you’ve left on a trip. You arrive at the destination and go to
pick up the rental car. And as we all know… that means it’s time
no… not a fun dance. A figurative dance… a shuffle dance…
a step this way, swing back that way dance.
no matter what kind of reservation you have, the conversation
once you arrive at the rental counter almost always seems to turn
into some strange exchange in three-quarter time…
you have a reservation” two… three…
you like to upgrade for just a few dollars per day” two… three…
about our insurance” two… three…
the dance moves on.
than a decade ago, Terry and I went on our first trip with the
boys… 1997 to Disney World. When we arrived at the car rental
counter, they offered me an upgrade for something like $3 a day.
I wasn’t thinking straight at the time… had apparently turned
off all parts of my brain associated with math… and I agreed.
(A slightly bigger car with my best friend Chris just days away
from his arrival and adding a fifth person to the car? Count me
in on a bigger vehicle!)
did I get for that extra money?
whole additional 1.8 cubic feet of passenger space!
and… umm… as it turns out, $3 a day for an additional 1.8 cubic
feet of space for an 11-day rental turns out to be $33 worth of
pissing in the wind. (Because it’s not bad enough to have pissed
that money away, there’s the additional bonus thrill of the constant
reminder for 11 straight days that 1.8 cubic feet of space is
the rough equivalent of a Rubik’s cube per person.)
don’t know what I was thinking at that time, truth be told. If
you could have seen the luggage Terry had assembled for this 17-day
trip that was to later include Key West (different car there)
and, as noted, also involved a friend of ours arriving to join
us a few days after we arrived, I firmly believe you might have
looked for an additional foot or two of cubic space as well.
the years I’ve had them try to tell me things such as my reserved
car wasn’t there, that the free upgrade wouldn’t cost much, and
that a loud noise roughly the equivalent of the axle snapping
in half while the wheels sheared off was perfectly normal. (And
they actually work hard at making sense out of their explanations.
The upgrade not costing much? That representative went on and
on talking about how the upgrade wasn’t charged, but the state
mandated bend-you-over-the-counter-and-tourism tax had to be applied
to the higher fee and… well… I stopped listening to her.)
have witnesses to these great moments. In fact… I’m probably lucky
to still be alive after the sheared-wheel-lie-to-the-wife-proof-of-great-insurance-coverage
incident of 1999… and Ellen and Richard witnessed that one. (Hmm…
like the 1.8 cubic feet of wind blown pee… and the previously
unmentioned here November of 2005 double-van rental… that one
also took place in Orlando. I’ll have to remember this when Orlando
plans get debated again in the future.)
about the only thing I actually consider these days is the fuel
option. Beyond that… thanks, but nope, nope, nope. (In that fuel-option
case, I fully understand I may still be pissing the money away,
but at least the convenience of not having to find a gas station
on rental return day makes it feel like I’m pissing downwind.)
fact is… Seinfeld got it right. I don’t know that it’s the representatives
fault all that often. I honestly believe that occasionally company
policy has them figuratively handcuffed. The problem is… I really
don’t believe that the representatives understand the “why” and
“how” involved. And by that I mean…
know what they are supposed to do. But they don’t know
why they are doing it, or how to react to the
customer that questions any of it. (Go ahead… find a search engine…
enter Seinfeld… car rental… reservation… “I don’t think you do”…)
general, business practices will tell you why a reserved car may
not be there, to use that as an example. Cars don’t get returned
on time… or, if you want to decide to believe negatively that
the company is trying to get you to spend more… and we could go
on and on. The end result is simple though… car rentals will throw
you curveballs at a higher percentage than virtually any other
comparable transaction. (And, in fact, car rentals have no comparable
Saturday, April 19, 2008, I encountered a new one. I had to fill
in all sorts of details about my insurance coverage just so I
could sign a line at the bottom saying I understood they didn’t
care about my insurance.
Longer version.) Basically, they asked about my insurance provider.
And then, once I told them I had insurance and had proven that
it covered rentals, they informed me that they didn’t deal with
insurance companies and I would be responsible for any damage
at the time the car was returned.
will pause for a moment in this story here to remind you that
as I wrapped up the second installment of this travel journey,
I told you about our Wednesday night return from the Grand Canyon…
and the rock that hit our windshield.)
I was younger, I seem to recall a time when the additional insurance…
that pay this and we’ll take care of everything and you won’t
need to call your personal carrier at all if something happens…
was like $5 a day or whatever. These days… $20 to $30 per is not
just common, those figures are low. Over a week, the additional
insurance can reach a figure higher than the rate you’re paying
to rent the darn car.
I signed the acknowledgement I paused for a minute, tallied up
the total charges for the… ahem… nominal daily fee over
the course of a week, shook my head in disbelief and signed the
now return to the story already in progress…
Six ~ Thursday, April 24, 2008
wake up this morning and start making phone calls. I’ve never
been involved in something like this with a rental before, so
I’m sort of half expecting them to take the car back. You know…
what I would consider normal and rationale fears… I can’t be trusted
with the toy, so they’re taking it away to protect their investment.
