell him I'm willing to put a bloody thumb print on it, but I need a truck. Turns out to be no problem at all. Go Budget!
Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)