You may recall in an earlier posting that, when we had the rental car in Denver, I had avoided toll roads to the extent that Carmen (our GPS) wanted to avoid driving through Yellowstone as there was a State Park charge which she considered a Toll. So, when we got home, I was a little surprised to find out we had been charged for a toll in Denver – a mere NZD10.96 (USD6.90), so it wasn’t a big deal. However when I started to plan for our next trip, I thought I had better figure out how the rental car/toll road system works, because there are a few toll roads next time and we need to know the rules.
What Hertz (and most rental companies) do is they fit their cars with transponders that automatically trigger the toll payment. They then charge the toll on to you BUT with an additional “convenience” fee (USD4.95 in Hertz’ case). This fee is billed every day that you incur a toll, no matter how small, so it can add up over a long rental period. Some companies have a ceiling, but Hertz do not – so it’s a good little money earner for them, especially since the whole thing is processed by an independent company called “Platepass”. The thing to do is avoid toll roads – which we thought we had.
However you can also go on to Platepass’ website and check the details of the toll charge, so I did. It turns out that the $1.95 toll was incurred at 1:18pm on 1st July on the E470 freeway at Quincy Rd, south of Denver. “Strange”, I thought, “we never used the E470 and never went South of Denver”??? Furthermore, at 3.37pm on the same day, I was buying a Tee shirt from the gift shop at the Crazy Horse memorial in Sth Dakota, some 400 miles away! Since even Hertz cars can’t do 200mph, we figured there was something wrong, so I emailed Platepass with all the above and asked for an explanation. All we got back was a credit for the USD6.90!. Ain’t technology grand….and easily manipulated!
Then there was United and their luggage rort, as explained on the last post (4th July). A couple of days after we got back, I rang Air New Zealand’s customer service and explained what had happened. She looked through our booking and said that there was nothing wrong with the way it had been done, that we were entitled to 2 pieces per passenger, and that United should have honoured the “legal and binding contract” that was our E-ticket. They opened a complaint file, but said I would need to approach United for the refund first as; “they were the ones who had taken your money”.
The following day, I contacted United through their website “comments” form – the only way you can make any complaint of this nature. I gave details of the issue and attached copies of the relevant documents.
I also rang my bank and told them the story, and got pretty much the same answer as from Air NZ, as I had “authorized the transaction’ by allowing then to bill my credit card. However they were quite interested when I pointed out that the demand was illegal and payment was only made under the duress of being denied boarding unless it was paid. Both the bank and Air NZ sent me follow-up emails requesting copies of documents and the outcome of my discussions with United. A couple of days later I got one from United saying they would investigate, but had not received the documents, so could I send them again.
Two weeks afterwards, I got an email from United that basically says; “even though Air NZ’s ticket showed the correct baggage allowance, our system didn’t. The agent was doing her job in collecting the money, as she is ordered to do – and we are sorry you were inconvenienced.
We don’t know how the mistake happened, but we’re not in the habit of giving money back….you should have argued more at the counter. However, we can see that you wouldn’t be allowed to board unless you paid so, as a favour, this one time only, we’ll refund what we extorted from you. Next time, though, argue a bit harder and ask to see a supervisor, even if you’re told you are already as high as you can go.
Thank you for choosing United. I hope we have an opportunity to welcome you on board again in the future. ” That last line is a direct quote.
I found out later that Air NZ had contacted them and demanded they give me an apology, which is probably why it seemed to be given somewhat begrudgingly. A few days later the money appeared on my credit card statement. With exchange rate difference and bank fees, I am still down $1.04, but I don’t think I will chase them for it.
On a lighter note…I mentioned in a previous post (26th June) that shortly after we left Denver for Casper, we turned off the freeway because of traffic at a place called Firestone and bought lunch. On the way back to the freeway, we saw in the distance what appeared to be the parachute canopies of a bunch of skydivers. However, as we got closer, we could see it was a flock of very large birds. They were pure white, but with jet black tips on their wings, and looked like herons – but much bigger. I figured they were some local wildlife and expected we would see more during our travels and would find out what they were later. We never saw them again, and they completely slipped my mind until something on TV last night reminded me to look them up. After a brief internet search, I discovered they were Whooping Cranes that live in Alberta Canada, and migrate down a narrow corridor to Texas each year. The interesting thing is that their major route is down through the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Arkansas, and they are rarely seen as far west as Colorado. What’s more, there are only around 600 of them in existence, so it is rare to see them at all. They are very endangered – 1n 1941 there were only 23 in the world, and there is a conservation website where you report sightings of them (so I did). They are America’s tallest bird, with a wingspan of 2.3 metres (7.5ft) and we got to see 7 or 8 of them, in the wild and in flight!
You may also recall that on 29th July , as we were leaving Yellowstone, we came across a couple of animals that didn’t show on the list, but looked like “deer or antelope”. It turned out I was right - they are Pronghorn Antelope and, strangely, aren’t antelope at all. They just look like them and, in fact, there closest relatives are giraffes and Okapi. Pronghorns main claim to fame is that they can run!!! They can reach up to 55mph and run at 30mph for 20 miles. The cheetah (world’s fastest animal) can run faster at 60mph, but can only keep it up for 700 metres, so the Pronghorn can pretty well outrun anything that wants to eat it (other than us, of course – cain’t outrun a bullet).
So there y’go