And, without rambling on and on about it… I would actually understand
that. I would understand if they insisted that a vehicle with
damage be returned immediately and even went so far as to deny
replacing it. Oh I’d hate it… wouldn’t be even remotely near the
zip code of happy… but I’d understand it.
also making these phone calls remembering the autograph I gave
on day one… that they expect me to pay for the damages and deal
with my insurance on my own. And in a strange way, that’s where
all of this gets so hysterically funny.
my auto insurance includes full glass coverage. No deductible
on that. And my first call… to my insurance provider… confirms
what I’m thinking. I’m covered.
second call is to my credit card. Yup… rented it with one of those
fancy cards that provides insurance on auto rentals when you use
it. Amazingly funny thing though… after saying “you’re covered”
in all those commercials and brochures and such… guess what they
actually cover in the fine print that you shredded and threw away
after signing the back of the newly arrived card? Turns out, in
that fine print (likely in some mailing I have filed away in a
drawer at home and not actually shredded), they let you know that
the coverage is actually the amount your insurance doesn’t cover.
In summary… the credit card doesn’t cover the full incident.
cover the deductible.
I will pause for a moment. This time so you can go back just a
few lines to the part where I mention my insurance covers glass
without applying the deductible.)
I made these two phone calls for a very important reason. Not
that I wanted to debate my responsibilities to the rental agency…
but rather so I would know exactly what I was up against once
I got home. I’d pay. No problem. But I wanted my claim to go smoothly
later on. Was I going to need certain documents, receipts, or
estimates in order to satisfy my car insurance claim? Before driving
in to the rental agency, leaving the car, and never getting the
paperwork or my insurers required independent estimate (or whatever
might be involved), I just wanted to know.
out… between the two… I was good. Whatever I had to pay, they
were going to be fine with the process, and I was essentially
going to get it back. (This is always an important piece of information
to know when proceeding down a frustrating path.) And for the
most part there wasn’t anything I’d need beyond the rental car
so I thought.
call the car rental agency’s office. I have pages and pages of
notes, all from a separate notepad, for this part of the story
alone. Names… dates… quotes… exact outlines of what to do. I won’t
bore you with the details. Suffice to say… I was told that I didn’t
need to bring the car in, they would check it out when I dropped
it off, and I would be given the total amount of the repair bill
when I left it on the final day.
on” I essentially say to the representative… “stop right there”
because I’ve got a question. “I’m leaving it at around 4 or 5am.
Someone will be there to tell me exactly what I owe?” (And here
we go… notice the quotes already?… yeah, more coming up…)
supervisor will be there and they will determine the repair costs.
You will have to pay for the repair costs at the time of the return.”
must have asked if he was sure, because the next line is another
supervisor will know if the damage can be repaired or if the windshield
needs to be replaced. And either way they will give you the exact
all I need to do is tell the person about the windshield and ask
for a supervisor?”
Just ask for a supervisor when you return the car.”
leave this part of the story for now. We’ll come back to it on
the last day. For now… just know that either Advantage needs to
train these people better or change their trouble-shooting guide.
The representative knew what to tell me. (That I would
be charged when I returned the car.) What he didn’t know was how
I would be charged (asked to provide a down payment seemingly
pulled out of the air) or why I would be asked to pay
that amount (you already knew this one… there is no supervisor
there at 5am and they have no intention of quoting repair costs
during the return process, especially before sunrise).
I hang up the phone, I look over at Terry. She’s crying. Before
I can find out why, she asks me to closer the door to the closet
with the washing machine. It’s too loud and she can’t hear the
you ready for this one? I’m not sure you are.)
out she’s watching The Waltons. And yes, that’s why she’s
crying. She’s watching a show that was first aired some thirty
years ago and she’s managed to become emotionally involved.
starting to think this is going to be one strange day.
decided to head back over to The Orleans for breakfast. When we
signed up for our player cards we got buffet comps. And, after
the experience with margaritas and appetizers, we’re all willing
to give the place another meal.
was a mistake.
arrive and go to the French Market Buffet. I have no idea where
the name came from, but there is absolutely nothing to remind
you of a French market. (Not that I’ve ever been to an actual,
in France, French market. Just… you know… trust me. Unless some
miraculous transformation takes place around dinner service… yeah…
umm, no. Nothing French market-y.) It’s a sterile environment…
lots of tables… and several buffet stations. And while everything
looks fine in general, the reality is that the entire production
could have used some modifications… some upgrades… some changes
in… oh… say… 1983. Seriously… it reminded me of a cafeteria from
junior high school that needed alot of work.
should have been expected when the orange juice we ordered was
just awful. Hideous. Really, really bad. But the story about trying
to get a glass of something else really drives the lack of a recommendation
for the place home. We’re a pretty easy-going group. If we’re
going to go hunting for an employee at a restaurant… for whatever
reason… chances are that magical line in the sand between adequate
service and downright inexcusable service was crossed quite some
time earlier. To that end… a play, in four short acts…
me some Orange Juice, Act 1… We arrive at our table, sit
down, and the waitress takes our drink order. All of us leave
to begin getting food from the buffet stations. I get back to
the table first. I taste my OJ and, as noted, it’s on the wrong
side of disgusting. As the others begin to arrive back at the
table, I mention it. I don’t know… maybe their beverage station
mixes it or something and the cartridges or canisters or whatever
were empty and needed to be changed. Whatever. I’m getting up
for something, and I ask the others to be on the lookout for our
waitress… and if they see her, get me an apple juice… a water…
a new orange juice if she has a reason for that one glass being
me some Orange Juice, Act 2… I return to find that temptation
won out, the others have tried their juices as well, they all
stunk, and now everyone is looking for the waitress.
me some Orange Juice, Act 3… Now it’s just getting silly.
