There is a basic duality of human nature that exists in the world. Human beings have the ability to act in ways that are either good or evil. If you travel a lot, you will notice that the total difference of decency between the best and the worst people varies greatly from place to place.
Of all the places I’ve travelled, no place has a larger decency gap than Las Vegas. I’ve met some of the most heartwarmingly nice people you could imagine, and then met some of the most despicable scum possible, and sometimes within only a moments passing.
This leads me to my experience at Ace car rental/Verve Car rental.
For those of you who haven’t rented a car in Las Vegas, they moved all of their car rentals to this off-site car rental hub named the McCarran Rent-A-car Center. It’s a relatively short shuttle, less than 15 minutes, and once you get there most of the major car rental companies rent out of that location.
Well that’s not where Ace/Verve is located. No, you have to wait an indeterminate amount of time once you get to the rental center for a second shuttle, and then once it gets there you need to travel an additional 15-20 minutes to a very far south mini mall. Total time spent from boarding the first shuttle to door of rental agency was about 45-50 minutes. Plenty of time to ruminate about any poor decisions you may have in your life. Like trying to save a few bucks on a car rental for example.
I waited in line in a small shop that looked to me like it had been set up only hours before; dimly lit, temporary furniture, cheap looking portable work desks, and after approximately a 10 minute wait was eventually greeted by what I assumed was the manager. The employee name on the contract said “Jason C”. He was a larger man with a grey dress shirt and tie.
I explained to him that I had a reservation for a mid-sized Hyundai, and he pulled up the reservation on his computer screen.
It wasn’t too long before the upselling began. He asked if it was just me using the car, and then he spotted my golf bag. He told me that the car I had booked would not work for golf, that the golf bag wouldn’t fit in it and that he would need to upgrade me. I told him I’ve never been in a car where the golf bag wouldn’t fit, and that I thought the car I had booked would be fine. He continued the disagreement with me for what felt like a few minutes, throwing in a few gems like “Yes but you also have to think about your comfort”. After it was eventually decided that the original car that I booked would be fine, he then asked to see my credit card and proof of insurance.
After inspecting both items, he then said something like “You know you will need to get our insurance, but I think you can get away with just the 15 dollars per day package.”
I asked him why do I need your insurance? He told me that since I was Canadian, my insurance doesn’t work in Las Vegas. He then asked a young girl who was working the other desk to confirm with him that Canadian insurance could not be used. I have to assume that the young girl was uncomfortable lying, because she just shrugged at him and continued to work with the customer she was helping.
I was armed with facts though; the prior week I just so happened to confirm with my insurance company that when I rent a car in Vegas, I am totally covered for liability and damage to the rental vehicle. I also have a premium Visa card that I think covers everything if anything happens with a car rental, so I am for sure at least covered once in case of an accident, and most likely have double coverage.
This agent wanted a fight though, so we spent the next few minutes arguing about whether I need the insurance, and at one point he threatened to not be able to rent me the car.
You might be asking why at this point I stayed here and didn’t just leave and go rent from another place?
I thought about it, but it had been a super long day, and the thought of waiting for, and then taking the Ace rental car shuttle 30 minutes back to the Rent-A-Car center didn’t much appeal to me. Also, at this point he still hadn’t successfully upsold me on anything, so as far as I could tell I was not on the hook for anything more than what I originally expected.
Threats of him not renting to me subsided, and we continued on. He tried pre-selling me a full tank of gas. I told him I planned on golfing twice, a little shopping and going to and from this place, I highly doubted I’d need a full tank of gas. Plus there is a gas station right in the same parking lot as the rental car place, so I’ll just swing in there and top it up before i drop it off. He then explained to me how much gas I’d actually use, and how big of a place Vegas is, and how much cheaper it is to buy the tank of gas through him rather than fill it up myself. I told him no numerous times, and he then told me that if I pre-paid the tank of gas that he’d upgrade my car for no charge.
Intrigued; my patience was wearing thin, but who doesn’t like a little upgrade now and then? I asked what type of upgrade this would be and how much the tank of gas would cost, and he told me it was a Volkswagen Passat, and the cost of the gas would be 51.80. Not a bad car, maybe a tiny bit of a step up from the Hyundai i had booked, but really nothing that will make the trip more memorable one way or another. I agreed, but I think it was more to put a stop to the endless barrage of upselling than actually wanting the car.
I lugged my golf bag and suitcase back out to the curb and another employee, a young man, started to go over the passat with me that I was going to be renting.
The young man uttered an expletive, and then said that he couldn’t give me that car, it’s on a spare. Sure enough, I looked down and the back left rear tire was a tiny donut spare tire. He told me not to worry, I’ll give you an upgrade. He went and grabbed a Silver Hyundai Santa Fe, again a little bit of an upgrade and then proceeded to go over the car with me.
The car was missing a license plate, when I asked him about this he had some sort of canned speech about how it’s perfectly fine and legal as long as it’s in the lower 48 states and am not crossing any borders. I’m not sure about the legality of this, I have to assume the “temporary tag” that was hastily stuck to the window instead having a license plate is legal, only because there were cops that were right behind me numerous times while I was driving around Vegas, and I never got pulled over. Still, it seems like an improper way to operate a fleet of rental cars.
The car itself, for the most part, was not too bad. There was a sliding seat in the back of the vehicle that slid forward and BANGED every time the car came to a stop, and then slid back and BANGED every time I accelerated. I looked at it briefly to see if I was somehow missing a basic thing I had to do to secure it, but 20+ years of computer programming experience couldn’t figure it out (not like it SHOULD), so I think it was simply broken. I did manage to mitigate this though by wedging my golf bag up against it so it wouldn’t do that. Also there was an annoying nag message on the display that said that it was approx -1400 miles until it’s required service date, the number kept ticking upwards so it looks like that means it was overdue for service by that many miles. I’m not a huge SUV fan, but the car handled relatively well.
It wasn’t all bad, when I came to drop the car off after my week was done the gentleman who checked me back in, Pedro R (said on the receipt that was emailed to me), explained to me that I didn’t use that much gas, and that I should just go over and fill up and he’ll refund me the tank charge. I told him that I didn’t want to deal with the manager, he said not to worry that he could refund the money right there. I thanked him and then went and topped up the tank to the tune of $23.31, he then told me he’d refund the 61.00 gas tank charge. I briefly looked back at the paper I signed and the charge was supposed to be 51.80, apparently it’s cool for employees to change the amount on the signed contract at Ace/Verve rental cars. Pedro however was refunding this amount so I figured I wouldn’t beat this dead horse any longer.
Also the shuttle driver who drove me back to the Rent-A-Car center was a decent guy and deserves some recognition, I briefly explained to him my experience with the company, and he sympathized but admitted he really had no influence at the company, that he simply “drove the shuttle”. It should be noted that in the shuttle he was also driving a young non-white couple back to the Rent-A-Car center because Ace car rental was going to make them pay a 500 dollar deposit on the car they wanted to rent. I briefly remembered that my deposit/hold was 300 dollar, making me wonder if they change the deposit based upon how the person looks as they walk through the door. I won’t accuse them of this though, I don’t really know the story behind the story.
So in my opinion, as far as the duality of human nature is concerned, no company gives you a more glaring example of this disparity than Ace/Verve rental cars. They employ both Jekylls and Hydes, it’s really just the luck of the draw who you get. Somewhat fitting for Vegas.