May 19, 2011 9:55 am

The Move

Seeing as how we’ve been here in Idaho for almost two weeks, it seems pertinent that I give you the details on our drive up here.

This is a drive that we have done many, many times, and it typically takes 7.5 hours to complete.

Some backstory: We decided to rent a truck from Penske, because their prices were about $160 lower than uHaul and they seemed like they took good care of their trucks. Their closest dropoff point was 45 minutes from our eventual destination, but we could live with that due to the savings.

When we picked up the empty truck, Daniel noticed it was pretty wobbly/bouncy, but having never driven a moving truck before he assumed this was normal.

Daniel’s brother Paul was the designated truck driver, and he said he noticed the wobbles quite a bit but had planned on powering through, until right outside of Pasco when a guy in a brakes and alignment van frantically gestured at his front wheel and motioned for him to get off the freeway.

So.

We got off the freeway in Pasco at a truck stop and called Penske. They dispatched a mechanic and told us it would take him an hour to arrive. So we waited. The mechanic showed up and diagnosed the problem as one tire having separating bands and the other missing a balance weight. He recommended we have both replaced, and we’d be back on the road.

He led us to a Goodyear Tire down the street where we waited for another half-hour or so until an employee could come and let us in. Said employee was very nice, but sort of kicked at the tires a bit, spun them around, and decided the tires were fine but one front wheel was bent. He spent forever on the phone with Penske trying to decide what they would authorize. His idea was to move the front tire to the inside dually, and move the inside dually to the front so that even if the wheel was bent and/or the tire was shot, it would share its load with other tires rather than being the sole front one.

Penske refused to approve this, claiming we might “complain about the wobbling again” and sent us back to the truck stop to wait for another mechanic. They would not give us an ETA. They simply said, “Go back and wait at the truck stop until someone else shows up.”

By this point, we had already been sidelined for several hours in the hot sun with a one-year-old. I was furious that they would not give us an ETA or just approve something that would get us back on the road.

I put Wesley in the Ergo and walked laps around the car. We ate bad gas station food. Paul called Penske to complain. Our biggest fears at this point were that they’d need to send us a replacement truck and we’d have to unload the whole thing and load it back up into the new one, or that I’d have to drive Paul, myself, and Wesley home while Daniel stayed behind in Pasco to deal with the truck, since Paul needed to be back to teach in the morning. They still wouldn’t give us an ETA.

Meanwhile, across the street, we saw our original mechanic changing both front tires on another Penske truck. (Pervasive problem, perhaps?) The mechanic came over to talk to us to see if we got our problem solved. Since the answer was no, he said he’d finish up with the second truck and come back and see what he could do for us. Penske was still unhelpful and insisting we wait for their mythical tire person to show up. Paul was like, “I can SEE the mechanic. I could throw a rock at him if I wanted. Please just let him come over here and fix our truck.”

Finally, after the other truck was finished, the mechanic came over and said to hell with Penske, he was going to take us over to his tire guy (who had “never failed him”) and he would get us back on the road.

True to his word, he led us to the Pasco Tire Factory where some very nice people said the Goodyear Tire place was completely wrong – since they didn’t even take the wheel off to spin it, they incorrectly declared it bent when it wasn’t and turned us away. The problem was the tires all along! Goodyear could have fixed it for us but just didn’t. The nice people changed both front tires and we were in and out of there within twenty minutes.

As I joyously posted on Twitter, we finally got back on the freeway at 8pm. EIGHT PM. We were in Pasco by about 1 o’clock, and did not leave until EIGHT. That is SEVEN HOURS of being stranded at a truck stop. And we still had four more hours of drive time ahead of us, meaning we finally got in to Sandpoint at midnight.

Due to the insane amount of wasted time, we had nobody around to help us unload the truck, so we simply unpacked our mattress and toiletries and fell asleep on our new floor.

We called Penske the next day to let them know we would need extra time to unload and would not be returning the truck that day. They agreed to comp us an extra day, which I felt was the LEAST they could do since this whole thing was their fault – there’s no way we could have unloaded the truck by ourselves that night and gotten it back to Coeur d’Alene by 9am. (Even though there are Penske rental places in Sandpoint, they refused to let us drop the truck off there and insisted we drive it to Coeur d’Alene the next day to the “approved” dropoff point.) Once we arrived in CDA to return it, Daniel asked them what they could do to make the situation better.

They offered us 10% off.

