UKDay5: Nighmare on wheels comes before rural bliss

When we went out to our car to head off on a long scenic drive from Kent to the Cotswolds, we noticed that one of our tires looked a bit low. As we headed out of town we looked for a service station to put some air in. Well, we really didn’t come across a station as we left town and and quite oddly we didn’t find one the whole way to Hastings. But by that time, we realized that our tire was more than a little low on air. We had a full-fledged flat tire. With nowhere to pull over we finally managed to make our way to a residential street so we could call for help. Thankfully John needed his work Blackberry to work while were in the UK so we had a working mobile phone. We called the emergency number for Hertz who then dispatched an Automobile Association van that showed up in about 45 minutes and changed the flat tire. But the very nice AA technician also told us that the tire was in shameful condition and that two of the other tires were in a similarly bad shape and shouldn’t be driven on. So we got back on the phone with Hertz who directed us to call ATS, one of their service providers to look at the other two tires.

We made our way to the nearest ATS which was only 4 miles away. The very helpful people there fixed up the other two tires. Their report indicated that 3 of the 4 tires on the car were in illegal condition and would not pass an inspection. In the UK, the tire tread has to be at least 1.6 mm deep to be legal for driving. On three of our tires the tread was a whopping 0.0 mm. I even overheard one of the techs say that some of the treads were less than zero. Essentially Hertz had us hurtling down the motorway in a deathtrap.

When all was said and done the whole process put us about six hours behind schedule. Gone was our chance to see Wherwell, a pretty village along the river Test. Gone was our reservation for lunch at Marco-Pierre White’s Yew Tree Inn. But in the end we made our way our wonderful B&B just outside of Winchcomb in Gloucesterhire. With the long English evening, a bit of Victoria Sponge I had picked up at M&S, and nothing but the sound of bleating sheep we couldn’t have been happier.

(And by the way, when we returned the car to Hertz, the first thing the agent said was that they wouldn’t charge us for the new tires! Then she told me that since the car was fixed on Wednesday, they would only charge me for the rental from Wednesday to Sunday. I guess she thought that we should pay for every day that Hertz wasn’t actively putting our lives in danger. When I very firmly, but politely told her “No, I won’t pay anything for this rental.” She seemed perplexed. I went on to explain the gravity of Hertz’s negligence in giving us a car that was illegal and not roadworthy. Finally, after explaining the UK law to them and uttering a few words about endangering our lives in this illegal vehicle she finally went off to speak to a manager before agreeing not to charge us anything.  Now I just need to get our money back from the prepaid portion that was paid to AutoEurope.)

[6/21/12 UPDATE: The Area Operations Manager from Hertz tracked me down to apologize for my experience. He not only noted that steps were being taken to ensure the same kind of thing didn’t happen again but he also acknowledged that his team’s customer serviced approach could use some improvement. His simple acknowledgement of the challenges we faced goes a long way to restore my confidence in Hertz.]

Our B&B is the house on the left in the clump of trees.

Believe it or not, these narrow roads don’t scare me half as much as the narrow ones with the lines down the middle.
At least on these everyone admits it is narrow and pulls over as necessary.

Our home for three nights. With only the sound of sheep to lull us to sleep.

Every B&B should have a Saxon church next door.

13 thoughts on “UKDay5: Nighmare on wheels comes before rural bliss

  1. Cornflower June 8, 2012 / 9:31 am

    I'm so enjoying your account of your travels, Thomas, but appalled to learn of your car trouble. Thank goodness for that flat tyre.
    What beautiful parts of the country you've been in!


  2. StuckInABook June 8, 2012 / 10:48 am

    I want to have your tour of the UK… I wish I could stay in such beautiful places! Having said that, I did just stay at my parents' house in Somerset and, while the house isn't as gorgeous as this one, I do have spectacular views out of farmland and countryside from my bedroom window. And all my books!


  3. Desperate Reader June 8, 2012 / 2:43 pm

    Disgusted at the way Hertz behaved, but your holiday looks heavenly so far.


  4. Kim June 8, 2012 / 6:30 pm

    So glad to know about the tire tread law in the UK. When we pick up our car rental later this month I will definitely take a close look at the tires! Happy you were rewarded with a great B&B stay.


  5. Darlene June 8, 2012 / 7:02 pm

    Phew! Thankfully you and John got through that section of your road trip unscathed but no thanks to Hertz!

    I daydream about taking a trip like this one day so I just might have to steal your itinerary. Ummm…not as brave as you behind the wheel though so it would be a rail pass for me.


  6. Susan in TX June 8, 2012 / 7:22 pm

    Good for you for standing your ground with Hertz! I am loving all your vacation pics. I think whenever I finally get over to the UK that I may have you and Rachel (of Booksnob fame) collaborate on our travel plans — between the two of y'all, we couldn't possibly have anything but a perfect itinerary. Have no fear, it won't be anytime soon. :) Thanks for letting us share in your journey.


  7. skiourophile June 8, 2012 / 11:39 pm

    Your photos are just gorgeous. I am very sad you missed the Marco Pierre White lunch – I would love to go there.


  8. Mystica June 9, 2012 / 3:26 am

    Love the account of your travels and your holiday stay home surroundings look idyllic.


  9. gaskella June 9, 2012 / 3:53 am

    Sounds like having a flat was a good thing in a way. Shocking that Hertz let a car out in that condition. Loving the photos and glad you're otherwise enjoying your hols.


  10. penandpencilgirls June 9, 2012 / 5:56 am

    Shocked they would rent you a car like that! Well done on refusing to pay. Glad M&S Victoria Sponge could save the day ;)


  11. Thomas at My Porch June 9, 2012 / 9:37 am

    Karen: I have yet to find a part of England that isn't beautiful. Of course there are some grotty parts due to man's inhumanity to nature, but even those aren't too far away from beauty.

    Simon: The house looked fancier from the outside than it was on the inside. And I would love to see all of your books.

    Hayley: John was particularly in garden heaven.

    Kim: The tread was bad on the inside of each of the tires, so it wasn't apparent from the outside. The AA guy used touch rather than sight.

    Darlene: More than happy with itinerary suggestions. I love to plan travel even if it is for someone else.

    Susan: Like I told Darlene I love helping with travel plans.

    Skiourophile: In retrospect a big midday meal may not have been the best idea when we still had a few hours to drive. Might have gotten a bit sleepy.

    Mystica: I am glad you like it.

    Gaskella: The agent said that it was an outside contractor responsible for the maintenance of the car, as if that makes a difference to me.

    Pen: What can't a Victoria Sponge save?


  12. Karen K. June 11, 2012 / 12:18 pm

    Shame on Hertz, they're still responsible for their own vehicles. I had an unpleasant experience with them a few years ago when I returned to the US from living overseas, and my Nebraska driver's license had expired. I'd received a sticker updating it from the Nebraska DMV, but apparently that wasn't good enough for the Hertz people in Florida. However, what really enraged me was that they would have let it slide for my husband, because he's active duty military. Just being a military dependent wasn't good enough reason for them. I've avoided them ever since.

    I'm sorry it messed up some of your plans but glad that your trip was still marvelous.


  13. Thomas at My Porch June 21, 2012 / 9:13 am

    Karen: See my update above about Hertz's response to my situation. Interestingly, they found my blog indpendent of my transaction with them–they had no other way of knowing the email addy I use for this blog.


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