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Membership programs can save you valuable time - USAA Member Community

On a recent business trip, I forgot to pull an important electronic item out of the back seat of my rental car. You know that moment when you realize you’ve forgotten something? You don’t get that same feeling when you forget to pack something like toothpaste or starch. You can always run down the street to the convenience store and buy another. But, when you forget something that’s going to make or break your workday or personal life, things get a bit anxious.

 

This and most other rental car companies have online Lost & Found tracking systems. You can enter some information and get help finding your lost item. I submitted my ticket and hoped for the best.

 

I got a call about two days later. A recorded announcement declaring they found my item! I called the 800-Number and was placed on hold for quite a while. I memorized their on-hold music kind of wait-time.

 

Armed with the knowledge my item was found AND an email notification in my Inbox, I was ready to recover my long, lost item. Well, at least I thought so.

 

I head back to the rental car company. In this case, this particular company resides in one of those full-service, one-stop-shopping, rental car centers where all the companies sit under one roof. While those provide the convenience of just one bus with just one stop, things get a bit interesting when you’ve lost an item and need to find it. Let’s just say, bring comfortable shoes and lots of patience.

 

I made my way downstairs to where I’d dropped off the car. When I asked the attendant about my lost item, I got a quizzical look and the words, “I don’t know. Go check upstairs.”

 

When I got to the upstairs section I ran into a security guard. I asked him where to go to find a lost item. He instructed me to go toward the Information Booth and cut around the corner to the glass doors behind it. If nobody was there, ask at the information booth. I proceeded as instructed, but when I got to the glass doors, I noticed that several rental car company names were listed on the door – all except mine. Great! I stayed true to my previous instruction and made an about face to the Information Booth. Nobody was there.

 

Certainly, the competition knows where I can find my lost stuff. After all, they’re all in the same business right? I walk in and asked the next Attendant about my lost item. I could have sworn I mentioned that I rented from a competitor of his. Better yet, I actually showed him the email alert I’d received from my car rental company stating that they found my lost item. Logo and all, it was in plain sight.

 

The attendant came and went a couple of times and said he couldn’t find it. I made sure to stress the fact that it was from a competitor, at which time he said, “You should have told me that!”

 

Smiling, I thanked him for his help after asking him where I should look next.

 

At this point, I make my way to the rental counter for the company I rented from. For some reason, I thought Lost & Found made sense to reside somewhere close to incoming car rentals rather than outgoing rentals.

 

As I approached the rental counter, a sea of people stood by, anxiously awaiting their turn in line to get their rental cars. Here I come, weighing the option of standing in this super long line OR simply waiting on the sideline for an opportunity to quickly ask one of only two counter staff as to where I might find my item. As soon as I opened my mouth to ask, I could feel the weight of about 20 sets of eyes upon me! If looks could kill…

 

But, I figured since the first attendant was no help, I could be quick with a question, and be gone, armed with directions on where my lost item was. I was wrong. I did the typical, “I have a quick question…” thing and before you know it, I ignited a delay in the line of car renting people. Instead of directing me elsewhere as I thought would happen, the counter staff person proceeded to grab his keys and go take a look. “Noooooo!”, I’m thinking to myself. He slowly and carefully explained that the person in charge of lost items is normally only there Monday through Friday. Since it was Saturday, he’d have to look for my item, while all eyes in line looked at me.

 

For what seemed an eternity, I decided to take a long look at my smartphone and read some extra-long emails that most times would get overlooked due to read-time. Somehow it seemed like the right time to bury my head into my messages, all the while hoping this guy would get back quick and end the wrath from the long line of car renters. Tick Tock, Tick Tock,…

 

He busts through the door and takes his sweet time explaining that he didn’t see my item back there, but that the person who is normally there locks things up in another place too. I’m trying my best to not rush him too much as I feel the eyeballs of those behind me burning through my sweats and t-shirt.

 

Since I’m a member of several programs that offer me express service, shorter wait-times and shorter lines, I made my way up to the front this time. Since I wasn’t renting a car this time AND the attendants sent me to the counter, it made sense as I expected a quick answer and quick directions on where to go next. Although I left empty-handed that day, I did have time to reflect on something important:

 

You get a lot of benefits through Membership programs. I’m talking about Frequent Flyer programs, Car Rental programs, and Hotel points programs.

 

Here’s what I’m talking about:

 

  • Remember that long line of people in the outgoing car rental line? Well, since I’m a member of the “Express/Elite/Business/Club” program, I get to bypass all these lines and go straight to my rental car. No fuss, no muss, no waiting! Just walk on down to the car and get on with my workday! (BTW, it only takes 5 minutes to enroll in these programs online. Why wait in a line with 30 other people when you can save time?

 

  • Frequent Flyer programs offer points or miles that can be used toward free travel. Some offer free passes for family members or your significant other once you reach a certain level of trips travelled. And, you usually get to board earlier so you can get settled and avoid waiting in line.

 

  • With technology being what it is today, many hotels not only offer great rates and free nights, they also let you check-in using your smartphone. This saves you time when you arrive and keeps you from standing in line too long.

 

So, what happened to my lost item? More on that later. But, I didn’t get any flak from the other people in line. I guess most people understand when you appear to be cutting in line but don’t, that you have a different issue or need. (I’d know for sure had I not locked eyes on my phone screen.)

 

As for the Lost & Found recovery process, it became evident to me that this particular rental car company tried to help. The online support and phone calls kept me from having to make too many phone calls. Even though I was on hold for a bit, the email notifications provided enough info to take action.

 

I hope this article encourages you to sign-up for Membership programs for airlines, rental cars, and hotels. It will save you time for sure. It all starts with just a 5-minute online enrollment, but it ends with benefits.

 

Have something to add to this article? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

 

 

 

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