We don’t see any waitresses. Not just a waitress for our table…
but no one coming through our entire section. All four of us have
finished second plates, and no one has cleared the dirty first
plates (that Terry neatly stacked on the end of the table).
me some Orange Juice, Act 4… Richard mentions something…
he’s noticed that no one has been seated around us in about thirty
minutes, even though some sections nearby have had several new
arrivals. In those nearby but actually distant areas, wait staff
are bringing things to the tables. We’re debating whether or not
to leave a tip, and finally Terry just has to know… she stands
and waves to get the attention of the closest waitress. When asked
if something happened to our waitress, this one informs us that
she had gone on break.
we end this little play… a bit of meandering observation. Near
as we could time, the waitress was gone for at least 45 minutes.
It was a few minutes before we started the clock… and it was 37
minutes between our first glance at a watch and the time we left
without putting a tip on the table. (Yeah… we were really ticked.)
Now, I’m not one to tell The Orleans how to schedule breaks for
their staff… but help me out here… if she did go on break, and
all of the other servers knew she was on break, and the others
knew to the extent that the host station wasn’t sitting any new
customers in her section for a half an hour, call me crazy but
having someone else at least make a pass through the section seems
like a reasonable expectation.
Orleans is a leaky ship. Great Mexican food and experience for
that lunch we had… but everything else was below average. (Why…
oh why… do I want to return to the place? Must be Don Miguel’s.)
out of the way, we’re gathering our things and preparing to hit
some new stuff. It’s off to the Wynn.
building hadn’t opened when we last visited Sin City, but everyone
was talking about it. I suppose that shouldn’t have been a surprise…
once Steve Wynn becomes involved in a Las Vegas project, expectations
grow to legendary proportions. And so, on this visit, we were
looking forward to experiencing what all the fuss was about.
now… having been there I can honestly say… I still don’t understand
probably isn’t too fair. After all, this building was never about
blowing the Las Vegas can-it-or-can’t-it-be-done limitations away
and soaring to new heights. This property is about a new level
of service, class and atmosphere. It is not about water cannons
and volcanoes and bringing foot traffic to a dead stop. I suppose
you could say it was about creating an experience for a few and
not a destination for many. (Sure… I’ll try to explain.)
someone tells you they are going to Orlando… quick… where are
of you, a few of you, may have said “Orlando” while wondering
what I was trying to prove with a dumb question. Many of you,
most of you, said “Disney World” and proved my point.
face reality… “we’re going to Disney” is not only interchangeable
with the expression of “we’re going to Orlando”… most people just
tell you they’re going to visit the Mouse and might not even mention
the city at all.
point being… if you’re going to Vegas, the Wynn property isn’t
necessarily the first name that will come to mind. And it’s not
even automatically a second or third option crossing the lips
Vegas status the way Universal Studios or Sea World might be when
discussing Orlando. Wynn is way in the background, very visible
and nice and beautiful and elegant, but not trying to make itself
memorable to everyone or take over as the iconic property on the
strip. And I kind of think it likes that position.
you stay at Wynn… spending a few days there… really looking around
the property and taking in all it has to offer… I’d be willing
to bet that you had an amazing experience. I’d guess you found
amenities beyond those offered at most properties. I’d believe
the food was awesome and the staff incredible and the unique features
bordering on a trip to Oz and Candy Land combined.
see… we arrived for a short period of time, expecting to be impressed
as if it were a destination for a quick visit.
arrived, parked, and walked around a bit… but felt somewhat disoriented.
Why? Well… near as I can tell… I sort of just told you…
place isn’t built for a visitor… it’s built for a guest.
is a good chance you’ve heard that Wynn contains a luxury auto
dealership. And yes… it’s true… Ferrari and Maserati. When the
place opened, most material I have been able to find says that
people were allowed to visit the dealership and car exhibits free
of charge. But… it was always packed. Too crowded to be enjoyable.
So… they initiated a fee.
what I mean? Stop the tourists. Thrill the guests.
have zero doubt that if you stayed in the hotel or were a premium
player, the Wynn would afford you with a fabulous experience that,
seriously, could not be topped. But for the casual Vegas visitor…
the ones watching pirate battles and collecting dirty cards while
taking pictures and looking for low-limit tables… yeah, not so
heading on to Fremont Street.
pull in to the parking garage at Binion’s and… well, let’s just
say Otis was proudly displayed on the elevator. So… you know…
it was broken. We hit the casino floor and finally settle in at
a blackjack table. All four of us are playing… we’re not winning,
but not losing too fast, and we’re having a pretty good time with
Cindy as our dealer.
a good amount of time at the table, Ellen and Terry decide they
want to wander around a bit. I lose at a different blackjack table…
Richard won a bit playing roulette… and we finally find Terry
and Ellen playing roulette as well before we leave.
cross the plaza and enter the Four Queens. And… someone grabs
my ass. (I’d like to thank her again now, but since I only saw
her leaving the property while giggling with some friends, I can’t.
