In the mid 00's, I was working the opening shift for Hertz in Austin, TX when it became apparent that the Hyatt downtown had some issues.

It started out with the early morning valets not verifying the claim tickets and giving the wrong cars to the wrong renters. Certainly a problem, but hey, a Taurus is a Taurus and those great big gold key tags in the shape of a #1 do tend to look the same. It was a pain in the ass with lots of calling renters and vehicle swaps, but I was not making that $.50/hour shift differential for nothing, right?

Then these clowns started mixing up the rental companies. Oh, you rented a white Mustang from Hertz last night? Well, how about you drive this nice white 2 door Alero from Avis this morning! Fun! Honestly though, most of the “road warrior” business renters are in and out of different cars, hotels and cities that THEY tend to lose track of what they rented. These were fun because sometimes the customers were not returning them to the same city, and surprisingly were upset when they were asked to return and swap cars out for the correct one! But hey, at least these were over my pay-grade, so there’s that.

The absolute worst (best?) came one morning at 5am on the nose, when the front desk manager called asking for information regarding a guy who had just picked up his (our?) Town Car from the Valet. He was worked up considerably more than the other times we had had played out early morning game of shuffle the cars, so I was intrigued at his consternation and asked him what happened (by this point the station managers were OVER dealing with this ongoing situation and bounced this fun ball right back into my corner).

.It turned out that our renter had called down for his TC roughly the same time a little elderly couple had called for their Lincoln. Well, the renter got downstairs just as one of the valets was pulling up in the old folk’s Town House, and of course he just hopped in and took off. The nice little old folks had taken a leisurely time getting to the valet stand and were greeted by a considerably newer, cleaner, but definitely-not-their Town Car.

The manager had been frantically calling the renter’s cellphone to get him to come back and exchange cars with no luck. I was kinda bored and figured WTF, I’ll give it a shot so I started calling the numbers I had for him. Cell went straight to VM, he obviously was not in his office so that was out, so I called his home number. A West Coast home number. At 5:30am, or 3:30 L.A. time as his lovely wife gently reminded me when she picked up.

So grandpa and grandma were stuck at the hotel enjoying what I am assuming was a complimentary breakfast while our customer was driving their personal car like he had just stolen it (which I guess technically he did?).

A couple of hours later I got a phone call from a bewildered station manager at the DFW airport location asking me if anyone knew anything about the situation, so naturally I took the call. Our guy had basically set a land speed record for a Austin to Dallas run up I-35, not noticing that the particular Town Car he was driving had a cloth instead of leather interior, tinted windows and a box of tissues sitting on the rear parcel shelf. He had even stopped to re-fuel it and it was not until he was denied access to the return lot did he realize that he was in the wrong car, much less someone’s POV! He had lost his phone charger and his cell was dead so had no clue that quite possibly everyone in the free world had been trying to reach him. (The Dallas location was kind enough to give him a new one out of the lost and found storage room, so his day was not a total loss!) We were all at a loss as to what to do as far as billing was concerned-I mean we had our car, it was driven less than 10 miles-so our manager ended up zeroing the charges on the contract.

I heard that the hotel made arrangements to have the car towed back to the hotel. The hotel was lucky it was a kindly old couple, because if it was me, I would have been flown home and then taken straight to the Lincoln dealership to pick up my new Town Car.

After that all the confusion stopped and I never found out what caused it.