Ten percent. $44. For renting us a truck with unsafe, wobbly tires and causing us a SEVEN HOUR WAIT in the sun at a truck stop with a one-year-old in tow. The Penske representative also told Daniel that ordinarily, she would make him go out to the truck and fold all the moving blankets or else she’d charge a “cleaning fee,” but decided given the circumstances that she could waive the fee and we could just leave.

I am not satisfied with only ten percent, and I resent the idea that Penske is being “generous” by comping us the extra day to accommodate unpacking time and waiving the cleaning fee for having unfolded blankets.

I mean, look: I picked Penske because we are not wealthy and they had a better offer for a larger truck than uHaul, and they seemed like they took care of their vehicles so I trusted that they would give us one that would enable us to drive 470 miles without issue. This was not the case. My expectations were not met, I don’t feel like they had sympathy for us, and if we EVER move again I will not be using their services and will recommend that others don’t either.

In addition, the Goodyear Tire place at the Pasco truck stop did not take the proper steps to diagnose our problem. Since they misdiagnosed us and Penske refused their intended course of action, it meant we were stuck for much longer than we would have been had they gotten the problem right to begin with.

Dale from MotorHeads, our original mechanic, was WONDERFUL. He was very nice and did his absolute best to get us back on the road.

I am going to write a letter to Penske about our experience, because I do not feel like they were particularly apologetic and I would like to see them step up their tire inspections a bit so that this sort of thing does not happen to another family.

We are glad we finally made it, but man. We won’t be using Penske again. (And you probably shouldn’t, either.)

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8 Comments

  • Cristina says:

    Oh man if I were in your shoes I would have complained to every manager I could get ahold of at Penske. It was completely unacceptable how they treated you, especially leaving you stranded like that. I’m so sorry you had such an awful experience. :( Still, I am glad to hear after all of that you are settled in your new home. Btw, how are things going in Idaho? Pics of the new place soon?

  • Kerri Anne says:

    This entire situation is APPALLING and yeah, I will never ever ever recommend someone use Penske, and won’t ever be using them either.

    I can’t believe you had to hang out in Pasco for SEVEN HOURS. I would have cried. And then junk-punched someone.

    And maybe had an impromptu garage sale from the back of the truck, pocketed the cash, and continued on my merry way in my car. Because how could that be more ridiculous than waiting SEVEN HOURS for someone change TWO TIRES? Not much can be more ridiculous than that.

    But so glad you guys (eventually!) made is safely and are hopefully getting settled in. Portland misses you already.

  • the grumbles says:

    ugh, i can’t even imagine being stuck somewhere 7 hours with a baby. i would have been LIVID. hopefully a formal written complaint might at least get an apology. i can’t imagine they truly think that is acceptable customer treatment. it’s one thing for a random accident to happen but how they deal with it is a whole other story.

  • Amanda says:

    I’m glad you guys finally made it to your new home, but that must have been an awful day. You seem to have handled the stress well. I would defiantly write that letter, it’s ridiculous that they would send out an unsafe truck like that. What if you hadn’t pulled over and the tires had gone? You could have gotten into an accident and been seriously injured, and it would have been their fault for giving you a truck that wasn’t in driving condition to begin with.

    I will defiantly not be renting from Penske when we decide to move next year.

  • Melissa says:

    Ugh. I can’t believe this! We had tire problems on the Penske truck we rented when we moved from Tennessee to Massachusetts. Thank god it wasn’t anything like the nightmare you just described! I couldn’t even imagine being stuck somewhere for that long with a baby. I’d probably have committed suicide! After reading this, we will definitely never use Penske again. Seems like tire issues are a common thing for them.

  • Erin says:

    Seven hours at a truck stop. Survey says: that is some bullshit. $44 is not worth a seven hour delay. Write your letter, submit your survey, and climb the ladder.

    I’ve used uHaul and Budget trucks before without trouble but it’s hard to say if the tire’s were an isolated incident or not. It could be that the location where you picked yours up really slack about maintenance. But based on their customer service after the fact, and the way they couldn’t get a mechanic out to help you? That is terrible business. Seven hours. I still can’t get over that. Seven hours at a truck stop with a baby. Wtf.

  • Curtis Flowers says:

    Hello I am the District Rental Manager for Penske in Washington and over see the agent location where you dropped off your truck. Please contact me and I would be happy to discuss this further. My e-mail address is curtis.flowers@penske.com

  • Jem says:

    ^ well lookie here .. :D

    I saw your tweets the morning after and I was like “woah, holy moving hell batman!”

    I hope something good comes of this entry, and that the journey is worth it in the long run :)