It was the highlight of my day.) And, of course, with that as
the start of my visit, you know I played blackjack and ended up
on the main walkway, we stop to get a picture drawn. We’re at
vegascaricature.com and Kathy is taking care of us. We decide
to have something done with all four of us playing cards. (Ellen
and Richard have the resulting masterpiece.)
head back in to the MGM Grand for dinner… we’ve got reservations
at Fiamma’s tonight. And, I’m sorry to say, it was good but not
the same as our first visit.
main problem was our waiter. He was… well… there. As in really
there. As in… all… the… time… making conversation and just giving
off an amazing air of phoniness. Here’s a funny example of what
dinner, he decided to tell us about a special promotion they were
having. It involved a bottle of scotch, that came in a collector’s
special bottle, and was only a few hundred dollars, and… well…
I’m no more interested in that bottle of scotch today than I was
that night. None of us had ordered much to drink… I think two
glasses of wine were on the table. No hard liquors, and I don’t
recall any of us making eye contact with him when he tried to
discuss scotch or his experiences in going to a tasting so he
could talk about scotch. But… he insisted… on talking about scotch
over and over… and over… again.
that was just a portion of it. The thing is, it wasn’t that he
was a bad waiter. Truth be told, he was fine. But he was just
so annoying. And while most of the meal was good, the food was
lacking the dynamic impact we had felt during our first visit.
understand something… it was a very good meal. All of us would
gladly return to Fiamma’s again (and again). It simply was good
to very good this time, when it had been extraordinary before.
played a few hands of blackjack… doubling my $30… and then we
prepared to move on to Mandalay Bay.
had heard about this place called The Mix. It’s a lounge at the
top of THEhotel… one of Mandalay Bay’s latest additions.
what I can tell you about THEhotel and The Mix… I won’t ever be
was boring… very boring… and it wasn’t friendly. I don’t mean
the people. Tim at the valet was excellent. And most of the staff
smiled. I mean the facility itself as a property wasn’t friendly.
I felt like I was driving around in circles trying to navigate
to the parking. (And as annoying as entering the property and
finding parking was, I had even more problems figuring out how
to get out and back on the street when we left.) Everything about
driving around the property was filled with speed bumps and bad
signage and… a royal pain in the fanny.
asked a few people for directions, and got sent in circles to
find the elevators up to The Mix… most members of the staff either
didn’t know how to get there or didn’t know if it was open, and
in one case didn’t even know it existed. And the only reason we
kept asking people for directions was because the previous person
we spoke to had directed us to yet another dead end. The reason
we finally found it? Not because of great directions from a good
employee. Instead, we stumbled on a rather bored looking girl
standing next to an elevator and it turned out she was telling
people when they could get on that elevator to go up to The Mix.
this absolutely mirrors the experience we had when we visited
the Mandalay Bay property back in 2004. Difficult to navigate…
never satisfying. (I don’t need this on vacation. Two strikes…
Mandalay Bay is out.)
wasn’t all bad. Once we got on the elevators we were in for a
bit of a treat. I wish I had a proper camera… because the night
view down the strip was incredible.
than that though… maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m just not young
and hip and in touch with the world. Maybe being ignored by multiple
members of the staff is the way you are supposed to be treated
in hot spots these days. The interior was dark and uninviting,
and the music was so loud you couldn’t have a conversation. My
notes say all of us ordered a specialty drink called a Violet,
but I don’t note whether or not any of us liked it. Obviously
had our drinks and went back to the elevator. Out to the valet
area, get our car, and I get lost finding the Strip. Ok… not really…
but I’m not kidding, the driving around this place is horrendous.
end up heading back to the Grand View and crossing the street
to South Point to finish up our evening. Fair enough… I needed
a few drinks. It’s a good finish to the day for Ellen and Richard,
as they win a few dollars. Terry and I don’t lose much, but… ok…
sat down at a blackjack table. Over the course of one shoe, I
drew seven blackjacks. And, I am not making this up, every one
of them turned into a push when the dealer pulled a blackjack
of his own out of his backside. It got so bad that I was wincing
any time I saw an ace show up as the first card in front of me,
and the others at my table were making insurance bets when I drew
a blackjack but waving off the option any time I didn’t have one
but the bet was offered.
