The past couple weeks have been hectic.
Our lease was up at the end of June, we needed to put some final touches on the Casita, and we had to get all our gear from Madison to Green Bay where it would be tucked into a storage unit while we were out on the road. This meant a couple trips back and forth with the F-150 to transport canoes and kayaks. Plus one big trip with a moving truck.
I had hoped to rent a trailer for the trip, but Cristi convinced me it would be too small for all the Rubbermaid tubs in our storage unit. So, a few weeks back, we went to the local U-Haul location and made a reservation for a 15 foot truck. The woman who helped us was great. She configured the rental for the lowest possible price and set everything up in the computer system. We left confident that we would have a truck waiting for us first thing in the morning on the 28th.
Fast forward to the 27th. I was outside working on the Casita installing a new porch light and adding paddling to spare tire carrier. My phone rang. I let it go to voicemail. When I checked the message a few minutes later it was from U-Haul saying our truck was ready for pickup at 1:15 tomorrow. In Watertown, Wisconsin.
There must be a mistake. Our reservation was for a morning pickup on Verona Road in Madison, a few miles from our house. Watertown was an hour away.
I called back the number and got a guy on the phone we’ll call Kyle. “What’s your telephone number?” he said. “Let me pull up your reservation.” He asked for my confirmation number. I didn’t have it. He couldn’t find my 15 foot truck. The only reservation he could find was the trailer I had booked and cancelled. Kyle offered to transfer me to the Verona Road location. Great. This would be easy to sort out.
The phone dialed through and I went onto hold. Forever. Maybe there was a mistake. I hung up and dialed the Verona Road direct number. I ended up back on the corporate switchboard. On hold. Twenty minutes later I got through to a person. I explained my problem. She said she had to transfer me to the booking number. OK. On hold. Twenty minutes later the line rang. Kyle picked up.
He remembered me. “What’s your telephone number? Let me look up your reservation.”
I had my confirmation number now and he found my truck. In Watertown. “Watertown is something like eighty miles from here,” I told him, “that won’t work.” I explained that I had to pick up a truck in the morning, load up, drive to Green Bay, unload and drive back within 24 hours. Kyle told me that was the closest truck. I pleaded a bit. Nothing he could do about it.
At this point I started to get angry. Why would U-Haul make a reservation if they can’t guarantee that a vehicle will be available? How is this not a breach of contract? I reserved a vehicle for a specific time at a specific location and they’re not providing me with that service. At which point Kyle started to tell me about the fine print.
This sent me over the edge. “I’m sure that the fine print gives them the right to provide a vehicle for me in California if that’s the closest one available, but that’s not the point Kyle, and you know it.”
I tried to reel it in. I needed a truck.
Me: “I know this isn’t your fault and it’s no fun to talk to an angry guy on the phone.”
Kyle: “I really want to help, I hope you believe me.”
Me: “I need you to find me a truck within ten miles of my house.”
Kyle: “There is nothing available.”
Kyle offered to change rates, discount mileage, do everything within his power to make things right but he couldn’t change where the truck was available. I had already burned an hour-and-a-half on hold trying to sort out the problem. Now I was told the only solution would be for me to drive to Watertown, pick up a truck at 1:15, drive back to Madison, load and drive it to Green Bay. We would be unloading in the dark.
I told him I had to call him back. He gave me his direct line.
I called a Penske location about five minutes from my apartment. It was a long shot, but maybe they would have a truck available for the next day. I wasn’t hopeful. It was a big moving weekend.
The phone rang twice. A woman answered and I explained the problem. She told me that all bookings for the weekend had to go through the regional office. Uh, oh…
I called the number she gave me. The phone rang twice. The woman who answered said, “no problem.” She reserved truck for pickup the following morning. Five minutes from our apartment. Done.
The Penske truck cost a lot more, but that kind of problem we can deal with. Not having a truck when you absolutely need one is way worse.
Called Kyle back on his direct line to cancel the U-Haul reservation. A woman answered the phone. “Where’s Kyle?” “I don’t know who that is, but I can help you. Let me pull up your reservation. What’s your telephone number?…”
When we picked up the Penske truck the next morning the guy at the counter explained that what happened to us happens to a lot of people. U-Haul overbooks their trucks, he said. “We call it getting U-Hauled.”
That little road block blew a couple hours of my day and gave me a scare. I had been counting on the truck. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to move before our lease ran out. Penske saved the day. The next morning we picked up our truck, headed to the storage unit, and loaded our possessions for the ride to Green Bay. On the 29th we were back in Madison doing a deep clean on our apartment and packing the last of our clothes and camping gear into the Casita.
By the morning of the 30th we were ready for liftoff. Apartment cleaned. Truck loaded. Casita hitched. As we rolled onto the Beltline we looked to the west and saw a massive thunderhead bearing down on us. The phone showed a severe thunderstorm warning with gusts to 60mph and quarter size hail. When the front whipped through, the canoe thrashed back and forth on the roof rack and visibility went to zero. It was as if Madison was trying to keep us from leaving.
But we made it out.
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