Tip: Yes, that parking space five feet closer is necessary.
We began our day by switching cars at the airport, since it was cheaper to return the Nashville car without incurring a charge for a third day at the one-way rate and rent another car for one day in Austin. We were initially charged for being late for an additional hour. At a rate of $112. But this time, I just explained that we got the charge, and they simply removed it. I didn't have to provide a justification for why we shouldn't be charged or anything. (Which would have been that we were well within the grace period, though we had obviously planned to arrive earlier.) The rep just took care of it for me. This is ideal. If it's a thing you're going to remove anyway, then just do it without the fuss, and you will have much happier customers and better word-of-mouth. (Though I understand not all reps may have this discretion.) He was also otherwise an extremely patient and very nice guy. However, I suspect that they are still actually trying to kill me for telling them I was not satisfied with their service in Newark, as they rented us a car with black leather interiors in 100+ degree weather. Worse, I think the plan is working.
In opposite customer service news (scroll down to skip the rant - it's long), yesterday, when we checked into the hotel, they gave us a room with a king bed. I had called on Tuesday to request a double room, and the person I spoke to had told me I was "all set." So I assumed it was just a mistake and went downstairs to tell them. Then they asked me how I booked and launched into a whole spiel about how Priceline doesn't guarantee your room choice (true), and that they weren't "obligated" to help me, and that the hotel was booked full so they couldn't do anything. And I'm standing there like, my issue isn't with Priceline - nor is yours. A hotel employee told me I had a double room. ("That's impossible." "Well, it's not impossible, because it happened." Why do people even say these things? "That's impossible," in this context is either saying, "You're lying," which you better be damn sure is true, or "I'm not owning up to this.") The only reason I think I have this room is because that is what you told me, not because I think Priceline guarantees it. You can't blame them for that, boys, and you know it. We've also been doing this for the entire trip (booking on Priceline, then calling the hotel directly to request a double room), and we haven't had any issue with it.
Then the guy was all, "Well why'd you call the hotel if you booked through Priceline?" Is this a serious question? How is that even weird? Does he expect normal people to know and/or care how labor gets divided between Priceline and the hotel? Am I supposed to think the hotel's system is unable to allocate rooms independently? And if it can't (though past experience indicates it can do that everywhere else), then tell me up front to call Priceline instead of telling me you gave me what I wanted so then I don't make any other arrangements. I don't know your life, hotel. You deal with Priceline drama on your own time. Also, don't say, "soon enough we won't need Priceline anymore." You're telling me, "Oh, gross, you came from Priceline? Well shit, who even cares then?" That is a thing you might think or discuss in a back office, not a thing you say to a client. Jesus. Also don't tell me how much money you're "losing" on the room I booked. I'm not exactly sure how your own decision to accept Priceline's price is my fault.
Hotels: If you don't need Priceline, then don't use it. If you do, then deal with it. Don't, however, use it for business benefits and then be visibly exasperated about it.
So anyway, after they decided, "Well we can't have her just standing here," they "really tried" and were "nice" and gave us a rollaway bed at no charge. I, in turn, "really appreciated" this.
Here's how this whole thing could have gone:
"I think you gave us the wrong room, because it's a king and we requested a double."
"I'm so sorry about that, let me see what's going on." (Instead of, "When did you call?" "Who did you speak to?" "How did you book?" followed by everything on your end that you deal with for Priceline, which I don't give a shit about. "So" sorry isn't really necessary, but seems in line with Southern standards for guest services.)
"Unfortunately, we are all out of double rooms, and I do apologize for the mistake, but we can provide you with a rollaway bed at no charge, and we can throw in a soda (or something else trivial, but it was really hot and this would have been awesome) for you for the inconvenience. Normally, we would just change your room, but unfortunately we are booked solid during your stay, so this is honestly all we can do."
"Ok, that's fine."
At every other hotel, and at both Southern Avis locations, we've walked away saying some variant of, "Holy shit, that guy/lady was so nice." So it can be done. Take notes, Courtyard Marriott-University Area, Austin, TX. That's right; I'm naming names. (And for the good: The hotel with the good omelettes but bad grammar was Country Inn & Suites in Texarkana, TX. To be clear, they aren't made to order or anything, but they're way better than the egg patty looking things at other places. They also have free cookies that are quite good. Hotel Preston in Nashville was probably the nicest customer service I've ever experienced, except for maybe the Austin Avis guy. Even the airport shuttle drivers were nice. I will say that internet was spottier at both those hotels, though. Also that Chik-Fil-A handled fuck-ups way better than this hotel.)
Ken has been surprised by my ire on this trip, as I am usually very nice to people in the service industry. (That may not seem true from this blog, but "please" and "thank you" don't really write a narrative.) I'm only a dick when you're a dick, or you fucked up and won't fix it. Don't dish it out if you can't take it, hospitality industry.
Ok. So today was way, way, way too hot for any kind of "let's just walk around [neighborhood]" activity, so we had a short to-do list, and we stuck to it. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but Texas is still very humid, so the entire city is basically a sauna. I have been told that Utah and Arizona are "dry," and if that's not true, I will have lost about 5 pounds in sweat by the time I get to L.A., despite the non-stop barbecue.
Number one: food trucks
As Didi's friend put it, everything you think is a restaurant in Austin is a food truck, and all the restaurants have trucks, too.
|The white thing is egg.|
Number two: Graffiti Hill
|Hoo! Ha! Nerdfighters!|
The graffiti speaks for itself, but I will add that it was brutally hot while we were here.
Number three: Lick Ice Creams
Lick has lots of unique flavors. The ones we got were milk and cookies, ranch road (like rocky road), too hot chocolate (which was actually really spicy), and roasted beets and fresh mint. (That last combo is one flavor. Yay, serial commas. These are evidently not the industry standard in law. And we wonder why our laws are so unclear. Grammar is the math of language! It is the thing that relates words to each other and gives sentences meaning! Use it!)
The combination of the mint in the beets flavor and the spice in the chocolate flavor was really interesting. It started off cool, and then got hot. Good stuff. Waffle cone was definitely worth 99 cents.
Number three: Micklethwait Craft Meats
We obviously had to have Texas barbecue, so I got a half pound of brisket, jalapeno cheese grits, and beans. It was so freaking good. So fatty. So cheesy. Also really hot though, because this is also a food truck with seating outside in the sun. Why didn't I buy the boob cream? Poor life decisions.
So I think my preferences for barbecue are: Carolina (with some hot sauce), Texas, Memphis (but would try again elsewhere to reevaluate), Kansas City.
Number four: Bats (yes, like the flying rodents)
The Congress bridge over Lady Bird Lake is home to a shit-ton of bats, who live in the deep and narrow grooves that run under it. Around dusk, they all fly out for their evening shenanigans at the same time. This is pretty cool to see, but actually very difficult to photograph, because the background is trees and water, and bats are small dots that don't have a lot of contrast. So here is the best photo I have, but it in no way depicts the sheer quantity of bats.
|All those little brown dots over that white line I drew - those are all bats. In real life, you can see them in swarms shifting in formation in the far, far distance.|
We are leaving for the airport in 80 minutes so I should... nap.