I was in Minnesota earlier this week. My rental car was a Pontiac Sunfire -- an adequate compact car. A co-worker of mine, however, belonged to Avis Preferred. Apparently, in addition to allowing you to skip the rental counter, this program will give you a free one-size upgrade on your rental. So my Sunfire would have been upgraded to a mid-sized car, a mid-sized car would be upgraded to a full-sized sedan, and my co-worker's full-sized reservation was upgraded to...an SUV.
Pretty cool, right? I mean, better than the dorky rental cars we get most of the time. Wrong. Avis provided him with a Pontiac Aztek...truly the Pontiac of SUVs. I don't know if the pictures there truly capture the awfulness of the design. (Although the misspelled name certainly does.) Imagine a circa 1990 Honda Civic hatchback on steroids. Imagine an armored personnel carrier with less of a sense of style.
He complained that as he was driving it around, he could see people in other vehicles pointing and laughing at his car. The worst, he said, was when a woman driving a UPS truck laughed at his mode of transportation.
You know, I like the idea of skipping the rental counter, so I'm going to try to sing up for Avis Preferred. But I think I'll try to make sure I never have a full-sized car reserved for me.