Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reporting A Stolen Vehicle: Why Americans Are So Stressed

2003 GMC Extended Cab Pickup Truck
On Monday, April 18, 2016, I discovered my GMC truck of 13 years was stolen. I am 70 years old. I was once robbed in my late 20's when my over the garage apartment in the back of a long driveway somehow invited a thief to take all my electronics ... TV, stereo system, electric typewriter. Luckily I had my cameras with me. You never forget the stock and feeling of violation.

When I realized my truck was missing, I searched the gated community I live in and realized that it was not in front of my rental condo or in the designated carport parking space. The last time I used it was the day before, not an unusual event as I have spent the past few months getting my life organized again. There would be a burst of shopping and then days of unpacking and organizing. I called the Palm Springs police and a few hours later an officer arrived to take my report.

The irony in all of this was that I had been thinking about getting a new and yes, smaller vehicle, but felt that I didn't have the necessary funds and what I had was good enough. It was paid for.

Tuesday morning, after organizing my thoughts, I felt that I had two basic things to do first:
1. Report the theft to my insurance company
2. Get a rental car

Easy speezy, right? Wrong. Since I live close to the airport, I discovered in my dog walking that there is an Enterprise Rental Office a short 10 or so minutes away from me. Dog in hand, for our morning walk, I went to Enterprise to get a car as I had doctors appointments and a commitment to help out at an art gallery. Imagine my surprise when I was told they didn't have any cars. "Late morning or early afternoon. We will call you," I was told. A car rental place with no cars? Now to be fair, the Coachella Valley was having the Coachella Music Festival that brought in upwards of 100,000 people for two 3-day weekends but this was Tuesday and first wave had gone.

A friend offered to take me to AAA, the insurer of my truck, so I could report this loss. Insurance folder in hand and the case report given to me by the policeman, I arrived just after the office opened. I waited and waited. Every person arriving after me was called but I sat. The lone survivor. Finally, someone came for me and hardly seated reported what had happened and was immediately told that they didn't take reports for stolen property there. He handed me a card with a phone number on it and I was told that I had to call them and report the loss. I was stunned. Why have an office that can apparently SELL the insurance but does not REPORT the loss of your insured items? Noting that they also had programs for special AAA member vehicle pricing I again was given a card with a number and told to get the VIN number and they would get me a price. Why have an office, seriously, if I have to do all the work? I was not a happy camper.

Back home I called the number AAA had given me and a nice lady took my information then informed me another person would handle my claim asking yet again for all the information she just took. She would call me back. This now was the second person I talked to about the claim in less than an hour and was nowhere close to getting that claim filed.

I called Enterprise again and was told that there were no cars and that I would get one the next day. I had an appointment for that afternoon and other than showing up had no way to contact them. I immediately went online to Expedia, clicked on rental cars, put in the PSP, the Palm Springs airport ID and had a car rented in about 10 minutes. I printed out the confirmation and headed over there by foot. Its about a 10-15 minute walk and the weather was nice. On the way I got a call from AAA. She introduced herself and asked me if I had time to make a report. Being halfway to the airport I said I hoped she could hear me between jets taking off and cars passing by. So again, for the third time I gave my report. I was told they wouldn't file my claim for 2-3 weeks to give the police time to find the vehicle (though everyone said it was already in Mexico) and that any coverage for a rental wouldn't start for two days. I had made the car reservation for one week only and wondered about what I should do. Between jets taking off, I got my report filed then was told I would get an email that had the forms I needed to yet again file my report. (It was five pages of closely spaced questions regarding the truck that needed yet another visit to AAA to be signed and logged in I guess. The Palm Spring office gives new meaning to slow. I waited over an hour to get photos taken for my new passport. They were so flustered they gave them to me free.)

Next was Dollar Rent-A-Car at the airport. When I got to the rental reservation area it was jammed. Every company was there, including Enterprise, and each had a long line of renters. Dollar didn't seem to be any worse but an hour later, when all the other lines were gone it was still "old home week" at Dollar. Watching molasses pour from a bottle would be more exciting. Even with reservations the clerks looked at the monitors with what looked like the first time. I know that look. The natives were getting restless but that didn't seem to phase the clerks. Finally, and it was an hour, I got to the desk and was told they didn't have the size car I had signed up for. They would give me an upgrade. Fine. I just needed a car and by then was feeling pretty stressed.

Up since 4 am, unable to sleep, I had started looking into vehicles that I thought I might want. I was tired and by now hungry and just wanted the car and something to eat. Given no choice, I was given the keys to the rental and told where to find it. After walking about the same distance back to my condo I found the car. A red car, a color I like but a Hyundai Elantra that I didn't. First off it wouldn't start. No matter what I did the ignition wouldn't engage. Finally giving up I found an employee and told him the car wouldn't start. He took the keys and tried it and it didn't start for him either. Suddenly he grabbed the steering wheel and giving it a big jerk seemed to free it from a locked position. The car started. Lesson: make sure the car is exactly where you want it before turning the ignition off. He was a lot bigger than me and far stronger.

Today, five days later I have not heard from the police, I have filled out the report to the best of my ability but have to still file the report with AAA. I have looked at and driven a few vehicles. I also made another reservation for a rental for two weeks this time in the hopes that AAA will settle the claim, give me a check for the value of the truck so I can make a purchase and not pay the onerous fees rental car companies charge. To say an Elantra is a mid-size, a step up from compact, is splitting hairs. They must measure these things by the millimeter and charge accordingly. At a bit over $200 a week and years rental would be well over $10,000 almost half the price of one of the cars I saw. well except for the gorgeous Tesla at about $100,000.

Am I stressed? Yes. Today, Saturday April 23, I get a call from my AAA agent around 8:30 with a response from a call made over 12 hours ago. Again, I am reminded that I need to  take this document in to have my signature witnessed and the form filed. Since I need to walk and it is relatively close I walked over, paperwork in hand. They don't open Saturdays until 10, 10-2 in fact.

Our lives are literally not in our hands anymore. We are subject as clients, shoppers and consumers to the whims of those we must deal with. It is for their convenience, not ours. I laughed the other day when I saw the new grocery store in town, the German Aldi, didn't open until 9 am. I hope to be finished by 9 not just starting. I couldn't believe it. Our lives are like the Russian dolls that when you open one, there's another and another. What used to be a simple task of talking to one person is now the agony of many all of whom are trying to put their work on you.

After dealing all week with rental companies, car dealer salesmen and insurance people I am packing up my dog and going on a small trip to the mountains. I need to get that breath of fresh air.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please check out some of my earlier blogs. ALL talk about how are lives are designed for us.

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