Seven ~ Friday, April 25, 2008
morning, after taking a shower and meandering around the room
I find Tigg in front of the television… you guessed it… looking
for The Waltons.
is an open day for us… nothing planned… nothing scheduled… just
a free day to kick around. So we decide to head over to Planet
Hollywood… which was Aladdin’s on our last visit. It’s hard to
explain what it felt like here. We enjoyed all of the nuances,
but never really got comfortable.
started with a trip to the player’s club desk. Denisha took care
of us and she was fantastic. Friendly… energetic… and passing
along tips on all sorts of stuff we should be looking at, from
the free $2 million slot pull to a slot tournament later in the
day. And for the most part, almost all of the staff mirrored Denisha’s
personality. She was by far the friendliest during our visit…
but almost all of them were smiling and seemed happy to see us.
our first trip to Vegas, I couldn’t double-down while playing
blackjack. If I did… on a 10 or an 11 with the dealer showing
a stiff hand… I’d never draw anything above a 6 and some how the
dealer always managed to flip the bottom card into a hand of 9…
10… or 11 and then finish me off. But if I didn’t double down,
I consistently drew a 10 card and won the hand. I learned… don’t
put up the extra money and take the win.
time, I occasionally was finding single-deck games with dealers
that were going more than one hand before reshuffling. And… I
was getting pasted if I played. I couldn’t win.
trying to win $2 million with our free slot pull and making the
rounds to other places… including the sports book… we decide to
have lunch. A group vote sends us on a short walk over to the
Harley Davidson Café.
surprise discovery in 2004, the Harley Davidson Café was
a must-do for us on this trip. We had just really enjoyed it as
different, fun and affordable. And unlike a few other places (we’re
getting close to the biggest disappointment on the trip, at dinner
tonight, but several locations just weren’t the same and had been
noticeably less on this trip)… this time the experience was pretty
comparable to our previous visit.
was our waitress, and she was fine. Terry and I split an order
of Santa Fe egg rolls and then she got the chicken fingers with
fries while I had a BBQ brisket sandwich. Richard had a bacon
burger and Ellen ordered her chicken fingers with mac and cheese.
food wasn’t exceptional… but it was good. Seating was quick, service
was fast, and the atmosphere was great. Very enjoyable lunch.
to Planet Hollywood for the slot tournament.
there any people out there impressed by the Planet Hollywood daily
slot tournaments? Any at all? Because I was kind of looking forward
to it, and man… was I disappointed.
the prize was two Planet Hollywood key chains.
they kidding? Nope… because I got two key chains and that was
some dinner comp of some type. Not a $25 prize or free slot play.
Not placed into some high-score-of-the-day competition I needed
to be present to win later in the day. Not a coffee mug.
leave Planet Hollywood and head back to the Grand View for some
playing cards, we begin discussing dinner options and quickly
arrive at a decision to visit Batista’s Hole in the Wall. When
last here, we really enjoyed our visit to this legendary Vegas
restaurant. It wasn’t that the food was great or the experience
amazing… but a strange combination of everything that made the
last visit memorable. Good food… great prices… nice atmosphere…
sorry to say I’m fairly certain we’ll never walk into the place
again. Here’s why…
arrived and it was busier than it had been during our visit a
few year’s ago. No stunning surprise there actually… we arrived
at dinner time for this visit, while in 2004 it had been almost
closing time… and there is a difference you could expect between
December and April as far as general business volume (not that
I know this to be true, but it sure seems to me there’s a reason
every place allowed top notch performers to take most of December
the surprises here came in different ways. For instance, because
it was busier, we were sitting in a section where people were
being seated at other tables. Last time, we were all alone, pretty
much the last seating of the night. So it was really easy to see
people arriving after us, ordering, and then being served food…
not drinks, actual food… before our waitress had even made a first
appearance at our table.
a person came over to the table and asked where we were from.
He was so kind and honest in his attempt to socialize that I feel
bad mentioning this, but it was funny and it just dragged on and
on. Upon hearing Rhode Island, we began getting a non-stop speech
about boxer Vinny Pazienza. Usually I start getting ill any time
someone even utters the one-syllable word “Paz” in reference to
this clown. Can’t stand the guy. At all. But our new friend kept
at it… on and on and on… how great Vinny was to him and what a
class act and blah-blah-blah-please-won’t-you-stop-it.
there we are… drinks not even at our table yet with service beyond
any reasonable definition of slow… and stories galore about Vinny
Paz… oh, this visit was off to a startlingly bad beginning.
offering a quick sort of apology… “sorry for the delay” was what
we thought she mumbled (even Mumbles himself wasn’t certain she
apologized… no eye contact, muffled voice, seemed to have said
to say it because it had to be said but for no other reason… you
get the idea)… our food began to arrive. Terry went with soup…
the rest of us salad. Ellen and Terry had chicken parm, while
Richard had a steak dish and I ordered ravioli. Nothing special
with any of the dishes… and in fact, nothing was impressive at
all. Everything was borderline bland. Maybe it was the poor service…
maybe the food quality… but we weren’t feeling too appreciated.
it got worse.
waitress came over to our table and proceeded to spill water all
over Ellen and Richard. This was followed by an amazingly insincere
apology. Now… I know that isn’t completely fair to call her apology
you ever had a moment when you just knew what a person was thinking?
