Where had I got to? Oh yes, Monday afternoon.
Having talked to head office of the hiring company (who I'll call Thrifty for no better reason than that it is their name) I was not too concerned about the situation. Sure enough I get a call later, at 5.30 PM, from the manager of the Thrifty branch that had hired the vehicle. His office had been moving location during the day and he had not had any phone lines available 'cos of a cock-up by the Telecomms supplier. [Random excuse generator number 11752 ?] He said that he would get on to the Fiat garage I'd already spoken to, organise something for me to get the problem corrected and call me back shortly.
Getting the garage service department that late in the day was something I never expected him to be able to do so I was not surprised when I'd heard nothing from Thrifty before I left for the hotel. But he did call me back at about 7.15 to say that he'd not been able to do anything 'cos it was too late and could I call him back tomorrow morning to progress the call. *sigh*
Tuesday morning, 9.30 AM (see I'm nice, I gave him some time to do something before I phoned him) I called Thrifty and spoke to the manager ... nothing had happened but he would get it sorted. *SIGH* Then mid-morning I got a phone call from someone else, I think from the head office department I'd spoken to on Monday, who asked what was happening and assured me that it would be sorted out with a replacement vehicle for me today. I was hopeful but not pinning all my hopes on this yet.
Early afternoon, I got another phone call from this guy saying that he was sorry but he couldn't get me a replacement car in less than two hours from then (which was fine 'cos I wasn't planning on driving 'till 6 PM at the earliest) and that the car would be coming from National, a different car hire company. A short while later I get a call from National confirming the hire and checking my location for the delivery.
Since I'm going to be returning the Thrifty car I do the decent thing and cancel the service appointment I had already made at the Fiat garage; Thrifty can sort out where and when they get the servicing done. Then, shortly before 4 PM I think, I got a phone call from the building security desk saying that my replacement car was there. So I go down, meet the National guy, sort out the paperwork for the car (a Vauxhall Vectra), drive it round to the multi-story car park where the Fiat is, swap my things between the cars, drive the Fiat to an area of the car park near the security lodge where they can keep an eye on it and leave the Fiat's keys in the security lodge itself so that when ever Thrifty arrange for the car's collection there is someone there. Just as I'm finishing this I get a call from the Thrifty head office guy saying that my National car should be there shortly. The cynic in me wonders if this was actually triggered by National reporting that they had delivered the car ... but it could just be coincidence. :)
All that I'd got left to do was to arrange for Thrifty to collect the Fiat. Their head office guy said that I should arrange this through my company car leasing contact but after getting passed around an automated system for a while and hanging on for a longer while (10 minutes or so on my mobile) I thought "Sod this" and rang the Thrifty office in London. Initially the manager was on the phone so a minion started taking details but then the manager became free and I got transferred to him. I told him what was happening, he seemed to know the rough idea of what was going on, and told him where the car was for him to arrange the collection.
*washes hands of it*
Oh yes, there was one minor problem with the Vectra ... the fuel guage reads empty sometimes when it is actually full *scream* but at least the windscreen wipers work fine. (Yes, I did check before I accepted the car. :) )
Wedesday, late afternoon, I got another call from the security guy saying that the guys from Thrifty were there to collect the car and I needed to sign some paperwork for them. So, finally, having accepted that I was responsible for some microscopic scratches and stone chips now on the car, and signed my life away again I was finally rid of the Fiat! What a performance.
You'll be pleased to know that the Vectra is driving fine once I'd got used to the change in the position of the bite point on the clutch, the lack of the 6th gear and the different location of reverse on the gear box. The only minor annoyance is the indicator switch. This does not have a conventional switch with a "click on and get knocked back to position by turning the steering wheel" action but is electronic. This causes confusion to myself, and surrounding drivers, as I keep cancelling the turn indication and find I'm indicating to turn the other way! Am I becoming indecisive? I don't know!
I've no idea when I'll be getting my company car back. I bet the garage will be surprised to get a completely different car from a different rental company when they return mine. Still that's their "opportunity" isn't it? :)
OK, that's all for now. I'm off to see if there is anything decent left to eat in the canteen - wish me luck :)