Read The Fine Print
When Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems became an option on rental cars, customers were happy to pay an average of $6 per day for a safeguard against getting lost. But GPS systems have turned out to be a two-sided tool: One car companies can use not only to track your whereabouts, but how fast you're going, too. James Turner found that out the hard way when he rented a car from Acme Rent-A-Car in New Haven, Conn. While on his trip, he tried to take out cash with his ATM card only to discover Acme had withdrawn $450 from his account. The rental company determined Turner had exceeded the speed limit three times and charged him $150 for each violation. Turner protested that he hadn't been shown the line in the contract that states "any sustained speeds over 79 mph are subject to fines." Turner took Acme to small-claims court, but the case quickly made it to the state level, with a ruling from the consumer protection board and attorney general pending at presstime.
As if those pesky speed traps weren't trouble enough.
The Red Carpet
Austria wants your business and is working hard to prove it. In an effort to eliminate language as a barrier for visits by English-speaking visitors, the country's tourism bureau has pulled together a 30-page brochure listing 72 hotels in Austria that guarantee certain services. Among the criteria required of the participating properties: printed material in English; non-smoking rooms; ice water (yes, it is a North American penchant); English-language newspapers and television (in most cases, CNN); connection to an international reservation system; and-maybe most accommodating of all-a staff that speaks English. For a copy of the brochure, call 212-944-6880, or log onto www.austria-tourism.at.