I mean… no doubt about it… an “I can tell that this is exactly
what is going through your mind” moment?
the water spilled on Ellen and Richard, I was positive
the waitress wasn’t concerned for either of them. I honestly believe
she was far more concerned for herself. Now… I won’t claim to
know exactly what was on her mind. Maybe she thought
her tip was absolutely beyond recovery. (It was.) Maybe having
already given a wiseass “sorry for the delay” service apology
previously, she was wondering if there was anything else she could
do wrong at our table. (Thankfully, no.) But whatever the specific
thought was, I am convinced she was more focused on why this inconvenience
had happened to her rather than her two wet customers and the
spill that needed to be cleaned up. Not a doubt of it in my mind.
don’t want to go setting policy for places. I can’t say what Batista’s
claims it will do for customers in situations like this. Ridiculously
slow service… staff spilling water on guests… stuff like that.
What I can tell you is that no one acknowledged any of it at our
table. Management didn’t arrive offering sincerest apologies…
in fact, management never made an appearance at all. There was
no dessert-on-us offer. There was nothing.
the bill arrived quite quickly, and the processing of our payment
was the fastest service of the evening.
Batista’s. We won’t be back… and won’t be describing to others
how to find you.
deciding they were dry enough to stay out and not change, we went
over to South Point to spend some time.
left us to go see a movie. I proceeded to lose $50 so quickly
at blackjack that I went immediately to the theaters to see if
I could find Terry… thinking perhaps she would be no further along
than getting her ritual bag of popcorn. No such luck… so I went
to watch a baseball game in the sports book while Terry saw Baby
Mama. By the time she returned, we were all ready to call
it a night.
Day Eight ~ Saturday, April 26, 2008
adjust our rooms. We’re heading in to the final night, and that
means regrouping into a single unit for the last night. After
sorting out the move, we’re quickly out and moving.
has arranged a surprise for Richard and I. We knew about before
we even left on this trip, but today is the day we collect on
her gift. We’re heading to Pole Position Raceway. We each get
two races on the track.
it was really cool… and both of us had a great time. That said,
it wasn’t what I expected.
we get there, it’s apparent some sort of league racing is taking
place. I wasn’t sure of exactly what was happening, but teams
were involved, standings were being kept, and overall it was evident
these people spend quite a bit of time hanging around the Pole
right off the bat… really excited… we’re also standing to the
side of the track taking it all in, and while I can’t talk specifically
for Richard, I was really, really aware of the fact I
was an amateur compared to these folks.
for a side story.
Justin and Jason would get new video games, I loved playing along.
But… for most of them… only right when those games first came
into the house. Once they had invested hundreds of hours into
a game, and learned every conceivable secret about it, I was too
far behind them. They’d be bashing me in the face while jumping
into moving vehicles and I would still be trying to figure out
how to pick up a gun. I swear I would push the very button they
told me to push… exactly when they told me to push it… but my
guys never jumped into the jeep, never threw the ball, never found
the secret passageway to the extra level, and… you see where I’m
going. My participating amounted to target practice for them,
and I wasn’t even creating a moving target.
a way… it was a similar feeling standing by the edge of the track
watching these people. I wanted to race… was expecting to have
alot of fun… but I was wondering if people were going to be ticked
at me because they were going for personal best lap times and
I was in front of them with no clue how to get out of their way.
I finally decide that if they can’t figure out how to pass me,
they don’t deserve a personal best time.
move in to get some equipment and our assignments, and I’m getting
nervous because now I can’t breath. I’ve put the sock-like thing
over my head and then the helmet, and I just can’t get any air.
It turns out to be a temporary thing… because once the cart actually
began moving, air began circulating, and breathing wasn’t a problem
the end we did pretty well. I’ll question the stats they keep
forever… since Richard and I passed people that were listed above
us on the race tracking sheets we were given… but we were easily
in the middle or so of our groups. I think they did something
with the way the group started… a staggered start kind of thing…
and this somehow became a slightly uneven start as far as the
timing was concerned. But… whatever… I can’t prove any of it.
was alot of fun and I would do it again. But I still can’t shake
the feeling that I was a bit out of place.
the car we are on the main strip and trying to decide on a place
to go. All of us are sort of debating places we’ve never been
to… something different… and Richard and I finally win one.
going to Hooters.
know… Richard and I are both stunned about it as well.)
walk into the property, and, we’re hungry… so we’re trying to
find a place to eat. As we walk across the casino floor, looking
around and trying to see what kind of options we have, it becomes
apparent that the Hooters restaurant location is pretty much the
only real choice available. We get in line, and fairly quickly
(all things considered, since the line was decent but there didn’t
seem to be alot going on) are seated.
and Richard went with Buffalo fingers. Terry ordered a bowl of
chowder and some wings. I had a Philly chicken cheesesteak. Terry
enjoyed her wings… and that is pretty much the only nice thing
I can say about the meal.
head over to the players club and Kenny took good care of us.
In fact, I wished we had met Kenny earlier in the trip… because
if we had, we probably would have spent more time at Hooters and
I would likely have some pretty decent things to say. For example…
he offered us really good show tickets with our new membership…
but we have an early flight out tomorrow morning and no intentions
of hanging around (or coming back) to see a show that night.
thing we do get is entry into a slot play tournament thingy that
isn’t a tournament. And it annoyed the tar out of me… because
I couldn’t win… and I couldn’t lose…
was a section of machines that you could pick for your free play.
Unlike several places that offer free slot play though, this never
really turned into cash. You got credits… and you played until
one of two things happened. (1) You earned enough points to reach
one of their prize levels. (2) You ran out of credits.
Ellen and Richard were done in under five minutes.
picked a triple double wild cherry machine and settled in for
an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. At first it was kind
of funny… I was bleeding credits before I even started. But then
I hit a couple of minor wins… triple bars for credits but nothing
major… and ended up finding a place right between a prize and
zero. And I stayed there. And stayed there. And Terry came over
to see how things were going, and I stayed there… wedged a few
hundred credits from zero, and a few hundred from a prize.
debated walking away.
the credits were gone… but so was the interest Terry, Ellen and
Richard had in staying. They were done… I wasn’t really entertained
enough to fight them on staying… and we moved on. You could very
easily say that the slot promotion designed to keep me on the
property effectively prevented me from actually spending any money
there. I never played a table game or live slot machine.
been debating something for a few days. Actually… debate isn’t
a good word. We’d easily decided that yes, we needed to do this.
What we kept kicking around was where. In the car it starts again…
can we get a deck of dirty cards? In an extension of Dirty Card
Day 2004… but this time I’m looking for a real deck of naked women.
And actually… given our games of Canasta… I’m looking for three
decks of dirty cards from Vegas. Having failed at some stores
already… for god knows why since all of those stores seemed like
decent options from the outside… we pick Fremont Street and head
back out that way.
find some cards in a store, but Terry and Ellen aren’t playing
nice at all. They just aren’t capturing the spirit of this adventure
to find naked women. I know you won’t believe this, but they’ve
decided to buy some cards of naked men. Richard and I really didn’t
care much about that part… what did annoy the two of us was that
the cards of the men showed more than the cards of the women.
stop by Binion’s… and wander out. Over to Four Queens, where Marilyn
the dealer was very cranky. After Ellen buys a great Route 66
bag, we decide to wander in to a place called Mermaids. And you
know what? We were afraid to touch anything in the place.
to the car and an old friend is spotted… In-N-Out Burger. Yeah
still early when we get back to the Grand View, so we decide to
head over to South Point for some final gambling and maybe to
pick up dessert. It isn’t long before we head back to the room
for some Canasta.
Day Nine ~ Sunday, April 27, 2008
title for this entry in our travel journey is a bit misleading.
I’ve been telling you all along it was eight days… when the fact
is, it was nine.
nights… nine days.
I miscounted the days when I was setting up the files (highly
likely) or on some subconscious level it registered how the travel
home normally doesn’t need to be documented for all time (less
likely, but as a concept it is very true… since as an example,
the snow on our trip back from Los Angeles a few years back didn’t
exactly make for riveting reading).
yet… looking back on it… to go with the big eight days, eliminate
the final hours, and deprive you of the return of our rental car
would mean depriving you of the joy of understanding why the mention
of Advantage Rental Car will draw laughter from us in the future.
And… why you might want to look elsewhere if considering Advantage
for your Las Vegas travels.
bit of sound thought to begin this particular story. Time doesn’t
heal all wounds. What time does is add perspective. It allows
us to look back at things and say “Screw you Advantage” to each
other while realizing that overall, this was a great trip. And,
it allows for me to honestly say that my experience with Advantage
might be an isolated one, based just on the guy we are about to
bring in to the story.
sum up… we may not like Advantage… but Advantage may not be that
try to offer this... well, almost a disclaimer... ahead of the
for one thing, when I got home, I called Advantage immediately.
I wanted to kick start the process on what happened, what we needed
to do, where things were left… and basically bring to an end what
you are about to read. And I got a fantastic woman on the phone
at that time. If I dealt with her from the first phone call… or
an Advantage employee similar to her… I am convinced none of this
would have been handled so horribly.
paperwork started showing up from Advantage very quickly at our
home… as in, a processing error on their part resulted in an actual
check arriving in less than a week. (I didn’t deserve the check…
had to call back to speak with the fantastic woman again and clear
it up, then void and return the check. But the idea that Advantage
actually processed a payment to me so quickly means they didn’t
stall on things, and does speak highly in their favor.)
keep in mind… I’m telling you right now I signed the rental agreement.
I knew the windshield was my responsibility to pay for. All I
wanted was an answer… a bill… or some sign that the people handling
this knew what was taking place. Tell me what it costs and let’s
move things along.
isn’t what happened.
sun hasn’t risen… it’s early… and we’re entering a parking garage
to return the car.
we’re pulling the bags out, I tell the guy taking the keys about
the windshield and how I was told a supervisor would come over
to check it out. He looks at me for a moment with a somewhat confused
expression on his face, turns to look at the windshield, and then
nods. He walks around the car looking it over, and a few minutes
later he asks our group if we knew that the windshield is damaged.
wish I was kidding. I took a deep breath. You might want to do
explain that I knew about it, and that was why I mentioned getting
responds by saying that the cashier will handle everything. When
I tell him that I called before and was told to have a supervisor
check it out when I arrived, he tells me that there isn’t a supervisor
working this early in the day and the cashier knows what to do.
beginning to feel a bit skeptical as I head over to the cashier.)
it’s my turn at the window, our conversation starts with him telling
me about the damage to the windshield and that he needs a new
credit card from me because he tried to run a charge on the card
they had on file and it was declined. In return, I asked him why
he ran a new charge with me literally a few feet away from him,
but before he had even spoken to me. He mumbled something about
trying to get things started so he could get me moving along more
quickly and airport congestion, and… I’m not sure… but I think
he asked if I saw the episode of The Waltons before leaving
the hotel, because that day’s was one of his favorites. I followed
up his mumbling by asking John Boy how much he attempted to charge
on the card. And… sarcasm to the back of the vehicle... he said...
for it. Wait for it. It will be worth it. Wait for it. Ok… here
said he didn’t remember.
Come on. What? He didn’t say he was just charging my
credit card and now didn’t know how much he was charging it. Did
he? I mean really. What the hell? What… the… hell! I’m walking
from my car to his station, thirty seconds tops to cover that
distance, waiting for a few moments at his window and watching
the guy that checked our vehicle drop off the paperwork on our
rental, and before he says anything to me not only does he decide
to charge some random amount for damages to a credit card, but
when he asks me to help him out he doesn’t know how much the figment-of-his-imagination
is that he’s charging me? I’m beyond skeptical right now, and
rapidly approaching ticked off.)
there’s some note in my file, on his computer, about my Thursday
call. They actually have a record that I called. (I guess that’s
a good thing. But wait… no… might not be.) As he was pulling up
the information he saw that I had called in the damage, and then
saw the report brought in from checking the car in, and he started
charging the card on record or something like that because everything
seemed so straightforward… he’s mumbling… and he looks at Terry
and then at me… and as he tries to explain what happened, the
fee he thinks he tried to charge begins moving between $500 and
$700… and then he looks down and away from us… it could have been
$500 but might have been $700 since it has nothing to do with
the repair costs but instead is a deposit amount based on the
damaged part of the car… and according to what he’s saying the
computer does it automatically, not him… and then mentions something
about a supervisor determining the amount between an actual damage
charge as opposed to an initial deposit charge and… good lord…
we stop him.
start over. Forget all of the computer did this and the fee fluctuates
that. Simple question. Just tell us. I signed the agreement. I
know I have something to pay. So how about starting there? How
much do we owe?
mentions something about $200… and then goes back to $700… and
he’s hitting keys on the computer and really looking busy… and
he’s looked nervous since I questioned why he didn’t know how
much he was trying to apply to my card… and finally he stops typing
and clicking his mouse and looks at me, then Terry, and says that
he supposes we won’t be giving him a different credit card if
he can’t give us a total.
yeah… quite a thought there buddy.)
repeat my request for a supervisor. He says he thought we’d say
that since it says in the notes from Thursday I said I was going
to ask for a supervisor. I tell him no… I was actually told to
ask for a supervisor.
this point you could have rolled out some of the greatest comedy
acts to ever play in Vegas and none of them could have turned
this sorry state of affairs into something funny. It was just
I was pretty damn impressed with myself and Terry. We had both
easily moved into a level of pissed off that neither of us had
experienced in quite some time, and yet we were both calmly speaking
to him. We weren’t yelling… weren’t hysterical… and we’re making
what I believe is decent sense considering the information we’re
getting in return (or lack of information to be accurate). Let’s
face it... this guy was winging it at this point, because there
is no way he’s in the middle of some training script, responding
with a formatted answer to troubleshoot a difficult situation.
guessing it had something to do with the control we felt by having
our credit cards securely in our wallets while he stammered and
stumbled about the charges he couldn’t figure out. And when he
finally started trying to give us a solid figure… the highest
one of $700… Terry didn’t want to hear it. No supervisor… no idea
what was going on… yeah… she wanted to talk to someone in management
about this whole thing.
get ready… because there is frosting for this cake…
you ready for what he told us? I am not kidding when I say this…
had a cashier with notes in his computer saying I had called to
report the damage. Those notes, according to him, did say the
supervisor would tell him what to charge me. And… there was no
supervisor there. He tried to charge my credit card an amount
he doesn’t recall, though we’ve now narrowed it down to him claiming
it was between $500 and $700. And now, with me waiting for him
to either get me a supervisor or above to speak with, or some
sort of written documentation showing what he thinks he’s charging
me for, he comes up with this beauty:
you don’t pay me now, they’ll bill you.”
wait while you try to grasp the true impact of his words. See…
he was telling us that if we didn’t come up with a way of paying
him some vague and nothing even remotely close to a specific amount…
an amount that all of the computers Advantage has awake in Vegas
in the predawn hours have been working on with him, but can’t
set an exact cost for… then Advantage was going to send us a bill.)
That’s how we felt too.)